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Mission & Leadership

University Mission

The mission of Capella University is to extend access to high quality bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs for adults who seek to maximize their personal and professional potential. This mission is fulfilled through innovative programs that are responsive to the needs of adult learners and involve active, engaging, challenging, and relevant learning experiences offered in a variety of delivery modes.

Diversity Mission Statement

We believe that a diverse learning community is vital to achieving our mission of supporting learner success.

As an online university serving a diverse society, we create a learning community made up of individuals representing a rich mixture of identities, experiences and beliefs, including different genders, ages, racial-ethnic backgrounds, languages, economic strata, religious beliefs and practices, sexual orientations, abilities and disabilities, national and geographical origins and locations, political beliefs and values.

Capella is committed to a set of guiding values that are employee and learner centric. Rooted in our value of human potential, we are dedicated to an inclusive culture that supports our employees and our learners in achieving their fullest potential. We believe that diversity strengthens our organization by drawing on the varied perspectives and life experiences of an array of talented people. Additionally, we strive to be a culturally competent organization (as reflected in our mission, practices and policies) in order to effectively serve our global society.

Fulfilling our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion

It is our intent to achieve our mission in the following ways:

  • Creating a collaborative working and learning community that is respectful, inclusive and valuing of diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.
  • Recruiting and retaining faculty and staff members with diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds, and by utilizing creative and equitable processes to support them.
  • Recruiting and retaining learners with diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds; and by providing services which support them in successful degree completion and the attainment of their professional goals.
  • Promoting the transformative exchange of ideas in a high-quality professional curriculum infused with multicultural competencies, which prepares graduates to be effective in a multicultural society.

Capella University Leadership

Administration View Board of Directors

Scott Kinney, MBA
Scott Kinney, MBA University President, Capella University

Scott Kinney joined Capella in January 2012 as University President after serving as president of West Education Group at Thomson Reuters Corporation. While at West Education Group, he led a group of five businesses providing legal education products and services to academic and legal professional customers around the world. His experience lies across many industries, with an emphasis on technology and information-driven businesses. Previously, Kinney served as president of FindLaw at Thomson Reuters Corporation from 2004-2007. Prior to that, he was an executive vice president at CBS MarketWatch, and worked for eight years at The Boston Consulting Group. Kinney graduated with an A.B. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Barbara Butts Williams, PhD
Barbara Butts Williams, PhD Dean of Business, School of Business and Technology

Barbara Butts Williams was appointed dean of Capella University's School of Business in 2012. Since joining Capella in 2002, she has served in a variety of academic leadership positions, including dean of School of Education, interim dean, associate dean, director of graduate programs, and MBA program faculty director with the School of Business and Technology.

Butts Williams has more than 30 years of management and leadership experience, including a decade in higher education leadership roles. She previously served as director of executive programs for the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and on the executive education advisory council of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management. Her corporate experience includes executive education and management positions at The St. Paul Companies (now Travelers), Control Data Corporation (now Ceridian), and Wilson Learning Corporation. She also founded Growth Partners Consulting and was a governor appointee to the Minnesota Board of Social Work and The Metropolitan Council.

Butts Williams earned her Master of Arts in Business and Leadership from Hamline University, and her Master of Arts in Organization Development and Doctor of Philosophy in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University.

Curtis Brant, PhD
Curtis Brant, PhD Dean of Psychology, Harold Abel School of Social and Behaviorial Sciences

Dr. Brant is serving as Dean of the School of Psychology. Dr. Brant has served as core faculty member, faculty chair, assistant and associate dean. He held the position of Associate Dean in the School of Public Service Leadership since October 2009 and co-leads the PhD completion project at Capella. Dr. Brant earned his B.A. in Psychology from Kent State University and Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Bowling Green State University. His concentration while at Bowling Green was in Decision-Making and Quantitative Analyses.

Suzanne Holmes, DPA
Suzanne Holmes, DPA Dean, School of Public Service Leadership

Suzanne Holmes joined Capella University in 2002 as an adjunct faculty member for the School of Human Services. She also served as core faculty and then as the school's chair for Administration and Management. When Capella launched the public health program in 2007 and the public administration program in 2009, Holmes assumed the role of program chair of these program areas. To help with the launch of the new School of Public Service Leadership in 2009, Holmes assumed the role of the school's interim co-dean; and was later appointed associate dean of the school in 2010.

Holmes's professional background was in healthcare administration where she served in executive leadership positions with hospitals, physician groups and managed care organizations. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, a Master of Arts in Public and International Affairs from George Washington University, and a Doctor of Public Administration from the University of La Verne. Her focus within the School of Public Service Leadership is to foster professional collaboration and a multidisciplinary approach to addressing issues and concerns facing professions, organizations and communities.

Anna Hultquist, PhD
Anna Hultquist, PhD Dean of Counseling, Social Work and Human Behavioral programs, Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Anna Hultquist was appointed dean for the counseling and social work department in the Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences in 2012. Previously, Dr. Hultquist served as associate dean for the counseling program areas since 2008.

Dr. Hultquist has over 20 years of experience as a licensed therapist, counselor educator and program director designing programs to meet state and national accreditation standards (CACREP and COAMFTE). In addition to maintaining an active private practice, Dr. Hultquist has established and served as clinical director for two community-based counseling centers that trained graduate-level clinical interns. Service to the profession has included professional licensure initiatives, appointment to the Oregon State Board for Professional Counselors and Therapists, numerous conference presentations and professional articles.

Dr. Hultquist earned a COAMFTE accredited Master of Science from the University of Rhode Island, graduate work in school counseling that included ESL certification, and a PhD in adult education from the University of Connecticut. Dr. Hultquist holds the distinction as a Certified Family Life Educator from the National Council on Family Relations, Clinical Member and Approved Supervisor from the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, and holds professional memberships in the American Counseling Association, Association for Conflict Resolution and International Association of Coaches.

Lee Owens, MEd
Lee Owens, MEd Dean, Undergraduate Studies

Lee Owens was appointed Dean for Undergraduate Studies in 2012. General education undergraduate courses develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities essential to a well rounded baccalaureate program. Owens joined Capella as the Chair of General Education for the School of Undergraduate Studies in October 2006. He has extensive administrative experience in higher education. For thirty-five years, his career in higher education has included positions at Loyola University of Chicago having served in the capacities of faculty member in the School of Education, Assistant Director of the Educational Opportunities Program and Assistant Dean of Students; at Governors State University he served as the director of the Learning Assistance Center. In 1989 Owens joined the City Colleges of Chicago, initially as the Director of Academic Support Services at Harold Washington College, moving into the Dean of Students position at Malcolm X College in 1995 and left Malcolm X College in 2006 as Dean of Career Programs and Continuing Education to join Capella University.

Owens holds a MEd from Loyola University of Chicago and a BA from Roosevelt University. Among recent notable recognitions, he was presented the Kathy Osterman Award from the City of Chicago for Superior Public Service by an Executive Employee in 2005 and in 2000, Owens was presented the Outstanding Administrator in Education Award for 7th U.S. Congressional District of Illinois.

Sue Talley, EdD
Sue Talley, EdD Dean of Technology, School of Business and Technology

Sue Talley was appointed dean of Capella University's School of Technology in 2012. Since joining Capella in 2006, she has served in a variety of academic leadership positions, including faculty director and associate dean in the School of Undergraduate Studies, responsible for at various times the Instruction Technology, Business, Public Safety, and Nursing programs.

Talley has more than 30 years of management and leadership experience, including nearly a decade in higher education leadership roles. She previously served as Program Director of the Online Master's in Educational Technology program at Pepperdine University and was the Project Director for the PETPrep Project, a Catalyst Grant funded by the Department of Education. Her corporate experience includes almost a decade of corporate sales and marketing work at Apple Computer, Inc. Talley also worked for a variety of non-profit organizations including the National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) and Total Information Education Systems (TIES).

Talley earned her Master of Arts in Education with a Specialization in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University in 1995. She earned a Doctor of Education with a specialization in Education Technology from Pepperdine University in 1998.

Feranda Williamson, EdD
Feranda Williamson, EdD Dean, School of Education

Feranda Williamson was appointed dean of Capella University's School of Education in December 2012 in the College of Professional Studies. Previously, she served as the dean of Capella's School of Undergraduate Studies from 2007 until 2012, having served as the school's associate dean prior to that.

Prior to joining Capella in 2005, Williamson held leadership positions at Malcolm X College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. From 1998 to 2004, she served as the college's dean of continuing education and from 2004 to 2005, as dean of career programs. During her time there, she was an Outstanding Education Administrator award recipient from the 7th Congressional District. She previously was employed by Robert Morris College from 1981-1998, first as a member of the business faculty and then as associate dean/program director. Since 1994, Williamson has also served as president/CEO of the ECC Music Workshop/Chicago Mass Choir, an award-winning, Grammy-nominated gospel choir.

Williamson received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois; her Master of Arts in Adult Education from Roosevelt University in Chicago; and her Doctor of Education in Higher Education from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale.

Mary Miller, MBA
Mary Miller, MBA Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Mary Miller is chief marketing officer at Capella Education Company, where she leads efforts to further strengthen Capella's marketing capabilities and commitment to a brand focused marketing strategy. She joined Capella in 2011 in a consulting role, and was soon named senior vice president of value proposition development and management, and then chief marketing officer. Prior to joining Capella she held positions as senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PetSmart, Inc., from 2006 to 2010, and she held executive leadership positions at Best Buy Co., Inc., from 1998 to 2006, in areas including strategic marketing and customer loyalty. She earned her bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and her MBA from the University of Minnesota.

Deborah Bushway, PhD
Deborah Bushway, PhD Vice President, Academic Innovation

Deb Bushway currently serves as the Vice President of Academic Innovation and Chief Academic Officer at Capella University. She previously served in a number of roles at the university, including interim president, vice president academic affairs and provost, and dean of the Harold Abel School of Psychology. Bushway has more than 20 years of experience in higher education, including 17 years with Metropolitan State University in St Paul, MN, where she was professor and chair of the Psychology Department. While there, she was the recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award and the Carol C. Ryan Advising Award. She also continues to practice psychology as a licensed clinician. Bushway earned both her Master of Science in Psychology and PhD in Psychology from Iowa State University. She has authored numerous articles, book chapters and conference presentations throughout her career.

Suzanne Montella, MBA
Suzanne Montella, MBA Vice President, College of Professional Studies

Suzanne Montella is vice president of graduate markets and products at Capella University, where she oversees product management, enrollment services, and advising for master's and doctoral programs. She also leads the university's new product development process. Prior to joining Capella in 2000, Suzanne spent 12 years with The Pillsbury Company in various brand management and sales management positions. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from Eastern Illinois University and an MBA from DePaul University.

Mani Ratnam, MBA
Mani Ratnam, MBA Vice President, Learner Success and Strategic Analytics

Mani Ratnam serves as vice president Learner Success and Strategic Analytics. Mani leads a cross-functional team that is responsible for the overall execution of the Learner Success initiatives across Capella University. The Learner Success team is focused on projects that create a series of interrelated capabilities, which collectively make a positive impact to learner persistence and outcomes.

Mani also leads Capella's strategic analytics function which is focused on creating a culture of systematically applying data & analytics through our entire value chain to achieve primary business goals of new enrollment growth and improved persistence.

Mani has over 25 years of experience in various business and technology functions including business operations, product management, software development and service delivery. Prior to Capella, Mani spent over 15 years at Carlson Companies Inc. in senior technology and operations roles. At Carlson Wagonlit Travel as vice president Global Traveler and Transaction Services, Mani was responsible for strategic initiatives aimed at improving the global operations capabilities. Prior to this, as vice president E2 Solutions, Mani launched a new line of business for Travel & Expense Management for US Federal Government agencies and led the day-to-day operations for the startup business. Mani earned his MBA from University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management and a BS in Statistics from Mumbai University, India.

Tonia Teasley, JD
Tonia Teasley, JD Vice President of Learner Services and Operations

Tonia joined Capella University as the Vice President of Learner Services and Operations in 2012. She came to Capella from Thomson Reuters, where she ran a department that was responsible for online learning for customers and for training and development of the sales team. Tonia refers to herself as a "recovering lawyer", having spent most of her career prior to Thomson Reuters in large law firms both as a practicing attorney and then as Executive Director and Managing Partner of a firm in Minneapolis. In addition to her role at Capella, she serves on the Board of The ARC Greater Twin Cities, an organization that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She earned her J.D. from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in Political Science and Economics from St. Olaf College.

Andrew Watt, BS
Andrew Watt, BS Vice President, College of Business, Technology and Undergraduate Studies

Andy Watt is Vice President of undergraduate programs at Capella University, where he leads the development and execution of growth strategies for the university's undergraduate business, including product development, pricing, learner recruitment, and learner retention. He joined Capella in October of 2002 and has since served in a variety of leadership roles across the organization. Most recently, Andy was a vice president in finance, leading teams focused on financial planning and analysis, marketing and learner success analytics, and institutional research. Prior to joining Capella, Andy worked in transaction advisory services at both Deloitte & Touche LLP and Arthur Andersen LLP. Watt graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a bachelor's degree in finance and accounting.

James Wold, PhD
James Wold, PhD Executive Director, College of Professional Studies

Dr. James Wold is the currently the Executive Director for the College of Professional Studies. Dr Wold, began his Capella career in 2002 as Dean in the School of Education (2002 – 2006). He served as Associate Dean (2007 - 2009) leading the NCATE Accreditation Team and served as Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (2010 – 2012). Dr. Wold's professional career prior to Capella includes 25 years in K-12 education holding positions as district superintendent, high school principal and high school teacher. In addition to his background in K–12 education, Dr. Wold worked 8 years in various private sector roles including educational consultant, sales and marketing manager and business owner. His professional interests include career coaching, leadership and organizational development. Dr. Wold holds a PhD in Educational Administration from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Board of Directors

Marcia S. Ballinger, PhD
Marcia S. Ballinger, PhD Board Chair

Marcia Ballinger has been a principal with Minneapolis-based KeyStone Search, an executive search firm, since 2004, after serving eight years as a vice president with another prominent executive search firm. Ballinger's previous corporate positions were as director of human resources development with two international manufacturing and distribution firms, which included management of a multiyear corporate culture transformation. She also has been an adjunct faculty member in business at Capella University and St. Mary's University, and began her career with IBM in sales and educational capacities. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Master of Arts in Speech-Communication from the University of Minnesota. She received her PhD in Organization and Management from Capella University. She also earned her certification as a Senior Professional in Human Resources from the HR Certification Institute. Ballinger is vice chair of the board of the American Red Cross-Twin Cities Area Chapter and a member of the United Way Women's Leadership Council.

Clifford Butler, DBA
Clifford Butler, DBA

Dr. Butler joined Capella University as an adjunct faculty member in 2001 with the School of Business and Technology and became a full time core faculty member in research methods in 2010. He has served on the university Institutional Review Board (2 years) and currently serves as a Scientific Merit Reviewer and the Dissertation Lead within SoBT. Previous to joining Capella full time he worked at the director management level with organizations including Microsoft, aQuantive, Proquest, Apex Online Learning and International Thompson Publishing in marketing, training, program management and web development. Dr. Butler's previous teaching work included over 25 years with City University (Seattle) including assignments in Europe and China and 15 years with Central Michigan University in the Midwest division of the College of Extended Learning. Dr. Butler earned his DBA from Nova Southeastern University, his MBA from Golden Gate University and a BS in Communication Arts from California State Polytechnic University (Pomona).

Carmen Coballes-Vega, PhD
Carmen Coballes-Vega, PhD

Dr. Coballes-Vega has more than 35 years of experience in higher education. She holds a master's degree in Humanities Education/School of Education, New York University; and a doctorate in Reading and Linguistics from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. Dr. Coballes-Vega serves as the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, City University of New York, Bronx, New York. Dr. Coballes-Vega has 17 years of administrative experience in three other institutions including Metropolitan State University (St. Paul), University of Wisconsin River Falls and University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities named Dr. Coballes-Vega a Millennium Leadership Fellow. She was recently honored by ASPIRA of America in the 2011 Salute to Latina Leaders during their 50th anniversary celebration. ASPIRA is the nation's largest Latino nonprofit organization and the only one dedicated exclusively to the education of Latino youth.

Dr. Coballes-Vega has provided professional service through her work as a member of the Faculty for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Leadership Academy. In addition, she served on the Board of Directors of AACTE and as a member of the Unit Accreditation Board of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. She was president of the Wisconsin State Reading Association.

Dr. Coballes-Vega has been active in the community and served on the board of Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES), St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has previously served on the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of St. Croix Valley and the National Board of the YWCA of the USA.

Russell Decker, MS
Russell Decker, MS

Russell J. Decker currently serves as the Learner Representative to the Capella University Board of Directors as a doctoral student in the School of Public Service Leadership. Since 1998 Decker has served as Director for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Allen County, Ohio where he oversees regional bomb and hazardous materials response teams in northwestern Ohio. He is past national president of the International Association of Emergency Managers and former member of the FEMA National Advisory Council. A recognized leader in emergency management and homeland security, he has testified before both the U. S. House of Representatives and the United States Senate on topics of national preparedness.

An instructor in hazardous materials, bombs and explosives for the Ohio Peace Officers Training Academy and the Ohio Fire Academy, Decker is also an adjunct faculty member at Ohio Northern University and Tiffin University. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Northwestern Ohio and a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Tiffin University.

Robert Fox, JD
Robert Fox, JD

As one of the founding faculty members and professor emeritus at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, Robert Fox has nearly 40 years of experience in higher education. He practiced law at a Twin Cities law firm specializing in non-profit organizations before leaving to help establish the university in 1972. During his tenure at Metro State, Fox served as department chair, assistant to the president, and counsel to the president. He also held numerous university committee and faculty positions, which involved significant work with multiple student centered learning strategies. He consults nationally on the assessment of experiential learning. Fox also served on the Minnesota Department of Health Committee on Chemical Dependency Counselor Credentials.

His passion for the game of table tennis has earned him recognition at the national level, an induction into the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and executive leadership responsibilities for professional table tennis organizations. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from the University of Minnesota; and holds a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law.

Willie Garrett, EdD
Willie Garrett, EdD

Willie B. Garrett has been licensed as a master's-level psychologist since 1980 and has more than 25 years experience in behavioral health care and employee assistance, both as a consultant and as a clinician. He currently serves as director of behavioral health at NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center in Minneapolis. Prior to joining NorthPoint in 2007, he was the chief professional officer of the Minnesota Psychological Association from 2005 to 2007. His volunteer work has included serving as president of the Minnesota Association of Black Psychologists, president of the board of directors of Adoptive Families of America, and a board member of the Employee Assistance Society of North America. Garrett also has served on committees to enhance gifted and talented education for the past 20 years and is currently a member of the Minnesota Department of Education's Gifted and Talented Advisory Council. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, his Master of Science in Counseling from Minnesota State University-Mankato, and his Doctor of Education in Organization Development from the University of Minnesota.

Kevin Gilligan, BA
Kevin Gilligan, BA

Kevin Gilligan joined Capella Education Company as CEO in 2009, when he also was appointed to the company's board of directors. His previous experience includes more than 20 years of executive experience in service industries. From 2004 to 2009, he was president and CEO of United Subcontractors, Inc. (USI), a national construction services firm based in Edina, Minnesota. Previously he was president and CEO of Honeywell International's second largest business, Automation and Control Systems, where he oversaw 43,000 employees and revenues of $7.5 billion. He joined Honeywell in 1977, and held a variety of executive positions with national and international responsibilities. Gilligan is a graduate of Boston College, with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics & Political Science. He sits on the board of directors of Graco, and is a former lead director on the board of directors of ADC.

Scott Kinney, MBA
Scott Kinney, MBA University President, Capella University

Scott Kinney joined Capella in January 2012 as University President after serving as president of West Education Group at Thomson Reuters Corporation. While at West Education Group, he led a group of five businesses providing legal education products and services to academic and legal professional customers around the world. His experience lies across many industries, with an emphasis on technology and information-driven businesses. Previously, Kinney served as president of FindLaw at Thomson Reuters Corporation from 2004-2007. Prior to that, he was an executive vice president at CBS MarketWatch, and worked for eight years at The Boston Consulting Group. Kinney graduated with an A.B. from Dartmouth College and an M.B.A. from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

Todd Sorensen, JD
Todd Sorensen, JD Board Secretary

Todd Sorensen joined Capella in January 2011 as Senior Corporate Attorney, with a focus on litigation, internal business advice and academic policy. He came to Capella from Seattle-based law firm Williams, Kastner & Gibbs, where he served as a business litigation attorney from 2004-2010 and chaired the firm's Education Law Practice Team. Washington Law & Politics Magazine named Mr. Sorensen a "Rising Star" in 2010. Mr. Sorensen earned his Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College and his Juris Doctor from University of Minnesota Law School.