Julie Nigon appointed to lead post-secondary education/workforce development mission for GRAUC


Rochester, Minn. (October 29, 2018) -   Julie Nigon, former head of the Rochester Public Schools Adult and Family Literacy Program and administrator of Hawthorne Education Center, was appointed as GRAUC Executive Director effective November 1, 2018.  Nigon replaces Don Supalla, who retires October 31, after more than five years leading the community’s premier workforce development and post-secondary education advocacy organization.  Supalla was the longtime successful president of RCTC, leaving that post in 2013 after 16 years.


Nigon brings a wealth of collaborative experiences and numerous education, business and industry and community connections to the position and holds licenses in K-6 Education and Adult Education.   During the 37 years she was employed with the Rochester Adult and Family Literacy Program, it grew from a small General Educational Development (GED) Preparation and basic literacy volunteer project to a multi-faceted and multi-site program serving adults from Southern Minnesota and 60 different nations.  Julie became the program manager in 1992 and encouraged and assisted the educational efforts of 50 staff and 2000 learners per year. Hawthorne Education Center staff currently collaborates with Mayo Clinic, Rochester Community and Technical College, United Way of Olmsted County, and Workforce Development, Inc. on the Bridges to Careers Project that prepares adult learners for post-secondary education and employment.  The program was recognized for its excellence by the Humphrey Institute of the University of Minnesota and Harvard University’s Ashe Center at the Kennedy School for innovation in public/private partnerships.


“As we transition this important leadership role to Julie Nigon, I have complete faith in her ability to keep the organization moving forward in fulfilling our mission,” said Guy Finne, GRAUC Board Chair. 

“Julie brings outstanding leadership skills and abilities that will help the organization ensure successful outcomes. Our higher education goals will help develop a vital, ready workforce to serve and strengthen our region.  Julie is a proven collaborator and a proven partnership developer and we are truly blessed to have Julie as our new Executive Director leading us into 2019 and beyond."


Working with past GRAUC leaders and board members, Supalla has provided vital leadership, direction and structure to develop GRAUC’s transformation and vision:  To meet the workforce needs of our region with a focus on post-secondary education.  Building on GRAUC’s first quarter-century as the premier community post-secondary advocacy group, during Supalla’s five-year’s as Executive Director GRAUC has:

Ø  Successfully advocated for the continued growth of educational programs and services at all levels of the education spectrum, including public and private providers, craft trade associations, AIM programs and more

Ø  Garnered significant capital bonding and sales tax resources for the purchase of land and demolition, renovation and construction of new higher education infrastructure

Ø  Quadrupled the Workforce Innovator endowment to fully-funded status, providing enough annual proceeds to fund several grant projects

Ø  Planned and executed three increasingly successful GRAUC Annual Awards Celebration Breakfasts

Ø  Rebranded GRAUC with a new mission, logo and updated website

Ø  Transformed, based on a Board strategic planning process, GRAUC’s by-laws, governance board, committee structure and formed the Partnership Council

Ø  Increased annual funding from both the city and county, garnered several corporate and private general operating and endowment gifts and implemented a Partnership Council membership fee structure


“Under Don’s dedicated leadership, GRAUC has continued to build on its strengths to fulfill its important mission," said Finne.  "As we transitioned into a new Partnership Council structure this past year, Don provided us with wisdom, keen insight and connectivity to new potential partners. Don kept us grounded in our work, focused on our mission and has always been a tremendous GRAUC Ambassador in the community. We are thankful Don will continue to be a great advocate for GRAUC moving forward.”  


Since 1987, GRAUC has successfully advocated for over $150 million in state and local investments to advance the educational missions of Rochester’s post-secondary educational institutions.