ST. PAUL, Minn. (Feb. 23, 2016) — The Karen Organization of Minnesota Board of Directors announced Tuesday the appointment of co-executive directors, Eh Tah Khu and Alexis Walstad. The two were identified from a search and bring a combined nine years of experience to lead KOM in its mission to assist refugees from Burma in Minnesota.
“Alexis and Eh Tah Khu have impressed staff and board members in their current leadership roles at KOM,” said Board Chair Dr. Jim Letts. “The Board of Directors was also able to elicit input from multiple community members who provided overwhelmingly positive feedback. We are excited to support them both in this new model of leadership.”
Following the departure of Executive Director Chong Bee Vang in July 2015, KOM’s Board of Directors decided to restructure the leadership team to position the organization for a period of growth and transformation. The new co-executive director model will promote deeper community engagement and greater sustainability as the organization adapts to meet the needs of a growing population.
Eh Tah Khu joined KOM in 2011 as a Youth Development Coordinator and was promoted to Program Manager for Youth and Social Services in 2013. As a program manager, he has extensive experience in program management, staff coaching, and partnership development. He is also a visible leader in the Karen community in St. Paul through his active participation with the Karen Community of Minnesota and Ebenezer Karen Baptist Church. Eh Tah Khu was born in Burma, but due to political conflict, he moved to Thailand as a refugee where he earned a four-year degree from Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College. After graduating, he taught for two years and helped manage multiple schools under the Burmese Migrant Workers Education Committee. He came to Minnesota as a refugee in 2010 and became a U.S. Citizen in 2015.
Alexis Walstad joined KOM in 2012 as the Development Director. She was appointed by the Board of Directors to serve as Interim Executive Director beginning August 1, 2015. Walstad has over seven years of experience working with Minnesota nonprofits in fundraising, program development, communications, and volunteer management. She was born and raised in the Twin Cities and graduated from Macalester College. Prior to joining KOM, she worked in communications and grants administration at Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless and spent one year as an AmeriCorps VISTA working with refugees at Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. She also volunteered with Twin Cities World Refugee Day for five years, including four years as event chair.
The co-executive directors will have overall strategic and operational responsibility for KOM’s staff and programs. Under this new leadership model, Eh Tah Khu will primarily focus on program management, operations, and community engagement, while Walstad will be responsible for fund development, finance, and public relations. This will replace KOM’s previous structure of Executive Director and Development Director.
The Karen Organization of Minnesota’s board of directors and staff would like to extend our utmost gratitude to Chong Bee Vang for his five years in service as executive director. Through their combined effort, Eh Tah Khu and Alexis Walstad hope to expand KOM’s reach and build more opportunities to help all refugees from Burma thrive in Minnesota.
The Karen Organization of Minnesota (KOM) is the first nonprofit in Minnesota established by Karen refugees from Burma. Since opening its doors in October 2009, KOM has rapidly grown from a small volunteer association to a thriving service hub aiding over 1,500 refugees each year. KOM achieves its mission to enhance the quality of life for all refugees from Burma in Minnesota by providing comprehensive, culturally appropriate services to help newly arrived refugees find housing, jobs, education, and other resources they need to succeed in their new home.
KOM is also highly regarded as a partner and a cultural resource for other agencies seeking to reach this emerging population. To learn more about refugees from Burma and KOM’s work, please visit www.mnkaren.org or call us at (651)788-7593.