University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota
Scrubs Discussion Classroom

Building stronger
  urban communities

in partnership with
    North Minneapolis

Contact Us

2001 Plymouth Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55411
612-626-UROC (8762)

Community use of
space at UROC

Map and directions to UROC

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Heidi Lasley Barajas, executive director

612-625-4823 |

Executive director Heidi Lasley Barajas provides UROC with leadership in helping to solve critical urban challenges in the Twin Cities and beyond.  She is also an associate professor in the University's College of Education and Human Development. In addition, Heidi spends part of her effort working in the Office for Public Engagement supporting the coordination of the University’s urban agenda. A sociologist by training, Heidi's research, teaching and public service focus on issues related to access and equity, concentrating on building educational institutions that support students across differences of race, gender, and class. She is the board chair of Hope Community—a community non-profit on Franklin Avenue dedicated to revitalizing underserved neighborhoods through affordable housing and citizen engagement, is a member of the steering committee for the Hennepin County Penn Avenue Works project, and co-chairs the Northside Achievement Zone's College Action Team. Heidi received her doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota as a National Science Foundation Fellow. 

Sara Axtell, community-campus health liaison

612-625-0252 |

As a University community-campus health liaison, Sara Axtell works with community groups to develop collaborations with University faculty, staff and students.  She serves as an advisor to UROC's Engaged Dissertation Fellowship Program and UROC's Participatory Action Research Teams, which address community priorities by combining community knowledge with academic knowledge. Sara also serves as the public engagement faculty development liaison in the University's Office for Public Engagement. 

Leola Crawford, administrative specialist

612-624-4470 |

Leola Crawford is an administrative specialist with responsibilities for UROC's events, communications and scheduling. Since joining the staff in 2009, Leola has served on the UROC's Effects of the Foreclosure/Mortgage Crisis on Individual, Family, and Community Health and Wellness Action Research Team and on planning committees for UROC's annual events such as Community Day and Family Resource Fair.

James De Sota, director of administration and projects

612-624-4514 |

James De Sota assists UROC's executive director in seeking out and facilitating connections between University researchers and community needs.  He oversees many ongoing and emerging projects including UROC's Northside Achievement Zone 2013 Neighborhood Survey and UROC's Northside Job Creation Team. James also served as lead coordinator for UROC'S $3.6 million, federally funded Broadband Access Project. Prior to joining the University, James served as the neighborhood director for the Southeast Como Improvement Association, an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Minnesota Literacy Council, a Peace Corps Volunteer in Gambia, and researcher and consultant for several for-profit industries in the geographic information sector.

Nicolas Demm, administrative specialist

612-624-5881 |

As UROC's evening and weekend administrative specialist, Nicolas Demm is responsible for a wide range of administrative tasks including front desk operations and evening meeting and event coordination. Prior to joining UROC, Nicolas worked for Hennepin County Library, and has held internships with the International Institute of Minnesota, the Hennepin County Library Archives and Special Collections Department, and Nonviolent Peaceforce. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesot

Hawona Sullivan Janzen, gallery curator and special projects coordinator

612-626-1526 |

Gallery curator Hawona Sullivan Janzen is responsible for bringing arts and cultural programming into UROC's gallery space. Over the past three years, Hawona has coordinated exhibits and related events involving more than 100 artists and arts organizations on topics ranging from the Cambodian refugee experience to African-American storytelling and a children's photography exhibit of life in north Minneapolis following the 2011 tornado. She is a volunteer with the Minnesota African American Museum, Minnesota Council for the Gifted and Talented, and the African American Leadership Forum.

Lauren Martin, director of research

612-624-0435 |

Nationally recognized for her groundbreaking research in the area of sex trading and sex trafficking prevention, Lauren Martin is UROC's director of research. An expert on community engaged research methods, Lauren oversees UROC's scholarly research projects and grant operations.  Lauren is also a researcher with the University's Children, Youth and Family Consortium and Center for Early Education and Development and an instructor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. She received her doctoral degree in anthropology and historical studies from the New School for Social Research in New York and has been conducting engaged research with community partners since 2006.  She is the author of numerous community and scholarly publications and the principle investigator on several research projects including, Mapping the Market for Juvenile Sex Trafficking in Minneapolis, the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) community survey, and a validation study of the NAZ Family Academy.

Anna Orr, administrative specialist

612-624-5881 |

As UROC's daytime administrative specialist, Anna Orr is responsible for a wide range of administrative tasks including front desk operations and evening meeting and event coordination. Anna was born and raised in North Minneapolis and is a graduate of the Southwest Minnesota State University.

Makeda Zulu-Gillespie, director of community outreach

612-626-9829 |

Makeda Zulu-Gillespie, UROC's director of community outreach, works to establish alliances between the University and the North Minneapolis community. She coordinates the University-Northside Partnership's Community Affairs Committee, responds to community inquires, represents UROC at community forums and develops outreach and engagement activities that foster sustainable partnerships between the University and community stakeholders. A native of North Minneapolis and former community organizer, Makeda has worked with area youth, families and community for more than 22 years. She is a graduate of Grambling State University and the University's President's Emerging Leaders program.


The University of Minnesota UROC building at Plymouth and Penn avenues in North Minneapolis is open Monday–Friday
from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Related Sites

Office for Public Engagement