Meet the Staff

Meet Our Staff

Takoda's staff are highly experienced in their field and are invested in your success!

We're looking forward to meeting you!

Takoda Institute

Kimberly Ben-Haim
Director of Takoda Institute

Kimberly starting working at American Indian OIC in June of 2017 as the Director of Takoda Institute. She has worked in higher education for over 11 years and loves the challenges and opportunities that AIOIC presents. She is proud to help students achieve their goal of a post-secondary degree and is always keeping tabs on her own perennial education. She originally thought that littles were who she would be teaching, getting a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Masters in Education but after a group of Kindergartens shook her to her core, Kimberly moved on to adults. Kimberly never wants to stop trying new things and in the past has been a member of the Twin Cities River Rats Water Ski Show team, worked as a firefighter with the Fridley Fire Department, jumped out of a plane, traveled solo around the UK and moms her two children. She currently volunteers as a doula with the Twin Cities Doula Project and believes that every women has the right to a supported, informed birth accomplished through pre and postnatal education and services.

Steph Nick
Registrar & Title IX Coordinator

With the desire to serve others, American Indian OIC/Takoda Institute has been a perfect fit for Stephanie Nick. Starting as a contract employee in 2011 until hired on as a full time employee in 2014, over the years Stephanie has had several job titles. At this time, she is the Registrar & Title IX Coordinator for Takoda Institute. Currently enrolled at Metropolitan State University, Stephanie is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Ethnic Studies and the end is near in sight. Afterwards Stephanie’s goal is to be accepted to Metro State University’s Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) graduate program. Stephanie hopes to always be blessed working with a diverse and underserved population continues to be grateful for this opportunity.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept”

-Angela Davis

Jennifer McDowell
Curriculum & Instruction Manager; Digital Office Professional Instructor

Jennifer McDowell was the kid who organized the neighborhood dodgeball games, the natural planner who loved making lists. She was also the kid who loved painting, drawing, and getting things done early. (Well, most things.)

Frank Runyon
Instructor & Academic Advisor

Frank is an alumni of Takoda Institute's Computer Support Specialist program and graduated with honors. Spent many years in music, recording and touring, loves cheese, and video games.

Why does Frank even have a Bio? Frank doesn't like talking about himself, so instead he's referring to himself in 3rd person. Frank, is always in his own little world, but he is very comfortable with it because everybody knows him there. Some people call him the "Computer Wizard" because his superpower is the ability to fix things just by touching them.

Frank is a 20+ year veteran of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Performing in a variety of musical groups playing anything from Irish traditional to Rock and Reel (That's rock music with Irish Jigs thrown in when the entertainment director shows up to the performance). He also has his own CD, and if you ask, he might even give you a digital copy!

"A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to!" -Gandalf

Jessica Feist-Newes
Instructor & Academic Advisor

Jessica brings fifteen years experience in healthcare administration and patient services to her leadership role with the Patient Services Specialist program.

Lloyd Wittstock

Lloyd holds a master’s degree in English and history from the University of Wisconsin and began working for the AIOIC in the 1983, at first writing proposals. Soon his responsibilities shifted to the educational side of the agency. Lloyd has also taught a wide range of classes. He favors Business Communication and Introduction to MicroSoft Office because of the diverse skill sets among the beginning students. People of different ages and abilities take these classes, so it is vital to take time to meet the students at their skill level and help them move upward. His earliest experiences with computers involved written programs and punch cards, so he had some catching up to do, starting with BASIC programming on a TRS-80 computer and learning software applications on a Wang computer and later with the WordStar and VisiCalc programs—all good learning experiences. The first time he used a mouse, he held it upside-down and wondered how anyone could master it.

He has five step children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandson. Some of Lloyd’s hobbies include: gardening, biking, tennis, and movies. His wife Laura is very active in the community.

Alice McBride
Career Services Representative

Takoda GED

Annessia Swann
Director of Takoda GED

I’m currently Director of the GED program however; I was once a young single mom looking for a training that led me to a career. I found AIOIC and attended 1 year of training in 1994 while my child attended childcare onsite. Employment services helped introduce me to employers once I earned my certificate. I left for employment and returned to AIOIC years later when a layoff occurred. My experience at AIOIC made me want to give back to others in the same way. I have been employed at AIOIC since 1999 in a various number of roles including payroll and benefits, employing youth in a summer program, empowering ex offender women to heal their families and maintain sobriety while building careers, Registrar of Takoda Institute and since then my current role as GED Director.

Throughout my years since attending school at AIOIC I have attended University of Phoenix in pursuit of a BA in Criminal Justice, completed several Human Resource classes at Carlson School of Business, and completed a year of training at St Thomas for Executive Director Leadership training. I believe that education is one of the keys to getting out of the cycle of poverty and that Takoda Institute is a great starting point to do so.

Sára Kaiser, Ph.D.
AmeriCorps Education & Employment Opportunity Navigator

I am Dr. Sára Kaiser (MacArthur Scholar). I received my PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Minnesota but I obtained my MAs in English & ESL and BA in American Studies from the University of Szeged, Hungary. My dissertation focused on the dialectical relationship between the House and Market Economy in rural Hungary after the Fall of Communism. I carried out a two-year ethnographic field research in post-socialist Balástya, Hungary, where I collected data to elicit information about how ordinary people tested and contested the political and economic changes after 1989—in micro-politics of everyday life. My anthropologically-informed work argues that the transformation from Market-Socialism to Market-Capitalism was filled and paved with anxiety and fear in the Hungarian countryside.

Research, teaching, and advising occupy a central role in my professional life. I have been working in Higher Education for over twenty years both in Europe and the US. I have been teaching at the U of M, Metro State University, and the Art Institutes International. Currently, I am serving as an Employment & Education Navigator at the American Indian OIC’s ABE program—with Opportunity Corps.  

Elizabeth Bennett

Elizabeth Bennett is a graduate of the College of Wooster (BA, French) and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (MA, Educational Studies).  She holds Minnesota teaching licenses in K-6 elementary education and K-12 ESL, as well as a certificate in adult ESL from Hamline University.  Before joining the Takoda GED team, she worked as an elementary Spanish teacher, reading interventionist, general education teacher, and ESL teacher.

LeeAnn Nelson-White