Family Transitions

Meet our team

The MFLN Family Transitions Concentration Area provides education and resources for professionals working with military families to build resilience and navigate life cycle transitions

Sara Croymans joined the University of Minnesota Extension as an Extension educator in 1992 where she is committed to assisting individuals develop critical life skills. She works with youth, adults, educators, and community agency staff on a variety of issues, including youth and money, decision-making, tenant education, learning styles, disaster financial recovery, and military family transitions. As an Accredited Financial Counselor through the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, Sara has extensive financial counseling experience with gamblers, as well as military service members and their families. Sara earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota. Sara is a proud military spouse and mother. She serves as the PI for the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions Team.

  • Extension Educator, Family ResiliencyRegional Office MorrisExpertise: Family Resiliency
  • University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office MorrisWC Research/Outreach Ctr, 46352 State Hwy 329Morris, MN 56267
  • croym001@umn.edu
  • 320-589-1711

Anita Harris Hering joined the University of Minnesota Extension as a Regional Extension Educator for the Center of Youth Development in May of 2005. In March of 2015 she joined the Center for Family Development- Family Resiliency as Extension Educator Military Families, and Military Families Learning Network-Family Transitions Social Media Specialist. Her expertise is in the area of youth, families, volunteer and partnership development, curriculum development, program quality, working with the military, Veterans, and Operation Military Kids.

Anita attended the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University for her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education. She received her MA in Non-Public School Administration/Educational Leadership from the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.

When coming to the University of MN Extension, Anita had 23 years of professional experience in Pre-Grade 12 education, 10 years as a classroom teacher and a Principal for thirteen. She worked with school renovations, building projects and mergers, and involved with strategic planning, grant writing and financial management, fundraising and public relations, before and after school programs, curriculum development and implementation, just to name a few.

Since 2007 Anita has been involved with the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon in the St. Cloud, MN area and as a volunteer Chairperson for the Regional (9 cities) Beyond The Yellow Ribbon – Central MN Warrior to Citizen.

  • Extension Educator, Military Families Regional Office St. CloudExpertise: Family Resiliency
  • University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office St. CloudOffice Complex, 3400 1st St N Ste 400St. Cloud, MN 56303
  • aharris@umn.edu
  • 320-203-6106

Ellie McCann has been a statewide Family Resiliency Extension educator with the University of Minnesota Extension since September 2003. Ellie’s work focuses on improving the quality of families’ lives through times of transition. Ellie has developed and taught numerous classes, trainings and curricula with professionals and parents, including the Parents Forever™ divorce education program and Parenting in the Age of Overindulgence, an online course. Prior to her work with Extension, Ellie worked with children and families in both community agencies and university settings. Ellie earned her MS in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Her areas of focus include divorce education, coparenting, families in times of transition and resilience.

  • Extension Educator, Family Resiliency Regional Office AndoverExpertise: Family Resiliency
  • University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office AndoverBunker Hills Act Ctr L-1,550 Bunker Lake BlvdNWAndover, MN 55304
  • mccan023@umn.edu
  • 763-767-3885

Karen Shirer has 41 years of experience as an educator, manager, researcher, and administrator for family and consumer sciences programs in both formal and non-formal settings. She has served as the Universitiy of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development Associate Dean since 2007. Her research interests focus on at-risk and low-income families and family life education. She has a strong interest and expertise in participatory processes for planning, implementing, and developing community-based educational programs and services. Dr. Shirer earned a Ph.D. in Family and Consumer and Sciences Education at Iowa State University. Her dissertation focused on community needs assessment as a resource for health planning in rural areas. Her areas of focus include adult learning, family demographics, health promotion, welfare to work, balancing work and family

  • Associate Dean Extension Center for Family Development
  • University of Minnesota Extension Center for Family Development490 Coffey Hall, 1420 Eckles AveSt. Paul, MN 55108
  • shire008@umn.edu
  • 612-626-3971

Ms. LaFollette began her professional career with the Army in 1989, working with Family Programs at the Installation, Regios, Headquarters and Army Staff levels prior to moving to the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD), Office of Family Readiness Policy in 2014. While employed by the Army she worked various programs within the Military and Family Support Center to include: Family Advocacy Program, New Parent Support Program, Victim Advocacy, SHARP, Exceptional Family Member Program, Army Family team Building, Army Volunteer Corps and was key in developing the new Survivor Outreach Services Program in 2008. Since arriving at OSD in August 2014, she has worked on various projects within the family program portfolio. Ms. LaFollette received both her Bachelors and Master’s in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. She is a graduate of the Army Management Staff College, Sustaining Base Leadership Management Course in 2005. Ms. LaFollette serves as the Military Families Learning Network Department of Defense Project Lead.

  • Program Analyst
  • Office of Family Readiness Policy (OFRP)4800 Mark Center DriveSuite 3G15Alexandria, VA 22350-2300
  • Vickie.lafollette1.civ@mail.mil
  • 571-372-5352

After more than 20 years in communications, education and web technology, Bob has found a passion for building human networks, especially those focused on collective action. He seeks and shares insights on weaving collaborative networks and on developing a culture of innovation through his work with North Dakota State University Extension Service, the Military Families Learning Network and as the host of the “Working Differently in Extension” podcast.

  • Web Technology Specialist / Agriculture Communication
  • North Dakota State University
  • robert.bertsch@ndsu.edu
  • 701-231-7381

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