Introducing our new Director of Grantmaking

Michelle Ufford will officially start her work with the Northland Foundation on June 7

We are thrilled to welcome Michelle Ufford as Director of Grantmaking. Ufford steps into the role previously held by Erik Torch, who moved on to the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation in April.

She brings extensive experience throughout the region working with nonprofits, schools, governmental agencies, and businesses. Most recently, she was Director of Workforce Strategy & Talent Pipeline Development at Essentia Health. Prior to that, she worked at the Northeast Minnesota Office of Job Training, including 12 as its Executive Director and later worked as Director of Program Development/School-Business Coordinator.

“Michelle has worked in our region and with many of the same organizations with which Northland Foundation partners. Her deep understanding of the strengths and challenges of our communities is a great asset,” said Tony Sertich, Northland Foundation President.

Michelle’s résumé also includes a wide range of board service including Northern St. Louis County Family Collaborative Services Board, Iron Range Tourism Board, East Range Tech Prep/School to Work Board, and the Minnesota Governor’s Workforce Development Board. She holds a degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota.

“Joining the Northland Foundation and leading its grant program offers a wonderful opportunity to further serve and strengthen the region I love.”  

Michelle Ufford

A proud Iron Range resident, Michelle and her family live in Eveleth. “Having been involved in workforce development for over 22 years and as a 5th generation Iron Ranger raising a family here, I have a vested interest in ensuring our communities thrive today and in the future,” she said.

Q&A with Michelle

Q: As you step into your new job, what are you really jazzed about?

A: I am most excited to be joining a team of people who are highly invested in helping our region thrive and being able to personally contribute to the important work of the foundation. This role is a great culmination of my personal and professional background, and I am beyond thrilled to help support the continued growth and vitality of Northeast Minnesota.

Q: You’re a born-and-raised northeastern Minnesotan. How has that helped shape your thinking?

A: Being a northeastern Minnesota is a big part of my identity and has influenced me in many ways. I grew up in Eveleth and was in the first class to go from 7th to 12th grade under the initial “pairing and sharing” between the Eveleth and Gilbert school districts before they were officially consolidated. This was an early introduction to how doing things differently is for the greater benefit of all, a lesson I’ve never forgotten. In addition, my dad was a business owner in Eveleth for over 30 years, so I grew up with a strong sense of entrepreneurship and how vital small businesses are to the economic health of our region. I’m very happy to be part of a region that has such community pride and thrilled to be working for an organization that plays such an important supporting role to keep us all strong.

Q: In thinking about promoting ‘belonging’ for all people in the region, what grounds you?

A: Community is very important to me. As one with deep roots on the Iron Range, I’ve always been fascinated with local history. I believe it’s critical to learn from the past and understand how we all got to where we are today. Likewise, we must recognize the importance of creating more welcoming communities for everyone who lives here now and for others who want to move here. We know it can be difficult for new people to feel welcome in our communities, which I think is more a function of people already having existing, long-standing personal networks than particular biases, but it’s a complicated issue. Fostering and promoting a sense of belonging for not only our new neighbors but also people who grew up here who may feel on the fringe will only help us become stronger and able to weather the inevitable ups and downs that come with living in a rural place.

Q: What are some of the things you appreciate about living and working in this part of the state?

A: There is no better place to live, with all the distinct seasons and different ways to enjoy each one. In the warmer months, I love to garden and be in the woods or up at the lake. In the winter, I like to be out on the snowmobile trails. I would never live anywhere else!

Starting on June 7th, Michelle Ufford can be reached at