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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.

Educational Philosophy

At Capella University, we believe education transforms people’s lives and society—immediately and permanently. The innovative, intentionally designed competency-based education we offer enables adult learners to meet challenges in their careers, lead and make new contributions in their disciplines, and reach their professional and personal goals. Our educational pathways respect existing expertise and allow learners to focus on what is essential, as they gain new competencies and expand on those they already have. The credentials they earn are signs of the professional relevancy, quality, and immediate applicability of their educational experience at Capella University and help to create new opportunities in the future. As partners in their education, we proudly serve the lifelong learning ambitions that allow our learners, alumni, their many communities, and our broader society to thrive.

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


Richard Senese, PhD, LP

Capella University President

Dr. Richard (Dick) Senese has served as Capella University president since 2015. Prior to that, he was Capella University’s vice president of Academic Affairs and chief academic officer.  Before his time at Capella University, he held leadership roles with the University of Minnesota Extension over 13 years. Most recently, he served as the Extension's senior associate dean, where he oversaw research, program evaluation, international partnerships, and faculty development, among other responsibilities. Prior to that role, he served as the founding associate dean for the Center for Community Vitality. He has taught at a number of Minnesota-based institutions, including St. Olaf College, Metropolitan State University, and the College of St. Scholastica, and served previously as the associate dean for Capella University's Harold Abel School of Psychology.

He serves on the board of University Professional Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), where he co-chairs the policy committee. He is also active in community affairs in his native Minnesota: he is vice-chair of the board for the Center for Victims of Torture, an international organization providing counseling and rehabilitation services to survivors of torture in the U.S. and several other countries.

Dr. Senese received his PhD from the University of Minnesota through the Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology program within the Department of Educational Psychology; his MA in Educational Psychology and his BA, cum laude, in Psychology and Political Science from the University of Minnesota-Duluth; and his AGS from Mesabi Community College. He is a licensed psychologist in Minnesota.

Andrew Watt, BS

Senior Vice President of Post-Secondary Education

Since joining Capella in 2002, Andy Watt has held a variety of leadership positions across the university, including roles in operations, finance, analytics, and our markets and products team. Most recently, Watt was vice president, colleges and university operations and chief operations officer. Prior to that, he was vice president and general manager for the College of Business, Technology, and Undergraduate Studies, where he led a team of deans, market directors, and leaders in enrollment and advising to develop and deliver high quality, highly differentiated programs for our learners. Before joining Capella, Watt worked in transaction advisory services at both Deloitte & Touche LLP and Arthur Andersen LLP.

Watt earned his BS in Finance and Accounting from the University of St. Thomas.

Jennifer Hoff, MS

Vice President and General Manager, College of Nursing, Health, and Behavioral Sciences

Jennifer Hoff provides executive direction over the execution and growth of a spectrum of academic programs spanning six academic disciplines. She joined Capella in 2011 as the market lead for the School of Public Service Leadership, and in 2014 she led the development and launch of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences. Jennifer’s prior work experience includes management positions at, Coach Leatherware, and the Department Store Division of Dayton Hudson Corporation.

In 2017 Hoff was selected as one of 50 honorees for the Women in Business Award from the Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal.

Hoff is passionate about developing a new generation of leaders, and she serves as chair of the board of directors of Bloom Early Learning, a non-profit focused on closing the access and disparity gap in learning for underprivileged children. In 2016 she was selected by the Women’s Health Leadership Trust as one of 30 executives to coach and develop high potential women leaders within the Twin Cities healthcare community.

Hoff graduated with distinction with a MS in Leadership from Capella University, and holds a BA in Business Administration and Financial Management from the University of St. Thomas.

Mary Miller, MBA

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Mary Miller 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, Miller held positions as senior vice president and chief marketing officer at PetSmart, Inc. Before that role, she held executive leadership positions at Best Buy Co., Inc., in areas including strategic marketing and customer loyalty.

Mani Ratnam, MBA

Vice President, Experiences and Initiatives 

Mani Ratnam is responsible for vision and strategy for learner experience, and he leads initiatives across the enterprise to implement this vision. Previously, Ratnam led Capella’s learner success program, which consistently improved learner persistence for over 5 years. He has over 30 years of experience in multiple business and technology functions including product management, software engineering, business operations, and service delivery. Prior to Capella, Ratnam spent over 15 years at Carlson Companies Inc., in senior technology and operations roles. As vice president of Global Traveler and Transaction Services at Carlson Wagonlit Travel, he was responsible for strategic initiatives aimed at improving global operations capabilities. Prior to this, as vice president and chief information officer for E2 Solutions, Ratnam launched a new line of business for travel and expense management for U.S. Federal Government agencies and led the day-to-day operations for the startup.

Ratnam earned his MBA from University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and his BS in Statistics from Mumbai University.

Constance St. Germain, EdD, JD

Vice President,  Academic Affairs & Chief Academic Officer

Dr. St. Germain is responsible for leading the university in achieving superior academic outcomes and impact. In collaboration with other university stakeholders, she provides leadership on accreditation, faculty affairs, institutional policy, curriculum & programs, academic success, and assessment.

She joined Capella University in 2017 after serving as executive dean for the College of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Phoenix. In that role, she had strategic, operational, and profit-and-loss responsibility for faculty, students, and ground campuses across the country and online. She also positioned the college as an incubator for continued growth and development to transform students into socially aware, critically thinking global citizens.

She started her academic career at American Public University System, first as a faculty member, then program director, and later as the vice president and dean of its School of Public Service and Health, where she had responsibility for faculty, curriculum and program development, accreditation, and students within the undergraduate and graduate programs.

In addition to her academic career, Dr. St. Germain is a U.S. Army veteran, having served as a major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. St. Germain has authored numerous articles, presented at national conferences, and served as an expert in the media on a wide range of issues facing both the workforce and higher education. In 2016 she was the recipient of the Diversity and Inclusion Leader award from the Arizona Diversity Alliance and Arizona Society for Human Resource Management. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Arizona Child and Family Advocacy Network.

Dr. St. Germain received her EdD in Higher Education and Organizational Change from Benedictine University, her JD from the University Of Baltimore School Of Law, and her BA from George Mason University.

Tonia Teasley, JD

Vice President  & General Manager
College of Business, Technology, Education and Public Service Leadership

Tonia Teasley provides executive direction over the growth of a spectrum of academic programs spanning several professional disciplines. She originally joined Capella in 2012 as the Vice President of Learner Services and Operations.

Prior to Capella University Teasley was with Thomson Reuters, where she was responsible for online learning for customers and for training and development of the sales team. Prior to that, she spent most of her career in large law firms both as a practicing attorney and then as executive director and managing partner of a firm in Minneapolis. Teasley has a passion for developing people that extends beyond her work at Capella. She is a volunteer for, and former board member of, The ARC Greater Twin Cities, an organization that advocates for individuals with intellectual disabilities and is currently on a Board Task Force for Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Teasley earned her JD from the University of Minnesota and her BA in Political Science and Economics from St. Olaf College.


Bill Dafnis, PhD

Associate Dean of Technology, School of Business and Technology

Dr. Dafnis' professional background includes 25 years of information technology, project management, and manufacturing and distribution leadership positions at a media conglomerate where he co-led the strategic evolution of new technology. Prior to Capella, his higher education experience began as an adjunct technology faculty member at several institutions. From that experience, he quickly progressed into the dean of information systems and technology at Strayer University. His research interests, editorial contributions, scholarly presentations, and publications focus on disruptive innovation, cybersecurity, and business process modeling. He also serves as an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology program evaluator and is a certified project management professional (PMP).

Dr. Dafnis earned his PhD in Information Systems from Nova Southeastern University, his MSIT in Information Security and Assurance from Carnegie Mellon University, his MBA from Lake Forest College, and his BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Illinois.

Christy Davidson, DNP, RNC-OB

Associate Dean and Director of Nursing, School of Nursing and Health Sciences

Before her role as associate dean, Christy Davidson was a core faculty member at Capella. She has been a nursing professional for over 20 years, beginning as a staff nurse in labor and delivery, then growing in leadership as a women’s health clinical nurse specialist, nurse manager of a pediatric medical surgical unit, and as nursing faculty.

Dr. Davidson holds several scholarly presentations to her credit, is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International, a 2012 DAISY Faculty Award winner, a 2016 Leadership for Academic Nursing Program Fellow, and currently serves as a Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) site evaluator and team leader.

Dr. Davidson earned her DNP from the University of South Alabama. She earned her BSN and MSN from the University of Mobile.

Genevieve Feliu, MA

Dean, Division of Arts & Sciences and Academic Success

Dr. Feliu leads academic initiatives related to writing across the curriculum, developing quantitative skills, learner employment opportunities and oversight, the university tutoring and supplemental instruction model, and the new student orientation experience.  In addition, she provides academic leadership to Capella University’s general education program. She has 16 years of experience in higher education, serving as a faculty member, department chair, and dean.

Dr. Feliu completed her PhD in Organization and Management at Capella University, her MA in sociology at East Carolina University, and her BA in sociology from the University of North Carolina.

Charlyn Hilliman, PhD, MPA

Dean, School of Public Service Leadership

Dr. Charlyn Hilliman joined Capella University in 2006. Before being appointed dean, she was faculty chair for Capella University’s public administration degree programs. Prior to that, she served on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and as a scientific merit reviewer; a residency instructor; a subject matter expert in research, criminal justice, and public administration; and the comprehensive examination lead.

Before joining Capella, Dr. Hilliman was a health care information technology leader at Columbia University and Florida International University, and worked as a director of community program evaluations and policy initiatives for the New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Dr. Hilliman earned her PhD and MPhil in Criminal Justice from the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), and her MPA from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.

Anna Hultquist, PhD

Dean of Counseling, and Human Behavior, Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences

Before being appointed dean in 2012, Dr. Hultquist served as associate dean for the department of counseling and human behavior since 2008. She has over 25 years of experience in higher education, serving in the fields of counselor education, human services, and human behavior. She has held positions as faculty, program director, associate dean, and dean in several institutions. Additionally, Dr. Hultquist is a licensed family therapist and a nationally approved clinical supervisor who has created two community-based counseling centers where she served as executive director and clinical supervisor.  Her service to the profession has included professional licensure initiatives, appointment to the Oregon State Board for Professional Counselors and Therapists, membership on community boards, Red Cross Disaster Mental Health Counselor, and numerous conference presentations and professional articles.

Dr. Hultquist earned her PhD in Adult Education from the University of Connecticut, her MS in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island, and her BS in Family and Consumer Sciences from Framingham State University.

Melissa McIntyre, PhD

Associate Dean, School of Education

Dr. McIntyre joined Capella in 2004 as an adjunct faculty member. Since then she has served as a core faculty, EdS colloquia lead, P12 first course lead, and specialization lead. More recently, she served as faculty chair for P-12 Leadership programs. Prior to joining Capella, she worked as a teacher, administrator, and recruiter in public schools and a as consultant supporting low performing schools in urban school systems.

She earned her PhD in Elementary and Secondary Education Administration from Capella University, her MS in Organizational Management and MEd in Administration and Supervision from the University of Phoenix, and her BS in Social Studies Education from the University of Central Texas.

Lisa McKenna, PhD, LPC-S

Assistant Dean, Counseling and Human Behavior, Harold Abel School of Counseling and Human Services - Counseling Education Unit

Dr. McKenna began teaching in the Counseling Education Unit at Capella University in 2007 as an adjunct instructor, and became core faculty in 2010.  She served as the faculty chair for the Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision programs from 2013 to 2017. 

Dr. McKenna has published articles in the Journal of Aging, Journal of Gerontological Nursing, and Aging and Mental Health, and has presented at professional conferences including the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, Gerontological Society of America, American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society, Society for Research on Adolescence, Society for Research on Human Development, and the National Institute for General Medical Sciences. She has worked as a counselor in the Youth and Family Development Program and the Psychological Services and Counseling Center at Florida International University, the Student Counseling Center at Nova Southeastern University, and in private practice.  She is a licensed professional counselor and board-approved clinical supervisor in the state of Texas.

Dr. McKenna earned her PhD in Developmental Psychology, her MS in Counseling Psychology, and her BS in Psychology from Florida International University.

Elizabeth Riley, PhD

Dean, Harold Abel School of Psychology

Dr. Riley has served as faculty at a number of universities and was chair of the General Psychology and Addiction Psychology programs at Capella University for several years before becoming research chair for the Psychology department, and later academic director of Doctoral Affairs. Before returning to Capella to assume her role as dean, Dr. Riley served as vice president of instruction at a nursing and allied health sciences university, where she functioned as the provost and chief academic officer.

In addition to her research and higher education consulting work, Dr. Riley is an avid supporter of the arts and serves on the Board of Directors of Angels Gate Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Dr. Riley he earned her PhD in Experimental Psychology and her MA in General Psychology from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She earned her BA in Psychology with a minor in Music from Chapman University.

Jennifer Straub, PhD

Assistant Dean, Division of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Straub joined Capella University in 2010 and has taught undergraduate learners in the field of biology, and served as chair of General Education prior to her current role in the Division of Arts and Sciences. She has led several university-wide projects, including a remote, undergraduate faculty conference.  Her experience in higher education includes teaching both undergraduate and graduate studies, including the graduate molecular neurobiology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory, and undergraduate health sciences, biology, and liberal arts/general education courses at Eastern Connecticut State University, Johnson State College, Kaplan University, and the University of Phoenix.  

Dr. Straub received her MS and PhD in Pharmacology/Neuroscience Research from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. She pursued Post-Doctoral Studies in Neuroscience and Cancer Biology at the University of Vermont, and she earned her BS in Biochemistry from Hofstra University.

Board of Directors

Mark Brown, MBA

Mark joined the board in 2018. Mark is a former chief financial officer at Strayer Education, Inc. Before that role, he was most chief financial officer of The Kantar Group, the information and consultancy division of WPP Group, the multi-national communications services company. Prior to that, for nearly 12 years Mark held a variety of management positions at PepsiCo Inc. including director of corporate planning for Pepsi Bottling Group and business unit chief financial officer for Pepsi-Cola International. He began his career as a Certified Public Accountant with PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Brown holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Duke University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University.

Adrian Butler, PhD

Dr. Butler is senior vice president, chief information officer, DineEquity, Inc. In this role he is responsible for information technology (IT) transformation and strategy, innovation, and technology delivery as well as building and enhancing the organization’s digital, mobile, social-media, and data capabilities focused on growing the business and enhancing the guest experience.

Dr. Butler has more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience in IT and across several industries including financial services and insurance, hospitality, and retail. Prior to his current role, he was vice president in the Technology Services division of Target Corporation. He started his IT career serving as an officer in the United States Air Force, leaving as a captain.

Dr. Butler earned his PhD from the University of Maryland, his MS from Embry Riddle University, and his BS in Computer Science from Grambling State University.

Frank Hughley, MS CISSP

Hughey serves as the learner representative for the Capella University Board of Directors and is an Information Technology doctoral candidate in the School of Business and Technology, with an emphasis in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. Currently, while completing his dissertation, Hughey works for the MITRE Corporation where he is a principal cybersecurity engineer supporting Air Force space missions. He is a member of the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Hughey holds a Master of Science degree in Information Technology from Capella University and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems from Regis University.

Eric Jolly, PhD

President and CEO of Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundations

Eric J. Jolly, Ph.D., joined Minnesota Philanthropy Partners in 2015 after 10 years as president of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Before that, Jolly served as vice president and senior scientist at the Education Development Center in Massachusetts. His career began with successive academic roles in several colleges and universities, including professor, dean, assistant chancellor, and director for Affirmative Action and Diversity. Jolly serves on a number of local and national boards, including the Bush Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Widely recognized for his work with communities and policy makers, he has published articles and books and has lectured around the world about the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.

Jolly has a doctorate in psychology and a master’s degree in psychometrics from the University of Oklahoma.

Christopher King, PhD

Dr. King is a healthcare executive, educator, researcher, and fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives. As a senior fellow of the American Hospital Association’s educational affiliate Health Research & Educational Trust, Dr. King’s research and scholarship advances how health systems are organized, delivered, and financed to promote health equity and improve the health of the nation.

Dr. King is a professor and director of the Georgetown University graduate program in Health Systems Administration. He is also an academic administrator and strategist who lectures at the Georgetown University School of Medicine and the Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies.

In his former roles, Dr. King served as the first assistant vice president of community for a $5 billion not-for-profit healthcare system in the mid-Atlantic. Prior to that, he was director of programs for a federally qualified health center in southern Maryland, where he managed a women, infants and children’s program, Ryan White HIV Services, and specialty care referral contracts. As chairman of the board for the Consumer Health Foundation, his leadership was instrumental in shifting a philanthropic strategy from access to racial equity and economic justice as a means of improving the health of historically marginalized populations.

He earned his PhD in Health Services Administration from the University of Maryland College Park.

Rena Palloff, Ph.D., LCSW

Dr. Palloff is lead core faculty and mentor lead in the Doctor of Social Work program at Capella University, and she was appointed as faculty representative to the Board in August 2018.  She has worked for Capella in adjunct, part-time, and core positions since 2001. She has served on the President’s Advisory Council, the Faculty Review Panel, and the Curriculum Committee for the School of Public Service Leadership. She has also served as a subject matter expert in the development of numerous courses at Capella and the residency experience for capstone and doctoral learners.

Dr. Palloff has consulted extensively in health care, academic settings, juvenile justice, and addiction treatment for well over 20 years and has also taught in higher education for over 20 years.  She has written eight books on the topic of online distance education, three of which have been translated into Portuguese and Spanish, and is considered a pioneer in that area.  She has been presenting this work across the United States and internationally since 1994 as well as consulting to academic institutions regarding the development of effective distance learning programs.  She is the 2012 winner of the Richard Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education.

Dr. Palloff earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She holds a master’s degree in Organizational Development and a Ph.D. in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University.

Lori Riley, MBA

Lori Riley serves as the senior vice president and chief human resources officer responsible for human resources, facilities, and loss prevention at EVine, a digital retailer that offers products to consumers through various online and social channels. Prior to December 2016, she served as vice president human capital at UnitedHealth Group, where she accelerated the company’s talent analytics strategy, drove innovative HR operations to scale with global growth, reinvigorated the diversity and inclusion strategy, and established a values-based, positive culture with strong customer service focus. Before that role, she spent 15 years at Target Corporation in numerous human resource positions including human resources manager, director of compensation, human resources director, vice president of human resources operations, and vice president of Target Technology Service, Corporate Systems. Ms. Riley serves as an advisory group member of Pacer Center, helping children and families with special needs.

Riley earned her MBA, her MS in Business Education, and her BS in Personnel and Industrial Relations from Northern Illinois University.

Steven Snyder, PhD

Dr. Snyder’s firm, Snyder Strategic, works with organizations to accelerate their capacity for strategic innovation.

Early in his career, Dr. Snyder worked for Microsoft when that company was in its infancy. His work there secured the relationship with IBM during a crucial stage in Microsoft’s growth. Promoted as Microsoft’s first business unit general manager, Dr. Snyder led the company’s development tool business, where his team won PC Magazine’s Technical Excellence Award three times. He was also vice president of software product development at Personnel Decisions International (PDI), a worldwide human resources consulting firm.

Dr. Snyder was co-founder and CEO of Net Perceptions, where he brought to market real-time personalized recommendations that have become central to the online shopping experience with, the company’s first customer.

Dr. Snyder serves on the board of directors of Stemonix, and he is an adjunct faculty member of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Dr. Snyder earned his PhD in Psychology from the University of Minnesota. He earned his MA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, his MBA from the Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, and his BS in Mathematics from Drexel University.

Harry Williams, PhD

Dr. Williams made history when he became the first sitting university president to serve as president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. During his eight-year tenure leading Delaware State University (DSU), Dr. Williams proved himself to be a prolific fundraiser, passionate advocate, and strategic planner for the school. He increased student enrollment every year; formed productive partnerships with government and private organizations resulting in several multi-million dollar grants and investments into the campus; and led the most successful fundraising campaign in DSU history, which raised millions for scholarships, the university’s endowment, and for student success initiatives.

Dr. Williams’ extensive leadership background in the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and higher education spheres earned him the National TRIO Achiever Award and the TMCF Education Leadership Award.  HBCU Digest named him one of the Top 10 Influential HBCU Presidents in the country. He has served in senior positions at the University of North Carolina General Administration, Appalachian State University, and North Carolina A&T State University. He is also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

Dr. Williams earned his EdD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University, and his MA in Educational Media and Bachelor of Science in Communication Broadcasting from Appalachian State University.