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Outgoing CEO of Rise spent 45 years helping expand employment for people with disabilities

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 5/13/2024

Lynn Noren started working at Rise as a college intern in the spring of 1979. Within a few months, she was working full time for the nonprofit organization that supports people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

Now, 45 years later, Noren is retiring as president and CEO.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Noren, 65, of Champlin. “In many ways, I grew up at Rise at the same time Rise was ‘growing up,’ and I treasure that experience.”

Noren, who has been president and CEO since 2013, said she feels fortunate to have worked closely through the years “with the exceptional people we serve, their families, our incredibly talented team members and community supporters.”

“It’s a really big change for me, but I feel confident it’s the right time for Rise and for me,” she said. “The future of the organization is bright.”

When Noren’s internship through the special-education program at St. Mary’s Junior College started, Rise had fewer than 10 employees. The Fridley-based nonprofit now has about 400, she said.

Noren continued working full-time for the organization while receiving her bachelor’s degree in human services administration in 1994 from Metro State University in St. Paul and her master’s degree in business administration from the University of San Francisco through its distance learning program in 1996. She held a number of positions at Rise before assuming the top leadership role in 2013.

Noren said she is especially proud of helping the organization successfully navigate a merger with East Metro and Wisconsin-based ESR in 2019 and guiding the organization through the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic, which resulted in a shutdown of support services and staffing furloughs.

Since then, she said she has “worked to expand both employment and life enrichment disability services in new and innovative ways that increase community visibility.”

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“We have a lot of community businesses that support the work that we do,” she said. “Community employers need people in their workforce – and people with disabilities can really help fill that need. People with disabilities have really advanced in their ability to work at competitive pay and find jobs in the community, and that’s exciting. It’s a big change.”

Rise officials are working with Cohen Taylor, a national search firm, to recruit qualified candidates for the CEO job; Noren plans to retire when a new leader is in place, which will be before the end of the year, she said.

Rise open house

An open house and ribbon cutting for Rise’s new administrative offices in Fridley will be 3-6 p.m. Tuesday at Rise, 6499 University Ave. N.E., Suite 200, in Fridley.

Ribbon cutting and brief remarks will take place at 4 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP to info@rise.org is appreciated but not required.

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