Beth Fondell, University of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration’s outreach and training coordinator, has retired after more than a decade with the organization and a long career in disability advocacy.
Fondell’s work included the Disability Policy and Services certificate program, now one of the largest awarded by the College of Education and Human Development. It is a requirement of the University of Minnesota’s doctorate program for pediatric nurse practitioners and soon is expected to be a requirement in other programs as well.
Another major contribution was helping develop and working with ICI’s Minnesota Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (MN-LEND) program. MN-LEND is an interdisciplinary leadership training program spanning more than 16 academic disciplines across the University. Fondell has often brought MN-LEND fellows together with policymakers to further the understanding of the needs of people with disabilities.
“Her advocacy is constant and her power of connecting to people has been a gift to ICI,” said Kim Keprios, executive director of Wilderness Inquiry and a member of ICI’s Community Advisory Council.
Earlier in their careers, Keprios and Fondell worked together at the Arc Greater Twin Cities. “She opened doors to the community for ICI when she stepped in, and she made sure our organizations (ICI and the Arc) were great partners. We danced together well through the years. She knew her stuff inside and out, but she also grasped the bigger picture: that what really matters is the voice of the people living with disabilities.”
Fondell led the Community Advisory Council, recruiting members and deepening relationships among disability organizations and key partners.
Those members include Jesse Bethke Gomez, executive director at Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) in St. Paul. Fondell serves on MCIL’s board of directors and will continue to do so after retiring from ICI.
“What’s so extraordinary is the profound knowledge and scholarly context Beth brings to meetings,” Gomez said. “And her relationships go far and wide. She is an amazing leader and her retirement is a milestone not only for Beth, but perhaps also for us. She elevates the aspirational work of ICI in ways that will long be remembered and sadly missed.”