Meet the Leadership at YWCA Minneapolis
Luz María Frías
President and CEO
To contact Luz Maria, please connect with her Executive Assistant, Natalie Kettner at:
Luz María Frías is the President and Chief Executive Officer of YWCA Minneapolis, responsible for leading the strategy and operations of the organization’s five areas of commitment to the community: Health and Wellness, Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth, Racial Justice and Public Policy. Established in 1891, YWCA Minneapolis serves 30,000+ people annually with a budget of $23 million through a dedicated staff of over 500 full and part-time employees.
Luz María joined YWCA Minneapolis in December 2016. She has a deep history of leadership in the community including: government, non-profits and philanthropy. She holds Master’s and Juris Doctor Degrees from the University of Iowa. Prior to coming to YWCA Minneapolis Luz María was at The Minneapolis Foundation, where she has served as the Vice President for Community Impact since 2012.
A noted public policy strategist and thought leader on race equity for more than 20 years, Luz María served as Mayor Chris Coleman’s External Affairs Director before being appointed by him to serve as the inaugural Director of the Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Department where she redesigned the city’s procurement system resulting in substantial growth in contracting opportunities for minority-owned businesses from $1 million per year to $13 million per year. Prior positions include: Family Court Magistrate for the State of Minnesota, Hearing Examiner for the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, Chief Executive Officer & Chief Legal Officer of Centro Legal and public policy work for the Minnesota House of Representatives. While working at the Minnesota House of Representatives, she played a lead role in drafting the Sexual Harassment Policy and Handbook for the Minnesota Legislature. Among various leadership roles, Luz María is actively involved with the Minnesota Women Lawyers Association as an Advisory Council member, and has also served as past-president. She has designed numerous nationally award winning initiatives including the EMS Academy for Saint Paul and Minneapolis which both serve as pipelines for fire departments across the region - the academy provides EMT training and certification to youth from communities of color who live in low income households.
Luz María is an experienced mediator and frequent lecturer on the issues of implicit bias and immigration public policy. She can be heard regularly on Counter Stories, a Minnesota Public Radio Podcast that discusses race, identity, social justice and culture in a region grappling with demographic changes.
Chief Financial Officer
Ramya Rauf joined YWCA Minneapolis in September 2015. She oversees finance and accounting and is responsible for Information Technology and Risk Management.
Ramya has over 25 years of experience in corporate and non-profit sectors leading finance, accounting, risk management and treasury management teams.
She began her career in public accounting and after 5 years moved to Ernst and Young as a Tax Manager. Her Corporate experience began as Controller of Eveready Battery Company Colombo, Sri Lanka location of Energizer Co. USA. She was promoted to the position of Treasurer and CFO and held this position for 7 years before she moved to Minnesota in 1999. She continued her career with US Trust Company in Minneapolis.
Ramya began the transition to the non-profit sector through management consulting work in feasibility studies for hospitals and as Finance Manager most recently for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.
Ramya is a CPA and a Chartered Accountant from Sri Lanka. She resides in St Paul and has been a member of the MN Society of Certified Public Accountants since 2002.
Chief Operating Officer
Colleen Wigg is the Chief Operating Officer at YWCA Minneapolis, responsible for the operations of the organization’s five areas of commitment to the community: Health and Wellness, Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth, Racial Justice and Public Policy, along with Human Resources and Marketing. Established in 1891, YWCA Minneapolis serves 30,000+ people annually with a budget of $23 million through a dedicated staff of over 500 full and part-time employees.
Colleen Wigg joined YWCA Minneapolis in January 2011 as its Vice President of Health and Wellness. She led the operation of three full service Health and Fitness Centers with 24,000+ members and YWCA Minneapolis owned physical plants.
Colleen has an extensive background in the operations, health, wellness and human resources industry, most recently serving as the Vice President of Operations for Lakeshore Medical Fitness. During her 11 years there, she was responsible for overseeing the management of the medical- and park district-based health and fitness centers, including all aspects of member service, strategic planning, budgeting, human resources, facilities and operations. Previous to that role, she was with Health Fitness Corporation in Minneapolis for 17 years in various health and wellness operations and human resources executive positions.
In addition to her professional achievements, Colleen has been a volunteer for the American Cancer Society since 1997, a service project coordinator for Avenues for Homeless Youth, and has supported the Eden Prairie Foundation through various fundraising leadership roles.
Colleen holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota, a mini-MBA from the University of St. Thomas, and has completed the Human Resources Executive Program at the Carlson School.
Chief Development Officer
Kari L. Clark is the Chief Development Officer and comes to YWCA Minneapolis with a breadth of varied development experiences, strong communication skills and dedicated drive. With 20 years’ experience in the field of Development, Kari started her career in a leadership position as an Associate Director of Planned & Endowed Gifts with The Foundation for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. At Children’s, Kari dedicated her time to championing the health and wellness of children and families. Following Children’s, Kari worked for Gustavus Adolphus College for the past 11 years, first as their Director of Gift Planning, eventually moving into a Director of Principal Gifts position.
As a strategic leader with industry-recognized communications and donor relations skills, Kari’s development experience spans a coalition of non-profit, health care and education organizations. Kari is a proud member of the Minnesota Planned Giving Council and a Board Member with Dress for Success - Twin Cities.
Kari graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a B.A. and obtained her J.D. from Mitchell/Hamline College of Law. Kari was admitted to the Minnesota State Bar in October of 1995.
Jacqueline Lloyd Cunningham
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Jacqueline Lloyd Cunningham is the Vice President of Marketing at YWCA Minneapolis. In this role, Jacqui oversees the development and implementation of a cohesive marketing direction that supports revenue and growth objectives for the organization’s five divisions: Health and Wellness, Early Childhood Education, Girls and Youth, Racial Justice and Public Policy.
Jacqui has 20 years’ experience as a strategic marketing leader. She has a passion for understanding what drives behavior and uses that insight to develop integrated marketing plans that drive brand relevancy and business results.
Before joining YWCA Minneapolis in 2014, Jacqueline was Marketing Manager, General Public Engagement at Be The Match®; led the Sales Promotion Marketing team at Target; and held various marketing positions at 3M, including product, business development and channel marketing activities for leading consumer brands Scotch® and Scotch-Brite®.
Jacqueline is an active member of the Women’s Health Leadership Trust, serving on the External Relations Committee. She has a BS degree in Marketing from Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY; an MBA degree from Fordham University in New York; and completed Continuing Education courses at the University of Minnesota Carlson School Management, including Healthcare Delivery Innovations. Jacqui is married, has two children and enjoys spending time at the lake.
Vice President, Health and Wellness
Nicole Hessels is the Vice President of Health and Wellness at YWCA Minneapolis, responsible for leading the operation of three full service Health and Fitness Centers with 25,000 members annually.
Nicole Hessels joined YWCA Uptown in July 2012 as its General Manager, responsible for managing and overseeing all aspects of staff and facilities at the Uptown location. She supervised nine coordinators and managers who oversaw 100 - 120 staff, and sustained an annual site budget of more than $4.5 million. She successfully led the development of PATH, Physician Aligned Tracks for Health Program, in partnership with Allina Health System. Additionally in this role, she managed multiple million dollar renovations, and strategically managed an increase in membership retention and overall growth of the membership base.
Nicole has a vast background in the operations, health and management industries, most recently serving as the Community Impact Director for YWCA Minneapolis. She was responsible for planning, developing and implementing community health and wellness strategies and programs. These programs consisted of: TCM 5k, YWCA Women’s Triathlon, health fairs and corporate wellness partnerships. She effectively collaborated with her peers to exceed sales goals by 110% in the first month. Nicole delivered training of Effective Coaching and Documentation to all YWCA supervisors.
Previous to her roles at YWCA, Nicole was with various health and fitness centers in numerous management positions. These roles encompassed a distinct combination of business and accounting, with a strong emphasis in human resources and facility operations.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Nicole is a current board member for Westminster Presbyterian Town Hall Forum. She contributes to the Forum’s success through her expertise in areas such as: policy development, community partnerships and sponsorships, promotion, fundraising and programming.
Nicole holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Illinois in Sports Medicine.
Vice President, Early Childhood Education and Girls and Youth
Stephanie Thomas is the Vice President of Early Childhood Education and Girls and Youth at YWCA Minneapolis. She is responsible for leadership and strategy of all early childhood education sites, curriculum and workforce development program, along with all Girls and Youth sites and programming.
Ms. Thomas joined YWCA Minneapolis in August 2017. She has 23 years of nonprofit experience as a senior leader, demonstrated capabilities in program development, team leadership, relationship development and strategic management. Ms. Thomas obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls.
Stephanie is an expert in early childhood education and school-age care and has been an advocate for early childhood and school-age care on a state and national level. She is a certified trainer for working with 0-5 year olds, 5-12 year olds, school-age child care and administration of early childhood and afterschool programs. In her previous position, Ms. Thomas was responsible for leading and developing one of the largest non-profit departments of early childhood and school-age care programs in the state, positively impacting thousands of youth and families each year. She has provided leadership for research, development and implementation of new childcare programs, practices and resources.
Stephanie is a past board member of MnAEYC-MnSACA and is a member of the MnAEYC-MnSACA Policy and Advocacy Advisory Group, as well as the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council Early Childhood Network. Stephanie, and her spouse Tim, enjoy spending time supporting their two children in a variety of academics, sports and other activities. They reside in Maple Grove.
Vice President, Racial Justice and Public Policy
Rubén Vázquez is Vice President of Racial Justice and Public Policy at YWCA Minneapolis, responsible for overall leadership and strategy for YWCA Minneapolis Race Equity and Public Policy programs in support of YWCA Minneapolis' mission, vision and goals, in the areas of: quality program and event delivery, program development, implementation and evaluation and budget development and management. Rubén represents YWCA Minneapolis on racial justice and public policy related issues both locally and nationally. Rubén joined YWCA Minneapolis in November 2017 as its Racial Equity & Public Policy Strategist, which provided strategic leadership, proactively built community partnerships and managed the seamless integration of YWCA Minneapolis race equity initiatives among partners and members.
As an immigrant from Mexico 35 years ago, Rubén has been committed to working with unrepresented communities to help them become a primary stakeholder in their community. His philosophy is that diversity is what makes us different, inclusion is how we incorporate those differences that yield stronger organizations and communities. He comes to YWCA Minneapolis with an array of experience in social justice, advocacy, civic engagement, community base initiatives and fighting for racial equity within the legal field. Rubén has experience in nonprofit, for-profit, education and government sectors.
Rubén holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Hamline University and a Certificate in Global Arbitration Law & Practice from Hamline Law School & Queen Mary University, London, England. Rubén is an active member in several organizations in both his immediate community and throughout the Twin Cities. Rubén and Sarah have been married for over 15 years and have two children ages 13 and 10. Rubén and his family live in New Brighton, MN.