MEET OUR TEAM
Accelerate Montana is comprised of a number of programs dedicated to advancing workforce and economic development across the state of Montana.
Our team members are all here to help!
Accelerate Montana is comprised of a number of programs dedicated to advancing workforce and economic development across the state of Montana.
Our team members are all here to help!
Brad oversees a variety of systems design and prototyping partnerships between the Innovation Factory and the greater community while also functioning as a designer for AMT. Originally from Oklahoma, Brad obtained an MFA in Sculpture from Southern Illinois University. After 15 years as a UM faculty in the School of Visual and Media Arts, and 2 years as program director, he co-developed the Innovation Factory to lead UM piloting and prototyping projects.
Mercedes is the Marketing Manager for Accelerate Montana. Her passion lies in tailoring each marketing strategy to each individual business's unique needs. She ensures a truly bespoke experience. Through strategy, brand development, and implementation, Mercedes has helped businesses gain confidence with their marketing and ads. Her passion for developing businesses and helping entrepreneurs is what led her to Accelerate Montana.
Director, Employer Partnerships
Mike hails from the Swiss Alps and the Italian seaside. He spent a decade in various industries and 15 years teaching strategy and entrepreneurship at the U of M and abroad. Hobbies include casting a fly, firing up the stove, and importing Italian wine.
Elizabeth brings her expertise in design, pedagogy, and digital media to her role as Learning Designer for Accelerate Montana. Elizabeth began as faculty in the School of Visual and Media Art, University of Montana, teaching printmaking, photography, design, and co-Directing the Innovation Factory. Her artwork is exhibited internationally and she is one of 75 artists profiled in Contemporary American Printmakers. Originally from Baltimore, Elizabeth received her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and MFA from Vermont College.
Paul Gladen is the Director of Accelerate Montana, the University of Montana’s portfolio of economic development programs, and Director of the Blackstone LaunchPad. Paul is a founding team member of the Montana Code School and co-founder of the Hellgate Venture Network. He also serves on the Board of the Missoula Economic Partnership and MonTEC. Paul was the 2017 Montana Ambassador Educator of the Year. A native of England, Paul has a MA in Mathematics from Oxford University and an MBA from Manchester Business School. He moved to Missoula in 2008 and has been helping to shape the MT entrepreneurial ecosystem since.
Director of Finance and Operations
Jenny brings more than twenty years of nonprofit experience to her role with Accelerate Montana working across finance, operations, fund development, and programs development. Prior to joining AccelerateMT, Jenny’s work spanned entrepreneurship, impact investing, workforce development, and community and economic development. She is a proud AmeriCorps alumna having served New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer coordinator. Jenny holds a B.S. in Zoology and Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin, an MBA with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from Duke University, and a Certificate in Financial Success for Nonprofits from Cornell. Jenny brings more than twenty years of nonprofit experience to her role with Accelerate Montana working across finance, operations, fund development, and programs development. Prior to joining AccelerateMT, Jenny’s work spanned entrepreneurship, impact investing, workforce development, and community and economic development. She is a proud AmeriCorps alumna having served New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer coordinator. Jenny holds a B.S. in Zoology and Certificate in Women’s Studies from the University of Wisconsin, an MBA with a concentration in Social Entrepreneurship from Duke University, and a Certificate in Financial Success for Nonprofits from Cornell.
Director of Learning Development and Technology
Rebekah M. Skoog comes to Accelerate Montana with a wide range of experiences in education, and curriculum development. Skoog completed her Ph.D. in Anthropology of Education in the spring of 2022. Her doctoral research focused on language educator socialization and the impact of socialization on perspectives surrounding pedagogy and practice. As the Director of Learning Development and Technology, Skoog utilizes her background in teaching and learning to coordinate and execute training programs that fill the gap between education and the workforce. Skoog comes to Accelerate Montana because the goal is to offer alternatives for learners who prefer a non-academic track. “Providing people with the tools and capabilities they need is an essential part of our work, for some this is beyond the classroom.”
Karen Vande Kieft
Karen is a Senior at the University of Montana obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art. Her background consists of several roles in television, radio, and print production and advertising. She is an established artist working in several mediums. She also owns her own graphic design and photography studio.
Finance & Admin Manager
Jenny Wagoner is the finance and administrative manager at MonTEC/Accelerate Montana. She graduated from the University of Montana with a double major in accounting and information systems. She has over 15 years of accounting experience while also assisting small businesses with their administrative needs, helping them to become more empowered and efficient with their processes. She has worked in both the public and private accounting sectors, working within a diverse set of industries.
Scott Whittenburg is the President of Montana Technology Enterprise Center and Accelerate Montana. Since 2013, Scott has served as the Vice President for Research and Creative Scholarship and Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Montana. He is on the Board of the Missoula Downtown Association. Previously, Scott was the Vice President and Chancellor for Research and Economic Development at the University of New Orleans. Scott holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Oregon State University and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Utah.
Outreach Coordinator, Eastern Montana
Tom is based in eastern Montana and holds a Masters degree in Education, Bachelor in Automotive Technology. He is a Former Automotive Service Technician, Maintenance Engineer heavy equipment and locomotive industries, and Industrial Technology teacher 7-12
Rapid Training Program Director
Peter is based in Missoula and is the Rapid Training Program Director. He's worked in higher education administration for more than 15 years, and in classroom instruction.
Outreach Coordinator, North Central Montana
Jeri is a Montana native, born and raised in Townsend. She has lived in the Helena area for more than 20 years. She graduated from the University of Montana with a BS in Business Marketing and Management. She is also pursuing an MS in Public Administration. Jeri spent much of her career in MT State government including the Montana Department of Commerce, Tourism and Business Development. Most recently, Jeri worked for three years doing outreach and organizing around “Getting out the Count” for the 2020 Census in Montana. When she is not working, you can find Jeri out camping, fishing and hiking with her family, friends and dogs.
Outreach Coordinator, South Central Montana
Dani Buehler is the Regional Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator for the Rapid Training Program based in Lewistown focusing primarily on the Central and Southern regions of Montana. For many years, Dani has been working in libraries across the state in many different capacities from archival work, youth services, and, most recently, as the director of the Lewistown Public Library. She received her history degree from MSU - Bozeman where she studied film, anthropology, and religious studies. Dani's primary career goals center around community development. When not working, Dani enjoys outdoor activities primarily hiking, skiing, and anything on the water.
Learning and Career Coordinator
Ticia is based out of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation/Harlem area. She is the Rapid Training Learning and Career Coordinator. She will be an assistant trainee to find the best Accelerate course that is right for them.
Outreach Coordinator, Film & Media
Award-winning filmmaker, producer and educator, Lynn-Wood Fields graduated with her MFA in digital filmmaking from the University of Montana. Her work has since gone on to screen at over 50 film festivals and venues globally. She owns Montana Film Tax Credits and Montana Media Center which focuses on training Montana filmmakers. She is also a member of the MEDIA Coalition of Montana (MCM) which is working on legislation around the MEDIA (Montana Economic Development Industry Advancement) tax credits and cap raises. She is passionate about Montanans benefiting from the economic impact of the film and the media industry in our state
Outreach Coordinator, Southwest Montana
Shane is a native of Montana and has lived in the Bitterroot Valley since 2002. Shane Graduated from UM-Western with a BA degree in Literature & Writing and is nearing completion of his M.S. degree in Business Management from Minot State University. Shane has been working in the workforce development field for 20 years with a focus on the education and training of young adults and youth. When not at work Shane can be found spending his time hiking, fishing, kayaking, and cross-country skiing with his family which includes his wife, 2 daughters, 2 sons-in-law, and a beautiful granddaughter.
Job Site Ready Program Manager
Katherine is the Job Site Ready Program Manager and is based out of Missoula. In addition to her work with AccelerateMT, she teaches COLS 194: You at UM, and is a doctoral student in the educational leadership department. When she isn't working or studying, you can find her hiking with her spunky pup and reading a good book.
Indigenous Outreach Coordinator
Based out of SouthEast Montana Gerlinda lives in Crow Agency, MT. She is the Indigenous Outreach Coordinator for four tribes in Montana: Apsaalooke, Northern Cheyenne, Rocky Boy, Fort Peck. I have been teaching at a local TCU for last ten years in the science department. I enjoy learning new things.
Outreach Coordinator, Northwest Montana
Will Richards is the Rapid Training Outreach Coordinator for Northwest Montana. Before working with Accelerate Montana, he worked in the Occupational Trades at Flathead Valley Community College. He is based in Kalispell.
Crystal Little Owl
Indigenous Outreach Coordinator
Crystal Little Owl is an enrolled member of the Aaniiih, otherwise known as the Gros Ventre. Fort Belknap Indian Community is her homeland, but she currently resides in Polson, MT. Crystal is the Indigenous Outreach Coordinator for the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, Pend d'Oreille, Blackfeet, Whiteclay, Assiniboine, and Little Shell Tribal Nations. She enjoys dancing at pow-wows, hiking, and snowboarding.
Sarah is an Americorps Vista working with AMRII. Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, she recently graduated from Beloit College with a degree in anthropology. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys spending time with family and friends and being outdoors. She is working with AMRII to expand the accessibility of start-up tools and the business community for rural and indigenous Montanans.
Rural Outreach Ambassador
Shiena “Shin'' Medrano is a current junior at the University of Montana, majoring in Accounting and Management Information Systems. Shin works as AMRII’s Outreach Ambassador and is our resident graphic designer. From Manila in the Philippines, Shin moved to Phillipsburg, Montana as a junior in high school. In her free time, Shin enjoys painting and playing her violin, piano, and guitar. Her interests in art and entrepreneurship inspired Shin to help rural and indigenous artists gain recognition and pursue their goals.
Rural Outreach Ambassador
Zita, from Browning Montana on the Blackfeet Reservation, is currently a sophomore at the University of Montana, studying Communication with a focus on Rhetoric and Public Discourse, and minoring in Political Science. Zita has 2 children, Carlee and Pierce, and enjoys camping, swimming, and spending time with friends and family. After Zita is done with her bachelor’s degree, she plans on continuing her higher education by attending graduate school with a focus on Corporate Communication. Zita is a small business owner, entrepreneur, and currently an Indigenous/Rural Outreach Ambassador with AMRII.
Outreach & Engagement Manager, Program Manager
Karl has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurial ecosystems, growing up in his family’s organic agriculture supply business in the burgeoning organic industry of the late 1980's. Karl also managed the Northwest Biofuels Working Group and created the Sustainability Award during the inaugural year of the PNW Clean Tech Open. As the Outreach and Engagement Manager at AMRII, Karl is supporting the development of the Accelerate Montana’s Rural Innovation Initiative and the mission to foster lasting “start-up” successes for rural communities in Montana. Karl earned a BA in ecological science from Western
My name is Dylan Cherullo, happy to be joining the BLP team as the new Program Assistant. I have been working in the start-up space since I was 16 when I started interning for a local start-up in Olympia. In coming to the BLP, I will bring my experience in the start-up space and economics perspective to the community, as well as strive to learn as much as I can from the amazing students and entrepreneurs. My goal is to increase our reach on campus and in the community to assemble the best talent Missoula has to offer.
Manages Blackstone LaunchPad marketing team and oversees all digital marketing and website content for the organization.
Jake is the Program Assistant for the Blackstone LaunchPadat the University of Montana. He has worked for Accelerate Montana for over three years and is currently a Senior at UM majoring in Marketing and Spanish as well as minoring in Psychology and receiving a Digital Marketing Certificate. As Program Assistant, Jake helps manage all day-to-day operations for the LaunchPad including marketing, event planning, customer service, admin, etc. Jake is also currently an intern at Pathlabs in Missoula. In his free time, Jake loves to travel, hike, practice Spanish, go to hot springs, cook, and spend time in Missoula!
Blackstone LaunchPad Manager
Sarah has been with Accelerate Montana since February 2022. She has extensive experience working with startups & entrepreneurs, managing business operations, marketing & outreach activities, event planning, community & relationship building, and is passionate about all aspects of entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Accelerate Montana, she was the Director of a Small Business Development Center at Washington State University & the Director of Business Development for a county in Washington State. Where she assisted small businesses & entrepreneurs with developing & improving their business management skills to effectively start or manage a business, as well as managed co-working spaces, and business incubators.
Jeff was born and raised in Missoula, MT. He studied Math and Computer Science at the University of Montana and has been teaching since 2011. He has completed several of the CompTIA certifications, including the CySA+ (Cybersecurity Analyst). Currently, he is teaching math and IT courses at Missoula College. Jeff taught at a GenCyber summer camp in 2021 where middle school students were introduced to several STEM topics such as electronics and digital forensics. He is organizing several other similar summer camps throughout Montana for summer 2022.
Bianca is a graduate student at the University of Montana working towards a Master of Science degree in Business Analytics. She is from Malmo, Sweden, and came to Missoula in 2017 to attend the University of Montana where she graduated from in May of 2021 with Bachelors degrees in Management Information Systems and Marketing. Bianca has worked in the Marketing and Technology Consulting field and is the customer point of contact with several marketing efforts at CyberMontana.
Dianne Burke is a cybersecurity faculty member at Missoula College University of Montana and serves as Director of CyberMontana. She has taught networking, security, data operations, and computer forensics courses in both the public and private sectors She recently completed a career as a forensic analyst where she specialized in ESI collection and analysis and assisted counsel in cases across the U.S. Ms. Burke holds a B. A. from Rice University, an M.S. from the University of Houston, an M. Ed. The University of Montana, and is a doctoral student at the University of Montana
Special Projects Coordinator
Kristal Crowley serves as STEM Program Outreach & Student Retention Coordinator at Missoula College. In this role, she actively recruits middle and high school students from local and regional Montana schools, assesses and monitors student progress, engages with a broad community of partner base to gather information on specific needs, and collaborates with Montana businesses to allow gainful employment. This position also includes promoting positive student outcomes as well as supporting academic and career readiness skills. Prior to her current role, she worked as a Director at a local non-profit and has a background in Curriculum Studies.
Austin Horner works as an outreach coordinator at Missoula College. Currently working on training available under CyberMontana for businesses in the Montana area. This training is pointed at increasing End User security and awareness for those businesses. He is also working to recruit and assess students in the local Montana Area to help accelerate learning in the area of computer and network security. His background in Information System and Computer Support Associates from the University of Montana Missoula College aid in his ability to assist those students as they progress through their programs. Prior to his current roles, Austin also worked at Computer Training Camps (Montana Code School), which helped students learn the basics of web app development.
Christopher Prosa serves as Director of Workforce Training & Career Education at Missoula College. He also serves as Program Manager for CyberMontana where he works with leadership and support teams to develop and manage cyber-related student workforce development programs and provide specialized workforce training and career education. In this role, he also works to forward cyber awareness and security training and education initiatives across the state of Montana as well as business partner development and engagement efforts.
Chief Information Officer
Zach Rossmiller is the Associate Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at the University of Montana (UM). Prior to the CIO role in 2020, Zach served as UM’s Executive Director of Cyber-Infrastructure and was responsible for campus-wide systems administration, research computing, data centers, network infrastructure, telecommunications, and classroom technology. Zach received an MBA, a B.S. in Management Information Systems, and an AAS in Computer Networking from UM. Along with earning degrees, Zach has taught UM courses on operating systems, enterprise security, desktop security, and business systems analysis design.
Tom has been a professor of Information Technology and Computer Science at Missoula College, the University of Montana since 2001. Prior to coming to UM, Tom served in the roles of Technology Director and System Administrator. He holds a doctoral and master's degree in Education Leadership from the University of Montana, a master's degree in Computer Science from Western Washington University, and a baccalaureate degree in Mathematics from Carroll College.
Government Contracting Advisor
With over 35 years of experience working in the high-tech, financial services, and legal industries, Patty Cox has deep knowledge of business operations and management. Patty joined the Montana PTAC team in 2012 and earned her CPP (Certified Procurement Professional) certification in 2014. She is certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a verification assistance counselor. Patty is a member of the national Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (APTAC), a network of over 500 experienced procurement professionals.She manages the Missoula PTAC located at the University of Montana counseling businesses in Missoula, Powell, Mineral, Granite, Deer Lodge, Lake, Ravalli, Beaverhead and Madison counties
SBDC Regional Director
Jennifer Stephens brings 10+ years of grassroots and formal economic development experience to her role as Missoula SBDC Regional Director. With hands-on business management experience and training, Jennifer has a passion for working with small and micro-enterprise businesses as well as helping new startups see the potential for future growth. Passionate about providing opportunities for Montanans, Jennifer helped start and continues on the core advisory team for Montana Code School, Montana’s first computer programming boot camp which takes students from little or no coding knowledge to junior dev level in 12 weeks.
Small Business Development Center Advisor
Jordan Stordahl joined the Missoula Small Business Development Center as a Business Advisor in March 2020. As a Small Business Development Center Advisor in Missoula, Jordan utilizes her background in social media management, communications, and client relationships to serve and problem-solve with local entrepreneurs. Jordan graduated in 2014 from Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, VA with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Jordan’s next goal is to complete the University of Montana’s Masters in Business Analytics Program.
Executive Director MWTC, Director of Operations for MonTEC
Brigitta Miranda-Freer has served as executive director of Montana World Trade Center® (MWTC) since 2014 and operations director for MonTEC since 2018. MWTC spearheads FDI attraction for Montana. Prior to her current roles, Brigitta served as business development director for Missoula Economic Partnership, spearheading business attraction, retention, and expansion strategies, and MWTC membership manager, counseling exporters on global markets, distributor/foreign partner qualification, international shipping and logistics, and mitigating foreign payment risk. Brigitta holds undergraduate degrees in International Affairs and Spanish Latin American Area studies from the American University in Washington, DC, and an MBA from the University of Montana.
Senior Project Manager
Deanna Morrow ventured into the world of economic development in 2011 at the Greater Houston Partnership (TX). In October 2021, Deanna started her current role as Senior Project Manager with Montana World Trade Center, working alongside state and local organizations on a special project to attract foreign direct investment into the state of Montana. Deanna holds a bachelor’s in International Studies and Communications from the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
A Montana native, Cassandra Sunell, graduated from the University of Montana with a Bachelor’s degree in Business with an emphasis in International Relations.She is a Montana Ambassador that serves at the pleasure of the Governor of Montana, Founder/Curator of TEDxWhitefish, Co-founder of Butte Young Professionals, and board member for the Montana Ambassadors. Cassandra was recently the Business Recruitment and Outreach Director for Butte Local Development Corporation and worked with local and state partners to attract businesses to Butte and Montana and has now joined the Montana World Trade Center and the Montana Bioscience Cluster Initiative to as an Outreach Director to assist with international trade and investment.
Program Manager, WELL Native Women Launch
Diana Bigby, MPH, Nakoda from Fort Belknap Indian Community. She is an alumni of Harlem High School where she received her diploma with honors. She graduated with an A.A.S. in Allied Health from Aaniiih Nakoda College, formerly Fort Belknap College. Diana earned her B.S. in Health and Human Performance- Community Health from the University of Montana in 2013. While working as a program manager for her tribes, she earned a Master of Public Health from the University in the summer of 2020. Diana has committed her last 8 years of her career to working for her people and would now like to extend her work throughout Indian Country.
W.E.L.L. WBC Program Support Assistant
Originally from The Richest Hill on Earth (Butte, MT), Laura is a junior studying at UM and the Davidson Honors College looking to finish her bachelor’s degree in Marketing. Before her transfer to UM, she studied at Highlands College in Butte and received her Associates Degree. She now serves as a student employee and Program Assistant for the Women’s Business Center (WBC). Laura loves fashion, photography, cooking, and music. If you ever need a new song recommendation, she likely has one in mind. She is passionate about increasing opportunities for women in business and hopes to one day start her own business.
AmeriCorps VISTAs with WELL WBC
Serena is an Americorps VISTA member who is working as a community outreach coordinator with the Women’s Business Center (WBC). She graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in psychology and a minor in global public health. Her role is to develop community awareness for the WBC to reach women throughout the state of Montana who is looking to start a business or begin a new career. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, grabbing coffee or attempting to bake.
WELL WBC Program Assistant & Indigenous Community Outreach Coordinator
Mariah was born and grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. She is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana and the Ermineskin Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration-Marketing from the University of Montana, where she also graduated a University Scholar from the Davidson Honors College. During her time at the University of Montana, Mariah was involved in Kyiyo Native American Student Association. As a member, she promoted the traditions and customs of Indigenous people and supported cultural diversity on campus. As a student, she interned with Accelerate MT as a Project Support Intern.
Morgan Stier Slemberger is the director of women’s entrepreneurship and leadership at University of Montana (UM). She has spent her career advocating for women who are often underrepresented in business. After several years in health marketing, Morgan started several of her own small businesses and then went on to work for UM’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars. There, she grew a women’s entrepreneurship program that now is a federally funded Women’s Business Center powered by the SBA for women across the entire state of Montana. In addition, she founded (and now licensed the I.P. for) Last Best Conference, a statewide event focused on celebrating entrepreneurship.
AmeriCorps VISTAs with WELL WBC
She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Montana in 2022 with a BA in Anthropology and a minor in Global Public Health. Anya comes from a rural town in Montana. Phrases like "start up" and "entrepreneur" were commonly used in her family, stoking her interest in small business endeavors from a young age. She is also interested in filmmaking, dance, and writing.
Business Advisor, WELL Women's Business Center
Marguerite was born and grew up in the diverse landscapes on Montana. She’s a mother of three intelligent, energetic, creative people who are all very differently talented and uniquely impassioned. When spending time together, they enjoy walks in nature, playing with dogs, Sunday baking, and big messy craft projects.