MPA Alumni Committee

Mary Windecker, Kali Wicks and Deena MansourThe Master of Public Administration Program Alumni Committee is an honorary group of at least six former MPA graduates or community members, selected for two-year terms. Selection of the committee is based on recommendations by the MPA faculty and approved by the MPA Committee, which is the internal governing body for MPA programming and student support.

Current members for 2020-2022

Beckie Christiaens, Vice President & CFO, Flathead Valley Community College
Anne Hughes, Chief Operating Officer, Missoula County
Tara Jensen, Co-Director of Public Affairs and Operations, MT Budget & Policy Center
Deena Mansour, Executive Director, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, University of Montana
Stacey Otterstrom, Professional Coach and Business Owner, PLucK! Coaching and The Virago Collaborative
Dayna Swanson, Director of Government Relations, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
Kali Wicks, Manager, Government Relations, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana
Jennifer Zellmer-Cuaresma, Director, Student-Athlete Support Services, University of Montana

Distinguished Alumni Awards

Each year the Alumni Committee selects a recipient for the MPA Distinguished Award based upon their commitment to public service and our communities.

2022: Deserae Kill Eagle

Deserae Kill Eagle
Deserae Kill Eagle M.P.A., an enrolled member of the Gros Ventre tribe of the Fort Belknap Reservation, grew up on the North East Corner of the reservation along with her parents and three siblings. The mother of three children, two girls and one boy, received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in 2008 and taught for five years before returning to school to obtain her master’s degree. Desiring more knowledge, experience, and development, she moved to Missoula with her two daughters. A new home, a single mom, a first generation student, and a new field of study served as the perfect platform for vast amounts of growth, which she is extremely grateful for. Deserae graduated from the University of Montana in 2016, earning her Masters of Public Administration degree. Following graduation, she returned home to continue teaching. She is currently the 5th grade teacher at Dodson Public Schools and continues to foster her passion of presenting on Historical Trauma and Cultural Resilience at all levels of education.

2021: Mary Windecker


Mary Windecker M.P.A., is the Executive Director of Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana, an advocacy group representing addiction, mental health, children’s, and tribal behavioral health organizations. She has 30 years of experience in nonprofit health care including strategic planning, business development, advocacy, patient satisfaction, and marketing and outreach. Mary has worked in community health centers, ambulatory medicine, hospitals, and behavioral health and has seen the damage done by providing healthcare in siloes rather than a continuum of care that provides the right level of care at the right time. She has volunteered in leadership positions with Make-A-Wish Montana, Missoula YMCA, Rotary, Big Brothers Big Sisters, United Way, Missoula Writing Collaborative and served as the board chair for the Missoula Chamber of Commerce in the 2015-16 fiscal year. Mary was also a member of: Graduation Matters, Community Health Needs Assessment Committee, YMCA Active 6 Founding Member, Let’s Move Missoula! Planning Committee, Missoula County Public Schools Health Science Academy and the Vote Yes for Missoula! School Bond. Mary lives in Missoula with her partner and has two grown children.

2020: Deena Mansour


Deena Mansour M.P.A. '98, is the Executive Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center at the University of Montana. With more than 30 years of experience in international education, she has collaborated with the Department of State throughout mainland southeast Asia, and has lectured at a number of foreign universities. Mansour co-founded UM’s Women’s Leadership Initiative in 2015 and served as a Presidential Leadership Fellow for UM President Royce C. Engstrom. She has been on the leadership team of the Mansfield Center since 2010. 

2019: Mike Halligan


Mike Halligan M.P.A. ’77, is a Vietnam vet and a former senator in the Montana Legislature. He has worked as a Missoula deputy county attorney, supervising attorney for the Montana Department of Justice’s Child Protection Unit and owner of a private family law practice. Since 2002, Mike has directed UM’s philanthropic Dennis and Phyllis J. Washington Foundation, and he remains connected to the community through volunteer work.