The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota (NFBMN) is the only organization that believes in the full capacity of blind people and has the power, influence, diversity, and determination to help transform our dreams into reality.
Our organization began in 1920 as the Minnesota State Organization of the Blind. In our early years, we founded the Minnesota Home and Center for the Blind in St. Paul to deal with the difficulty blind people faced in finding housing. We then worked to change public attitudes that prevented the blind from being accepted as included members of the community. Public education and legislation corrected those conditions, and today blind people can secure housing. We closed the Home and Center in 1980 as we continued our programs for full integration of blind people into society.
In 1940, Minnesota and six other states founded the National Federation of the Blind. Today, the NFB numbers more than 50,000 blind people across 52 affiliates and numerous divisions.
Over the past century, we have made strong progress toward equality. We have improved employment opportunities and education for blind persons in the state of Minnesota and in the nation.Today, we provide individual counseling, advocacy, and education through a number of programs. Most of our members are blind, and our knowledge of blindness comes from our collective experience.
The membership of NFBM sets its programs and policies. Membership is open to blind or sighted persons interested in our mission. To be sure that these programs and policies reflect a true understanding of blindness, the majority of the members must be blind.
The members vote on decisions at open meetings. These meetings occur at regular intervals: monthly in local chapters, semiannually at a state convention, and annually at a national convention. The contributions of individuals, corporate donations,foundation grants, and fund raising by members finance all of our programs. Contributions to NFBM are tax-deductible.
Board of Directors
The membership elects the officers and directors to two-year terms at a state-wide convention. All officers and directors are blind. The Board meets at least quarterly.
President – Ryan Strunk, Minneapolis
Ryan grew up in Nebraska, where he was fortunate to receive excellent instruction in Braille, technology, and orientation and mobility from a young age. A graduate of the university of Nebraska, Ryan's focus on education and his passion for equality have been at the forefront of his career choices since. He has worked as a political fundraiser, a Braille and technology instructor, and a coordinator of Braille literacy programming. Currently he works for Target Corp. as an accessibility consultant. Ryan's hobbies include improv comedy, public speaking, and music. (Term ends 2019)
Vice-President – Steve Jacobson, Edina
Steve retired from the 3M Company, where he was employed for more than forty years, most recently as a Lead Computer Analyst. He graduated from the Minnesota Braille and Sight Saving School and received a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from Augsburg College. Steve joined the NFB of Minnesota in 1971, has served as an officer of the student division, Metro Chapter president, and secretary of the NFB of Minnesota. He is also heavily involved in technology and is currently vice-president of the national NFB computer science division. (Term ends 2020)
Secretary – Jennifer Wenzel, Bloomington
Jennifer graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication from the University of Minnesota. She is a proud graduate of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc. The training she received there and her continued involvement in the National Federation of the Blind have helped her live the life she wants. She has taught braille, daily-living skills, and technology to students of all ages at the Colorado Center for the Blind, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, and now BLIND, Inc. She has also worked with high school students with severe and profound needs, as a braille proofreader, and as a teaching assistant in a preschool for blind students. She has been active in the NFB in Colorado and Wisconsin, serving as secretary of the NFB of Wisconsin for several years, and is currently the treasurer of the Metro Chapter and the editor of The Bee, a national newsletter for parents of blind children. Her hobbies include reading, swimming, cooking, and tandem biking. She also loves to spend time with her family of husband Dan and their three boys. (Term ends 2019)
Treasurer – Jennifer Dunnam, St. Louis Park
Jennifer grew up in Louisiana, graduating from Louisiana Tech University with a double major in French and Spanish and a minor in political science. She moved to Minnesota after college and for several years worked as an instructor at Blindness Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), alternately teaching braille, white-cane travel, and administering the Buddy Program for children. Then, for nine years, she worked at the University of Minnesota, coordinating the production of materials in braille, audio, and electronic formats and, for a short while administered a student-testing center. Currently, under contract with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, she coordinates the administration of all of the courses leading to Library of Congress certification in braille transcribing and proofreading. She joined the National Federation of the Blind at the age of fourteen, after meeting successful blind adult role models. She has held several offices in the NFB of Minnesota, including serving as president from 2007-2017. (Term ends 2020)
Cody Beardslee, Minneapolis
Cody was born in East Bethel, Minnesota. He is a graduate of Cambridge High School and also of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND). He currently serves as president of the Minnesota Association of Blind Students, and in 2017 he began his studies in Special Education at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, working toward becoming a teacher of blind students. He is an avid follower of baseball (particularly the Minnesota Twins) and enjoys various other outdoor activities. (Term ends 2020)
Rob Hobson, Minneapolis
Rob was born and raised in Illinois. He graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a bachelors in political Science and pre-law. He later graduated from the Louisiana Centerfor the Blind and then went on to earn a master’s degree in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility at Louisiana Tech. Now He resides in Minneapolis where he works at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND) teaching White Cane Travel. Rob loves to get out and experience all of the fun activities that the city has to offer. Some of his hobbies include swimming, running, and bike riding. (Term ends 2019)
Sheila Koenig, Minneapolis
Sheila grew up and attended college in Wisconsin. After graduating from college, Sheila taught 7th grade English and 8th grade Spanish in Springfield, Missouri. She moved to Minnesota in 2000 and taught 9th grade English at South View Middle School in Edina for 15 years. She now works as the Transition Placement and Outreach Coordinator at State Services for the Blind. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Education from Cardinal Stritch College and her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Minnesota. She attended Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), where she developed the skills and attitude to be a successful blind teacher. In 2007 she was awarded the "Blind Educator of the Year" award from the National Federation of the Blind. (Term ends 2019)
Alex Loch, Duluth
Alex works as a physical therapist in Duluth, MN, with Essentia Health and also as the company therapist for the Minnesota Ballet. He earned his Doctorate of Physical Therapy in 2014 from the College of St. Scholastica, previously earning his BA in English from St. Cloud State University in 2009. Alex is the president of the Twin Ports chapter of the NFB of MN. He is active in the dance community, having danced professionally in Minneapolis and Seattle, now teaching Ballroom dance, performing aerial dancing and performing and choreographing modern dance works in the Duluth area. Alex was introduced to the NFB through the state and national scholarship programs in 2011-2012 and is proud to serve on this board. (Term ends 2020)
Dave Andrews, Stillwater
The actions of the board and the membership are governed by the following: