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Four Individuals Appointed to Commission

MNCDHH board gains new experts in education, employment & age-related hearing loss

2/15/2018 9:35:45 AM

Members of the board at the conference table. Present are Jamie Taylor and her interpreting team (Robyn, Shawn & Paula), Jason Valentine (showing a thumbs up), a partial view of John Wodele, Nancy Diner, and Kathryn Rose. Across is the following text,

The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing Minnesotans is pleased to introduce four new members to our board. They were appointed by Governor Mark Dayton. The members are:

  • Dr. Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash, deaf, expert in disability advocacy and employment
  • Michele Isham, M.Ed., hard of hearing, expert in deaf education and family services
  • Dr. Peggy Nelson, hearing, expert in audiology and age-related hearing loss
  • Rebecca Thomas, M.Ed., Deaf, expert in teacher licensure and education

"We feel honored that Mohamed, Michele, Peggy, and Becky have been appointed to the Commission by the Governor's office. Their presence at the last two commission meetings has proven their input, guidance, and wisdom are an invaluable asset to the work we do," said Chair Jason Valentine. 

We have several senior board members who are completing their terms and expect to continue to welcome additional new board members in the near future. 

Without further ado, meet our newest board members!

Dr. Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash, At-Large Member

Dr. Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash is the Supervisory Records and Information Management Specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security-U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mohamed grew up in suburban Alexandria, Egypt and moved to the U.S. in 1996.  He has a 28-year career in both private and public sectors that includes working for the University of Minnesota as a research accounting principal, and serving as an economics & labor market research analyst, coordinator of the state’s Job Vacancy Survey, and disability employment expert at Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).  He has a bachelor’s degree in business/accounting from Alazhar University in Cairo, a master’s degree in cost accounting from the University of Alexandria, Egypt, an MBA from Globe University, a master of public affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and a Ph.D. in organizational development from Capella University. Mohamed also volunteers as a social justice and disability advocate and is a member of several state committees and the board of directors for nonprofit organizations providing services to people with disabilities. He is also the author of many research articles focusing on disability affairs, employment of people with disability, the intersection of disability, race, and poverty, as well as other related topics aiming to the improvement of lives of people with disabilities in the state and the nation.  Mohamed is deaf and is fluent in two spoken languages. He hopes to learn ASL next.

"I am dedicated to serving the public, social justice, and advocating for people with disabilities in general, especially those who are deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing. I primarily focus on integrating individuals with disabilities in their communities and will share my expertise in policy analysis and employment strategies with the board and staff. I also possess excellent knowledge and experience in applying federal, state, and local laws and regulations regarding accessibility and equal opportunity for people with disabilities." ~ Dr. Mohamed Mourssi-Alfash

Michele Isham, M.Ed., East Central Representative 

Michele Isham, M.Ed, has been working as a Deaf/Hard of Hearing licensed teacher for Benton Stearns Education District (Sartell, MN) since 1992. She graduated from Western Oregon State College with a degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Deaf Education. She also received a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Oregon (note her shirt, go Ducks!!). Michele is a member of the E/W Regional Advisory Committee with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division (DHHSD). She has participated as a representative of her district for the Collaborative Plan stakeholders group, especially with the school-age workgroups. In addition to MNCDHH and the Collaborative Plan, Michele serves on the MN Deaf/Blind network, Region 5 and 7 Teachers of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing network, and her regional Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) team. Michele is hard of hearing.

"I am proud to once again serve on the Commission so that I can continue to advocate not only for deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans, but also the families and students I work with." ~ Michele Isham

Dr. Peggy Nelson, At-Large Member

Peggy Nelson, Ph.D. is a professor of audiology in the Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Minnesota, where she has taught and conducted NIH-funded research since 2000.  Her research focuses on hearing loss and the problems of understanding speech in noise by a variety of populations, including children in schools, second-language learners, hearing aid users, and cochlear implant listeners. She is currently the founding director of the University of Minnesota’s new Center for Applied and Translational Sensory Science (CATSS). There she oversees interdisciplinary research in vision, hearing, balance, and tinnitus.   As Center director, Professor Nelson and colleagues have engaged the community in a discussion of sensory loss and sensory aids. Dr. Nelson served on the EHDI Advisory Board for 10 years and served on the US Access Board committee that developed acoustic guidelines for schools. Over the years, she has testified for the Commission on many different pieces of legislation. Fun fact: she used to be a certified sign language interpreter.

"I serve on the board because I believe engaging with the community is essential for understanding sensory loss and its effects. I am eager to share information about cross-disciplinary research related to the development of devices and strategies key to approaching sensory loss, and plan to especially focus on age-related hearing loss." ~ Dr. Peggy Nelson

Rebecca Thomas, M.Ed., At-Large Member

Rebecca (Becky) Thomas, M.Ed, graduated from St. Cloud State University with a BS degree in Social Work (1999). In 2006, she graduated from the University of Minnesota with an M.Ed. in Special Education - Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Currently, Becky teaches American Sign Language (ASL) at Blaine High School and Anoka Ramsey Community College. She has been actively involved with the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens (MADC) since 2011, serving as a Member at Large (2011-2013) and Secretary (2013-present). She is a former president of the Minnesota Loon American Sign Language Teachers Association and is still actively involved. Becky is a dedicated teacher (she's won 11 teaching awards!) and working with young people is when she is most fulfilled. She has been a foster mom to high-risk children for 4 years and she is also a family advocate for hard of hearing students at her high school. Becky grew up as a hard of hearing kid who became Deaf as a young adult.

"Serving on the Commission allows me to speak up, advocate for change, and add my voice to Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans across the state. Together we can accomplish many things.  It's an honor to be serving on the board." ~ Becky Thomas


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