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Five join Blandin Foundation Broadband Strategy Board

Grand Rapids, Minn. — Five leaders in Minnesota’s technology sector have accepted invitations to the Blandin Foundation Broadband Initiative Strategy Board.

An experienced technology leader, Carolyn Parnell has been appointed by Governor Dayton to serve as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the State of Minnesota. Among her leadership roles as State CIO, she is the commissioner of MN.IT Services, the state agency that provides effective information technology to Minnesota’s government. Prior to joining the Governor’s Cabinet, Parnell was the Chief Operating Officer for Information Technology Services for the Minnesota System of Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), the fifth-largest system of two-and-four year colleges and universities in the nation. Parnell brings a wealth of IT management experience to the State, having also held leadership positions at MN Public Radio/America Public Media, Fidelity National Information Systems and the University of Minnesota. 

Carrie Rice currently serves as regulatory affairs manager for Mankato-based HickoryTech, which owns Enventis and uniquely provides middle mile, LEC and CLEC services in rural Minnesota and the Twin Cities.  She currently serves as Regulatory Affairs Manager for HickoryTech,  a publicly-held, fiber-based, regional telecommunications provider headquartered in Mankato.  Rice has been in the telecommunications industry over twenty years and chairs the Minnesota Telecom Alliance’s legislative committee.

Matt Schmit of Red Wing serves as state Senator for Minnesota District 21. Elected in 2012, Sen. Schmit chairs the Fish and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Energy and Environment Committee; serves as vice chair of the Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development committee; and sits on the Capital Investment and Environment, Economic Development and Agriculture Finance committees. Outside elected office, Matt runs a small public policy consulting firm, P3 Strategies, focusing primarily on economic development, telecommunications and transportation policy.  Integration of 21st century infrastructure is a primary focus of his work – and his research. 

Katie Clark Sieben was appointed DEED Commissioner in October 2012. Prior to that, she served as executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office (MTO), responsible for managing the overall strategic direction of the MTO which includes promoting the State of Minnesota and its companies in the global marketplace, introducing Minnesota companies to foreign buyers and investors, building diplomatic relationships with international delegations and managing a staff of international trade representatives. Katie has managed large-scale, multi-million dollar operations; built strategic partnerships at the highest levels of business and philanthropy; and created and implemented nationwide marketing campaigns. In addition to working for Target Corporation, Katie served as the director of community relations for a startup wind energy developer, National Wind, and as finance director for Mark Dayton for a Better Minnesota. 

She fills the strategy board seat vacated by former DEED commissioner Mark Phillips.

Madonna Yawakie is president of Turtle Island Communications (TICOM) located in Brooklyn Park, Minn.  TICOM provides telecommunications and broadband planning, engineering and project consulting, primarily to American Indian tribes and federal agencies across the United States.  TICOM provided services to the first tribal owned commercial wireless company in the nation, and has designed and implemented numerous tribal owned wireline and wireless systems.  Madonna is Co-Chair of the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance, an organization that supports sustainable American Indian businesses.  She is past chair of Minnesota Rural Partners, a public-private partnership that included state and federal agencies with nonprofits for better coordination of rural development.  Her company was named the 2008 Minnesota Indian Business conference “Indian Entreprenur of the Year.” Madonna is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

About the Strategy Board and its work

The Broadband Strategy Board was formed in 2003. With 17 members representing public and private sectors, it charts the strategic direction and oversees progress of the Blandin Foundation’s Broadband Initiative.

“We are delighted that Carolyn, Carrie, Matt, Katie and Madonna have agreed to share their talents, expertise and perspectives with the Strategy Board,” says Bernadine Joselyn, director of Public Policy and Engagement for the Blandin Foundation. “They will be strong additions to the Board,  given their focus on the growth and enhancement of Minnesota’s economy – an arena in which high-speed internet plays a key role in creating connected, economically vibrant rural communities.”

Joselyn emphasizes that communities without broadband accessibility are economically sidelined. Those rural communities that invest in ultra high-speed communication networks, however, have the tools they need to attract and expand businesses, add jobs, strengthen health care capabilities, improve educational efficacy and overall increase the quality of life.

The Blandin Broadband Initiative vision, Joselyn says, is “to ensure a high quality of life and a globally competitive future for its citizens, business and communities, Minnesota is committed to making the necessary investment to become a world leader in the universal deployment and use of ultra high-speed next generation broadband.”



 About Blandin Foundation

Blandin Foundation stands with rural Minnesota communities as they imagine and claim ambitious, vibrant futures.  Based in Grand Rapids, Minn., it is one of only a handful of foundations in the U.S. focused exclusively on rural communities and the largest rural-based private foundation in Minnesota. Information on Blandin Foundation grant-making, leadership development programs and public policy initiatives are at On Twitter at and facebook at


Downloadable photos:

Carolyn Parnell

Carrie Rice

Matt Schmit

Katie Clark Sieben

Madonna Yawakie


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