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Minnesota Data Opener

What can data tell us about our changing rural landscape?

What is the most important thing for policy makers and fellow citizens to know when thinking about educational achievement in Minnesota?

Cruise the data from the State Demographer and publish a chart, graph or other visual representation that captures an important fact about education in Minnesota. 

Deadline for entries is June 10. Then come back on the 12th at noon for an online chat with issues experts and other Minnesotans concerned about education in the state.

The top three entries will be featured in the chat. Winning entries will also be shared with Minnesota legislators and  placed on display in a state building. 

The Minnesota Data Opener is an effort to engage students and citizens in the big issues facing the state of Minnesota. The idea came about while Michael Olson, a students at the Humphrey Institute, was working with the State Demographers office. It is a beta project for the office to find new ways to engage Minnesotans in the challenges that face the state.

Judges: a mix of folks from around Minnesota will weigh the entries.

Susan Brower, Minnesota State Demographer 

Susan Brower became the State Demographer in February 2012. In that capacity, she travels the state talking with Minnesotans about the new social and economic realities that are brought about by recent demographic shifts. Susan’s work applies an understanding of demographic trends to changes in a range of areas including the state’s economy and workforce, education, health, immigration and rural population changes.

Susan joined the State Demographic Center in 2011, after working as a researcher on the Minnesota Compass project at Wilder Research in St. Paul. Prior to that, she worked at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan.

Susan is currently a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan, specializing in demography and family sociology. She also has a master’s degree in public policy from Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

Michael Olson, journalist

Michael Olson is the editor of MPR News’ Minnesota Today. He focuses on engagement and content curation on a variety of new and emerging platforms. Before coming to Minnesota Public Radio, Michael directed Public Media Texas, an Austin-based public media initiative he launched with NPR. Michael was an editor on NPR’s Election Unit in Washington DC during the 2008 election. He was the news editor at member station KUT in Austin. Prior to moving to Texas, he taught journalism and reported on border issues and politics at New Mexico State University. In his first tenure in Washington, DC, he covered politics during the twilight of the Clinton Presidency, the election of George W. Bush, 9/11 and the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as an editor and writer at National Journal’s Hotline. Michael got his start in journalism working for Charles Kuralt at WELY in Ely, Minn. He has a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from the University of Oregon and continues to explore the implications and possibilities of journalism as it relates to democracy.

Jeff Severns Guntzel, journalist

Jeff (publicinsightjeff.tumblr.com) hasreported from the Middle East and points all over the United States for a cadre of publications and news organizations that are not usually mentioned in the same sentence, including Punk Planet MagazineNational Catholic ReporterCity PagesMinnPost and GOOD. He also did time as an editor at Utne Reader. Severns Guntzel once house sat for Studs Terkel. The house was robbed of its television under his watch. This means something, but it’s not clear what.

If he could make you read three things he’s written, it would be this profile of a forensic anthropologist (because the man is amazing), this brief history of Twin Cities hair metal (because hair metal is a legitimate form of artistic expression) and this musing on Baghdad before and after the 2003 invasion (because the author is a little bit haunted by Iraq).

Kevin Schaul, journalist

Kevin, a recipient of the Google-AP scholarship which fosters growth in the space between new technology and journalism, shared this statement about bringing the two worlds together:

I fell in love with the field of computational journalism and attended as many conferences and meetups as I could fit into my schedule. I worked as a copy editor and later online manager at our student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, and I presently work at MinnPost as a jack-of-all-digital-trades.

This summer I will be an intern at the Seattle Times as a digital news producer, where I will work with reporters to realize the potential of the digital platform, creating data project, maps and interactive story formats.

I couldn’t be happier to be studying the intersection of my two biggest interests. After all, who wouldn’t want to do what they love – especially for the betterment of democracy?


Nicholas Banovetz, public affairs manager

Nicholas thrives on mobilizing people. Before MinnCAN, he managed communications campaigns as a senior account executive at Padilla Speer Beardsley. He also has extensive experience managing issue and political campaigns, including State Senator Sandy Rummel’s election and school referendum. In addition, Nicholas co-founded and directed the annual American Classic 5K – Race for Humanity in Washington, D.C. to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. He holds a bachelor’s in Communications, Economics, Government and Legal Institutions and a master’s in Public Communication from American University.