We’re gearing up for our event on March 12th with Pam Borton, so don’t forget to grab your ticket! In honor of this leadership development experience, we’re highlighting Frandsen Bank & Trust, a featured sponsor who will join us during this special night. Frandsen is a $2 billion community banking organization with 35 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota.

Karen Brekke, their Chief Administrative Officer, recently shed light on the organization with us. Karen began working for the Frandsen organization in 1992 as a Customer Service Representative. Fast forward 28 amazing years and she is now Frandsen’s Chief Administrative Officer and Chairwoman of the Board of Directors. Karen was recognized in 2013 as a Rising Star in Banking by Northwestern Financial Review.

What drew you to sponsoring TeamWomen?

When asked if we were interested in sponsorship of this event, it was a quick yes! We believe in what TeamWomen is doing to champion the personal and professional lives of women. There are so many women doing incredible things, and through TeamWomen events, these experiences serve to inspire, give confidence, and grow creativity.

What experiences within Frandsen do you provide specifically for women?

We have approximately 500 employees in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, and an incredible 70% are women. We firmly support the growth and development of women. As women’s leadership and networking groups continue to emerge in the tri-state area that we serve, we strongly encourage membership and participation. Additionally, we believe in the power of mentors both internally and externally for personal, professional, and leadership development.

What are three things that separate you from other companies within your industry?

  1. Frandsen Bank & Trust founder Dennis Frandsen, through his Frandsen Family Foundation, provides full two-year scholarships to a technical or community college to every graduating senior from two rural high schools in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. The participation rate at some of the schools is nearly 100 percent.
  2. We have been recognized the last four years by the Minnesota Bankers Association as Community Champions for our commitment to the communities we serve through financial support, employee volunteer hours, and financial education.
  3. In conjunction with KSTC/Prep45, we sponsored the #FrandsenForward, Banking on Students and Communities campaign, providing grant opportunities for Minnesota schools to enhance academic, extracurricular, or community programs. Of the Minnesota schools, 112 applied for our six grant opportunities, which will be awarded throughout the State Boys’ High School Hockey tournament.

What are some of the big things happening for your company in 2020?

  1. We acquired People’s Bank Midwest in 2019 and look forward to working with this incredible banking organization in 2020.
  2. We are focused on our continued work of deepening and growing our Frandsen Way Corporate Culture to the benefit of our employees, customers, and communities.

To get tickets to Developing Resilience & Mental Toughness in the Workplace on March 12th, click here.

TeamWomen is grateful to have so many rockstar board members and women who make up our community. This month, we’re highlighting TeamWomen Member and Board of Directors Member Cecilia Stanton Adams! Cecilia is most known for her track record as an accomplished educator and diversity thought leader. She most recently became Allianz Life’s new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, where she focuses on developing comprehensive diversity and inclusion initiatives. Prior to that, she was CEO of the Stanton Adam Diversity Institute, where she provided services to improve strategic workforce planning, recruiting and retention, cultural competence, and more. Find out what keeps her involved with TeamWomen, what inspires her, and the best career advice she’s ever received below.

Why did you join TeamWomen and what keeps you involved?

I’m originally from New York so when I moved to Minnesota it was difficult to find professional women to connect with and build relationships. On several occasions, I was invited to attend TeamWomen events by both Patty Sagert and Katy Burke. I really enjoyed my experience from the start. What stood out the most and continues to make me want to come back is the sense of inclusion that you feel being a part of the TeamWomen family.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by my grandmother. She migrated from Honduras in order to find opportunities for her family. I’ve always thought that was such a brave thing to do, especially since she did it with my five-year-old mother in tow. I am, to this day, so inspired that she took those first brave steps and I know she would be proud to see all of what her family has accomplished as a result.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received was when I was encouraged to leave my community and venture out to other states, even if there weren’t very many people that looked like me or came from my same background. At first, I thought that advice was crazy, but I took it. As a result, I have experienced far more opportunities than if I would have stayed within my comfort zone.

What do you do for fun?

I love to hang out with my family, two dogs, Danny and Scrappy, and cat, Lucy.

What can women do to support other women around them, professionally and personally?

Mentor another girl or woman. It’s easy to think “I don’t have anything to pass on,” but we all do. We only get better when we share what we know!

By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | Columnist, TeamWomen Member

This column was originally published on the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sept. 29, 2019.

Is it possible to become an optimist if it isn’t within one’s nature to be so? I’d like to think it is, for though I don’t have both feet in the optimist camp, I wish I did.

How does one become more optimistic?

In my case, the first step was to accept an invitation.

Last spring, a friend invited me to a Roseville Area Optimist Club meeting. I went as a guest and soon became a member.

Optimist International started 100 years ago. Today, roughly 80,000 members participate in clubs throughout the world. It seems others are also searching for a place where those things that divide us are secondary to a philosophy that binds us.

With close to 150 members, the Roseville Area chapter is the largest Optimist Club in the Midwest, says Don Salverda, who launched it in January 2017. Membership offers an opportunity to meet new people, support service projects, and listen to inspirational speakers.

The Optimist Club has a creed, written more than 100 years ago, that members recite at each meeting. The creed sets a high bar, not easily reached.

Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

In addition to camaraderie, our meetings offer the opportunity to learn from a speaker of note. Our September speaker, Bob Veninga, spoke about resilience.

A University of Minnesota professor emeritus, Veninga studied human nature and discovered patterns and lessons about how we respond to occupational stress, crises and loss. His findings form the basis of hundreds of talks and lectures he’s delivered over the years. He’s also published several books, including one I’m reading now, “A Gift of Hope: How We Survive Our Tragedies.”

In a brief talk, Veninga offered an overview of how resilient people navigate the tough stuff in life.

Support is integral to resilience and it can take various forms, he said. Whether dealing with crises stemming from death, health, or work, studies demonstrated that those who had strong support systems fared better than those who lacked support.

Though there may be reasons to deal with adversity alone (marital discord, for example), a bigger support system is typically optimal.

While it’s helpful to have a group of supporters, many resilient people also have what Venenga termed “adult guard rails.” Adult guard rails are people who offer honest feedback and opinions when asked and help to keep us in our lanes or steer us away from potholes.

In studies of occupational stress, Venenga discovered that teachers who have a principal they consider a friend or supporter were less likely to experience burnout. Real estate agents were better able to manage the ups and downs of the business cycle if their supervisors offered guidance and encouragement.

Resilient people recognize that most problems are solvable. They also accept that patience is an ally. Navigating challenges is a process, and it often takes more time than we anticipate or would like. Contrary to conventional wisdom that it takes about a year to deal with a loss, researchers found that it often takes much longer.

Resilience requires us to let go of the past. There is no value in belaboring conversations or decisions or nursing old wounds instead of letting them heal. Again, the Optimist Creed reminds us to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to greater achievements.

Resilient people have more than a “to do” list. They also have a “joy list.” A joy list helps to engender a cheerful countenance, to remind us to give a stranger a smile.

As Venenga spoke, I thought about the relationship between optimism and resilience. Can we have one without the other? Can we develop optimism, just as we can build resilience?

Up until a few years ago, adversity was my constant companion. It’s been difficult to shed a deeply-ingrained fear that the next bout of bad news is loitering nearby. Consequently, while I’m adept at resilience, the Optimist Creed’s charge to “maintain a cheerful countenance and to look at the sunny side of everything” often stumps me.

I’m ready to embrace the spirit of the Optimist Club, “to be too large for worry, to noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” I’ve placed a plaque bearing the Optimist Creed in a strategic location so I will see it at the beginning and end of each day. Though putting both feet squarely in the optimist camp may be a lofty goal, it’s worth the stretch.


If you enjoyed this piece and would like to read more of Caryn’s work, you can sign up to receive her columns by email. You can also purchase a signed copy of her award-winning memoir, “Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page,” here. If you’re looking for an inspirational speaker, reach out!

We are excited to share we have upgraded our member management system and launched NEON, a Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) that will allow us to seamlessly manage both TeamWomen and Empower Leadership Academy business operations and activity. As we enter our next phase of rapid growth, our goal remains consistent: to continuously build and enhance our infrastructure to best serve those we have the privilege of working with including our members, sponsors, partners, donors, board and committee members!

One of the best features of this new system is the added benefits we can provide our members! NEON’s Member Portal is designed to help us provide an enhanced online experience for you. To see the features available to you, simply log in to your account and look for the “What Would You Like To Do?” dropdown menu in the upper-right corner. You can update your member profile and directory listing, join a committee, become a mentor, register for events, join the TeamWomen Members Only Facebook Group, and much more.

Moving forward, new events will now be added to NEON. This means when you register for events, you’ll need to log in to the member portal to see and register for the member rate. NEON allows you to see all events you’ve attended too! Please keep in mind event registration will be a transition process for all of us as we already have events in Eventbrite (where you don’t need to log in) and will have events in NEON, where you will need to log in.

Below are instructions on how to access your member account in NEON. You’ll need to set up a new password to log in for the first time.

  1. Click this link to request a new password here.

  2. Enter your email address that is connected to your current TW membership.

  3. An email will be sent to you with a link to create a new password to the member portal. This will also include your username on the page.

  4. Once logged in, verify your information and business listing is correct.

If you have any difficulties logging in, please email Briana at briana@teamwomenmn.org. She’d be happy to help you out!

Thank you for being a part of our team!

TeamWomen Member Jennifer Mandery recently shed light on her experience in our Mentor Program and what women can gain by being mentors. Jennifer is the Sr. Director of Research for The NALP Foundation for Law Career Research and Education. She has over 20 years of experience working within the legal industry and is an expert in providing solution-driven research findings that are insightful, actionable, and influence business-decision making. She has co-authored multiple publications available for purchase through The NALP Foundation’s website, including reports on associate hiring and attrition, associate evaluations, mentoring, and law school alumni satisfaction and employment. Learn more about her in our Member Spotlight below!

What are the 5 things you’ve learned from being a mentor?

  • Paying it forward by giving back to the next generation of leadership is a very rewarding experience.
  • As a mentor, you will have an opportunity to reflect on your own history, growth, and achievements.
  • Being a mentor/mentee provides an excellent opportunity to expand your network and make new connections.
  • It is beneficial to hear a fresh perspective and gain additional insight from professionals in different career stages. You have more to offer than you might realize, and you will learn a lot as well.
  • Being present, listening carefully, and providing encouragement are skills we can all benefit from. If you have ever thought about being a mentor, I highly recommend it. You will not regret the experience.

Why did you join TeamWomen and what keeps you involved?

I joined TeamWomen in order to meet and be inspired by a network of women from a variety of industries. In addition to attending events such as the Annual Leadership Conference, I have enjoyed being a part of the Mentor Program and serving on the Membership Committee. I have met some truly amazing women!

Why did you decide to become a mentor?

Mentoring relationships can have a lasting positive impact on career satisfaction and success over time. TeamWomen’s Mentor Program provides me with the perfect opportunity to become more involved with the organization, meet new people, and to give back to others within my community.

Have you ever had a mentor?

I have developed, relied on and benefited from several informal professional mentoring relationships throughout the different stages of my career. I am fortunate to have had so many resources that I can depend on for excellent advice.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending time with my husband and two daughters, traveling, playing tennis, running and biking.

We’re honored to highlight Rachel Polson as our Member Spotlight this month! Rachel is a partner with the commercial services group of Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP and has been with the firm since 1997. In 2009 and 2014, Rachel was recognized as one of the “Top Women in Finance” by Finance and Commerce, and in 2011, Rachel was recognized as one of the “Women to Watch” for Women in Business by Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. She also serves on the TeamWomen Board of Directors Executive Committee.

Have you ever had a mentor?

Yes, I have had mentors, professional coaches and other professionals as resources. As my career has progressed, the type of mentoring I have desired has also evolved. There are people who may have a certain skill for a specific situation. Leveraging their talents and experience was key for both of us to have a mutually beneficial connection and interactions.

What are the 4 things you’ve learned from being a mentor?

  • Consider your purpose as a mentor – continue to reflect on it and challenge your mentee to utilize you as the mentor in that role.
  • This is not a lifelong commitment. It’s sad when the formal connection of mentoring ends, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find new ways to support your mentee and you can stay connected in other ways.
  • I am fascinated with how motivated and brilliant people are at the beginning of their career.
  • Mentoring is not always formal. It can be the situation in the middle of the week when someone is looking for a friendly ear to listen – encourage and support them.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

  • Ask for help! There is no reason to do it all yourself ― professionally or personally. Your family will survive if there are crumbs on the floor or if you buy takeout for dinner. Ask for carpool help from other parents.
  • Be willing to take on new projects with an understanding of the timeline and commitment. Some deadlines are flexible. Don’t be afraid to discuss the timing to ensure it is realistic and achievable.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by hearing about women who have conquered a fear regarding a new position or project. I am motivated by seeing others succeed. I am also inspired by hearing from others’ hardships and how they have overcome them. These stories have put my own challenges or struggles in perspective, and have either encouraged me to push harder or realize my situation is not as tough or as unbearable as I perceive it to be.

What can women do to support other women around them, professionally and personally?

  • Be kind. Don’t judge. Don’t be catty.
  • That woman challenging you is not your enemy. Consider their perspective. Try to understand they are coming from a place of positive intent – supporting you!
  • Listen for what the women around you aren’t saying.
  • Stand up and vocally support each other when others are being negative or unrealistic. Offer up an alternative fact pattern.

Did you miss our weekly eblast? You’ll find the 8 books you should be reading to propel your career, a shout out to one of our sponsors, and a few event announcements! Read the eblast here.

Want to stay up-to-date on all things with TeamWomen? Subscribe to our weekly eblast.


Did you miss our August newsletter? Check out the 3 secrets from neuroscience to overcome mental fatigue, new postings on TeamWomen’s job board, a list of our new members in August, and more! Read the newsletter here.

Want to stay up-to-date on all things with TeamWomen? Subscribe to our weekly eblast for TeamWomen event announcements, business advice, and inspiring women.


Last Friday, TeamWomen hosted 630 professionals at our 8th Annual Leadership Conference. From leadership best practices to brand presence, the day was filled with inspiration, motivation, and powerhouse speakers that brought our audience to their feet! Want to learn more about them? Listen to a few of their stories on Roshini Rajkumar’s podcast, Real Leaders with Roshini.

Miki Huntington, former Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot and faculty member of Minneapolis Community and Technical College, recently sat down with Rajkumar to talk about her incredible journey — including her time working at the White House. Listen here.

Angelina Lawton, CEO of Sportsdigita, also shared her story with Rajkumar. Recently named by Forbes as one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports, Lawton has made a name for herself. The tech company has about 350 professional teams and continues to grow. Listen here.

Thank you to everyone who joined us at our conference. We already have our 2020 conference in the works, so stay tuned!



By Caryn Sullivan | St. Paul Pioneer Press | TeamWomen Member and Guest Columnist

As seen in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on March 10, 2019.

It’s been a painful slide into the sunset for Patty Sagert and her family as the man who was a successful entrepreneur and family patriarch has slowly left them, another victim of Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a group of symptoms that impair one’s capacity to remember and think and to exercise judgment or reason. As the disease progresses, the ability to express oneself or control one’s behavior declines, rendering the maintenance of relationships increasingly problematic.

Lucidity is fluid. Even the closest family members are intermittently recognized and forgotten.

It’s heartbreaking to witness. It requires patience and stamina for loved ones, for we can live a long time with the incurable disease.

The youngest of three children, Sagert, a resident of Roseville, reached a reluctant reconciliation with a disease to which she was no stranger. While two of her grandparents succumbed to it, observing it in her 20s was a wholly different experience than managing it as an adult child.

The worst day of her life, she says, was luring her father into his first memory-care facility under the auspices of a white lie. Ten years after his diagnosis, tears flow as she recalls that day.

But that was just the beginning. Her caregiving duties intensified when her father experienced a stroke and multiplied when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

We all deal with challenges differently. Some of us run toward them, others run away, yet others become paralyzed or immobilized. That’s certainly true for families dealing with Alzheimer’s.

For some family members, it’s just too painful to remain engaged.

Some assume there is no point in visiting the patient, for he doesn’t recognize them anyway.

Others commit themselves to doing whatever it takes to care for their loved one.

Sagert faced her father’s challenges and needs head-on, driven by her innate optimism, faith, and a determination to do everything she could to ensure he is afforded the care and respect he deserves.

Yet, their visits are unpredictable. “It’s never easy to put the code into the door, not knowing what you are going to walk into. You never know. But if you don’t go, what’s worse?”

She recognizes that adversity arrives with a choice to become embittered or to find a way to become better.

For her, living the better choice has involved being present wherever she is, whatever the circumstances. “Wherever my feet are I’m just going to do the best with what I have,” she says.

It’s surely not easy.

An app on her phone connects to security cameras she installed strategically in her father’s private room to ensure he would receive help if he fell, as he often does.

With the technology their ally, both she and her sister-in-law maintain a constant state of vigilance, though there is a fine line between ensuring a vulnerable adult’s safety and respecting his privacy and dignity.

Because individuals can live with Alzheimer’s for many years, it saps energy and causes prolonged sadness and grief for loved ones, as well as social isolation for both patients and caregivers.

There’s a term for what Sagert and many others are experiencing.

According to Minnesota author and Ph.D. Pauline Boss, “ambiguous loss” refers to a state in which one finds herself living with one who is gone but not gone, physically present but psychologically absent. While there is a distinct sense of loss, unlike a death there is no closure while the disease persists.

In “Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to Find Hope While Coping With Stress and Grief,” Boss explains that while we can’t control dementia we can control how we manage and perceive it.

Embracing, rather than combatting the ambiguity, allows one to live with it, she explains. Even that small measure of control can make an untenable situation tolerable.

Understanding that she is experiencing ambiguous loss has been helpful for Sagert and helped her to find purpose in the midst of grief.

Though the world as she knew it has contracted under the weight of caregiving duties, it’s also grown through connections she’s forged with kindred spirits online and through a grassroots organization called Elder Voice Family Advocates.

She’s testified twice before the Minnesota Legislature about safety and security issues for the elderly and the value of installing cameras in their residences.

She’s alarmed by the dearth of information available to consumers who are investigating memory-care options. She’s advocating for more transparency and accountability in an industry that is not subject to the same regulations as the nursing home industry.

Her goal is to make a difference. Though she may not help her dad, she wants to help the next generation of families like hers by pushing for information about staffing ratios and complaints lodged against and addressed by memory-care facilities.

When they are informed, she can help others to make residential and caregiving decisions based on facts, not emotions.

With the sun setting for Sagert’s father, the family has added an additional layer of care. Hospice will make his last months or days as comfortable as possible, be it through medication, therapies or an additional set of eyes.

Given the family history of Alzheimer’s, Sagert’s been ruminating over which would be worse: to not remember or not be remembered. Though I can’t predict whether Alzheimer’s will visit her, I predict the loving daughter, servant leader, and advocate who chose the better way will not be forgotten.

Caryn Sullivan inspires others to find the “better” way in and out of life’s experiences through her columns in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, her award-winning memoir, “Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page,” and her inspirational keynotes. To learn more of her work, visit carynmsullivan.com.