Member Bios - Happendance

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Happendance Administrative Staff

Jo-Ann Vanden Bergh - President

Jo-Ann retired from a successful 27-year career in the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University where she was the Human Resources Manager for 100+ staff members, and the Executive Assistant to five Deans. She joined the Happendance Board of Directors in August 2013 and has served as Vice-President, and is now President of the Board. It was her passion for dance and interest in child development that brought her back to Happendance after her retirement from Michigan State University. She enjoys volunteering for Happendance and sharing her knowledge and skills whenever and wherever needed.
Jo-Ann is a life-long learner and an “ageless” dancer. Therefore, it’s not surprising that she is taking dance classes at Happendance, and has re-admitted into a degree program at MSU wherein she is studying another passion of hers: Child Development. She spends a lot of her time studying, going to class, and working with young children. Her work with preschool children combines her knowledge of child development with dance and creative movement. She provides young children a fun environment in which they can acquire the attributes necessary in becoming a socially competent adult.
Jo-Ann lives in East Lansing with her husband, Bruce, a Michigan State University Professor Emeritus in the College of Communication, Arts and Sciences. In retirement, both Jo-Ann and Bruce enjoy embracing life and spending time with family, which often takes them to San Diego to visit their son Schuyler, daughter-in-law Shelly, and their two grandchildren, Adam and Alexis.

Sherrie Blankenship, CPA - Vice President

Sherrie Blankenship joined Maner Costerisan, the largest locally-owned CPA firm in mid-Michigan, in 2008. As a senior manager in the firm’s audit department, she primarily works with affordable housing, education, and nonprofit entities, including service organizations, trade associations, and religious organizations. She became a part of the Happendance Board of Directors in 2013. Although not a dancer herself, she understands that the arts play an important role in development. “I believe the arts are a vital part of our culture, and I enjoy seeing the arts community thrive through Happendance.”

Sherrie grew up in Fraser, Michigan and settled in Grand Ledge, Michigan, with her husband, Aaron, and their two daughters. In her free time, Sherrie enjoys camping, spending time with family - especially at the family cottage on Higgins Lake - and attending concerts (I’m a huge DMB fan!).

Jim Linnemann - Treasurer

Jim Linnemann is a physics professor at MSU. He spends much of his day attempting to outwit computers. He performs experiments in high-energy physics at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, and participates in a cosmic ray experiment in New Mexico, called Milagro. He's been interested in modern dance since his graduate school days at Cornell, when a fellow researcher started taking classes. He's followed Happendance with pleasure since his arrival in Lansing in 1984, and has been pleased to serve as a board member of Happendance since 1995.

Jim lives in Haslett with his wife Ruth Eggert Linnemann. Ruth invites you to visit the dance chime at the MSU children's garden. Their daughter Rachel took classes at Happendance from age three, and participated in DANCE Lansing. On (rare) good days, Jim thinks of downhill skiing as a form of dance.


Alison Dobbins - Board Member

Alison is an Associate Professor of Integrated Performance Media Design at Michigan State University, received her M.F.A. in Digital Cinema from National University, and her A.B. in Mathematics from Oberlin College. Alison is a motion graphics artist interested in documenting and exploring new ways of presenting creative activity as a projected performance art. For the past five years, she has been head of the video production program at Stark State College, teaching a variety of courses on digital image and video manipulation. Her most recent artistic work was a collaboration with choreographer Alicia Díaz on the documentary "Yucuninu: The Development of a Dance." She has also worked as a film artist with the Cleveland based dance company, Verlezza Dance. Her best work is done at home with her husband, Patrick and stepson, Noah.

Kobra Eghtedary - Board Member

 Kobra holds a PhD in Human Nutrition from Texas Women’s University, and is the Director of Data, Research and Technology for the Michigan WIC Program, with the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services. She is a native of Iran and is fluent in English and Farsi. A generous philanthropist, Ms. Eghtedary is committed to enhancing the community where she lives and works. Her pride and joy is her daughter, who studied dance at Happendance, Interlochen Arts Academy, and now at Wayne State University.

Jessica Livingston - Board Member

 Jessica holds a BA from MSU in Interdisciplinary Humanities, and studied dance and theater at LCC and MSU. After college she moved to Seattle to study Salsa and Swing dancing. In 2000, she moved to NYC to pursue modeling and acting. After 9/11, she started her own massage therapy practice as a way to give back. Jessica returned to MI in 2006 with her then fiancé, and currently resides in East Lansing. While still practicing massage, she also enjoys working from home with a nutraceutical company, which affords her time to raise her twin boys, pursue dance, and Yoga.

She has 20 years’ experience as a seasoned Executive Administrator working in everything from fashion, interior design, and finance, to medical education, pharmaceutical advertising, and farm credit. Additional experience includes Haute Couture Showroom Director, VIP & Special Events Coordinator, Marketing & Social Media Specialist, and Executive Administrative Supervisor. Jessica and her husband are involved with their church where she currently serves as Women’s Board President.

Jessica has been dancing all her life, but only started taking classes in college. She continues to dance with Happendance and enjoys performing in the Spring Concert and DANCE Lansing. For the last decade, she has worked with LEPFA and the OTCA to include dance in Common Ground and Oktoberfest. She hopes to further the opportunities for adult dance and performance in Lansing.
Liz Mittman - Board Member

Liz Mittman joins the Board of Happendance as a way of giving back to an organization that is important to her family. She is particularly interested in engaging with the Happendance community on issues of racial and economic diversity. Liz is an associate professor in the German Studies program at Michigan State University, where her primary teaching and research interests include East German and post-socialist studies, film and visual culture, and the intersection of gender, voice, and memory in autobiographical literature.

Liz grew up in Oregon and studied in Minnesota. She credits childhood experiences in Ethiopia and Afghanistan with giving rise to a lifelong passion for language study and international travel. As a student and professor, she has spent extended periods of time in Germany, including two memorable years in 1980s Leipzig and East Berlin. A lover of literature and the arts, she is a classical violinist who wishes she had the time to play in a string quartet.
Currently, Liz’s time is divided primarily between her work at MSU, and being the mother of two children; her daughter, Zebiba, is a member of Happendance Impulse (Young Artists) and a student of ballet and contemporary dance. Liz and her husband, Vaughn, live in East Lansing and are active members of the Racial Justice Task Force at Edgewood United Church.

Kathy Smith - Board Member

Kathy has lived in Lansing for 20 plus years, but is originally from the west side of the state (Grand Rapids), which she visits often. She is a big family person and her favorite past time is spending time with family. She works full time at an advertising company; one of her responsibilities is working with non-profits, helping them with advertising and supporting their mission to do great things in our community. Her responsibilities include accounting, administrative responsibilities, training, and greeting clients.

Kathy also has her own home-based business with Mary Kay Cosmetics, which she enjoys tremendously. She loves working with women and helping them find their purpose through encouragement and beauty.

Kathy is also very involved in her church where she is trustee board chair, and oversees the budget and finances of the organization.   

Rawley Van Fossen - Board Member

Rawley works for the Michigan House of Representatives and received his B.S. in Social Relations and Policy from James Madison College at Michigan State University. He joined the Happendance board in 2016 with interest in the organization’s unique impact in the community. With an interest in public policy, he hopes to support capacity growth in Lansing’s neighborhoods through dance. Exploring area neighborhoods, restaurants, and parks remains one of Rawley’s favorite things to do in Lansing.

Nicolle Zellner - Board Member

 
Nicolle Zellner is a full professor of physics at Albion College in Albion, MI. Nicolle's research interests include the history of the Earth-Moon system and the effects of that system for life on Earth. She studies lunar impact glasses, and the chemistry of how simple molecules are affected by impacts.

During 2006-2007, she was a member of the AN SMET team that searched for meteorites in Antarctica. Before going to Albion in 2005, she was a post-doctoral researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics. While there, she was a Faculty Scholar associated with the Edward Teller Education Center. Nicolle was a member of the scientific ground crew during NASA's STS-67 Astro-2 mission in 1995.

Her PhD is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2001), where she received the school's first Multidisciplinary PhD. Her undergraduate degree, with majors in Physics and Astronomy and a certification in Environmental Studies, is from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an AAUW American Fellow, and two-time Zonta Amelia Earhart Fellow. Her research has been supported by the American Astronomical Society and is currently supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation. Her credits include over 40 publications, 80 Public Outreach activities, and several talks and public observing sessions.

Nicolle has been dancing since age three; she took classes at UW­-Madison and started teaching part-time after graduating. In grad school, she taught classes for the dance club and took classes in New York City. She is also the advisor for Albion college Dance.

 Deanne Brooke Rivera Wizner - Board Member

Deanne joined the Happendance Board of Directors in July 2012 as Artists’ Representative. At that time, she also served as Secretary to the Board, a position which she held through 2014. For the past few years, Deanne has been a member of the Board’s Marketing Committee; she edits and proofs all marketing materials, and is responsible for managing Happendance’s Facebook page and other social media outlets.

Deanne works full time for the State of Michigan as an analyst; is a small business owner at DB’s Dream Bags as an Independent Consultant with Thirty-One Gifts; takes on freelance writing and editing projects, and also works as a Tarot reader (Blue Crescent Tarot) at Beyond a Dream in Okemos. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from MSU, and an M.A. in the same field from CMU.

She is honored to represent the artists of Happendance as a former instructor, Assistant Artistic Director, and Education Exchange performer, as well as in her continuing roles with Happendance School, Choreography Lab, and Velocity Professional Company.
 
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