Women Changing the World


Kari Strandberg

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

College of Business & Public Administration


Each year the University of North Dakota puts on the Hultberg Lectureship Series Event to bring back prominent women alumni to share their experiences and stories with UND students. The goal of the Hultberg event is to bring prominent women to campus to enrich the lives of students and show them the way to changing the world. All four of the women who were invited this year to speak have different backgrounds and stories, but share the same positive energy and willingness to help others. The women that were selected are the type of women that light up a room, and motivate everyone to be a better version of themselves. All four, took a full day to come reach out to UND students and show them that it’s okay to dream, and that dreams really do come true. The women all participated in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Connie Bateman, Professor of Marketing and Department Chair.

Cassandra Torstenson is the City Administrator for the City of Brainerd Minnesota. Torstenson received her Master of Public Administration through UND. Some of her most notable accomplishments are: serving as a policy advisor for Governor Burgum, working as the Environmental Program Manager with the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and working on a project in Illinois pertaining to water that ultimately led both State and National awards, and being deemed the most progressive study of its time in the United States. Torstenson is also married with four children. Torstenson brought a special light to the Hultberg event, she described how she has worked to make positive changes. “I wanted to help people, and I wanted to make the world a better place,” said Torstenson. She was the only person out of her immediate family to go to college, and used her skills and positive attitude to help change the world. One fun fact about Torstenson is that she was an online MPA student, so Tuesday was her very first time on the UND campus, she even asked for a tour.

Sarah Newgard, attended UND for her undergraduate in Marketing and her Master in Business Administration. Newgard started out working for the athletic department at UND, serving as the Director of Marketing. After completing her MBA she jumped to a position with the UND Alumni Association and was the Director of the Fighting Sioux Club (now the Champions Club). Newgard also worked at a local bank and one day realized she needed to find something new. She compared a list of what she was doing in life, and a list of what she wanted to do in life and they did not match up. “I remember the day I was sitting there and thinking what do you really want to do,” explained Newgard. In 2011, with all of her positive energy and willing to help people, Newgard started her own personal training business which eventually led to her opening up a cycling studio called The Pedal and it was a dream come true. “I believe that people can do anything they want, I’m a total dreamer,” said Newgard. Newgard has hosted various cycling classes for sports teams in the area and has had a UND marketing student as her intern for the past year and a half. Newgard and her husband live in Grand Forks and she remains connected in the University and actively volunteers in the community.

Kristi Hall-Jiran is the president/CEO of the Community Violence Intervention Center (CVIC) in Grand Fork, and works to help bring individuals together to end local violence. Hall-Jiran also serves on the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Altru Health System and UND College of Business and Public Administration Advisory Council, and has served as a federal grant reviewer for the U.S. Department of Justice, among many other accomplishments. Hall-Jiran is married with three children and lives in Grand Forks. One of Hall-Jiran’s biggest battles is trying to end violence in the community. She has witnessed first-hand the process that starts when a call is made to law enforcement and watched the process all the way through to hospital visits and booking at the Police station. Her main concern? “How do we end it,” asked Hall-Jiran. Her and her team aim to solve problems at the root instead of waiting for the calls to be made and picking up the pieces in the end. Hall-Jiran is a great example of a leader in the Grand Forks community.

Karen Thingelstad is the Vice President & Chief Financial Officer at Minnkota Power Cooperative in Grand Forks. She is the first female member of the executive staff in the cooperative’s 78-year history. Thingelstad received her Bachelor of Accountancy degree from UND. Thingelstad is a Certified Public Accountant, which is what she began her time with Minnkota Power Cooperative as and then worked her way up. Thingelstad also is an Altru Foundation board director, secretary treasurer of the Minnkota employee Political Action Committee, an active member of Sharon Lutheran Church, and is married with children. One thing that you notice the second you are in a room with Thingelstad is her positive energy. She has thoroughly enjoyed her time in the job field. “I have loved every job I have ever had,” said Thingelstad who noted that she has even shed a few tears going from one job to the next, but always finding a new happy place. Thingelstad and Minnkota Power recently moved to a beautiful new building on 32


Avenue in Grand Forks.

After a full day at UND, all of the women still had the beaming smiles on their faces that they began the day with. Bringing lessons learned their biggest hardships and greatest achievements to share with UND students was clearly something that all of them enjoyed. This year’s Hultberg theme of woman changing the world was the epitome of all women there. A UND faculty member even received some heartwarming emails, explaining that the visit from the women helped them realize that they can do anything in life, and that’s what it’s all about.