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33rd Annual Virtual Conference on Financing Issues for Higher Education

Welcome Back!

After an unexpected break last year, the Minnesota Higher Education Facilities Authority is pleased to bring back the Annual [Virtual] Conference on Financing Issues for Higher Education. This is our 50th year of serving Minnesota nonprofit Higher Education institutions and our 33rd Conference. To celebrate these milestones, we have put together a Conference that features great speakers on topics that are of critical interest to you. We urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to spend some quality time with us and gain insight into Higher Education financing.

April 21, 2021


9:00 am Introduction, Welcome & Authority perspective

  • Barry Fick, Executive Director, MHEFA

9:05 am Investment Outlook

10:00 am  5 Minute Break

10:05 am Minnesota State Demographic Center Update

10:30 am 5 minute break

10:35 Am Authority Website Upgrade

  • Mitch Hickey, Issuer IR Associate, BondLink

11:15 am 5 minute Break

11:20 am moody’s investors service Overview and Insights on Higher Education Trends

  • Susan Fitzgerald, Associate Managing Director – Public Finance, Moody’s Investors Service
  • Debra Roane, Vice President, Senior Credit Officer, US Public Finance Group, Moody’s Investors Service
  • Jared Brewster, Assistant Vice President/Analyst, US Public Finance Group, Moody’s Investors Service
  • Ceridwynne Lake, Assistant Vice President/Analyst, Moody’s Investors Service
  • Moody’s Investors Service Presentation

12:20 PM Closing remarks

  • Barry Fick, Executive Director, MHEFA


speaker biographies


Jared Brewster: AVP/Analyst, US Public Finance Group, Moody’s Investors Service

Jared Brewster is an Assistant Vice President/Analyst for the Higher Education and Not-for-Profits Ratings Team covering higher education and not-for-profit institutions across the United States, with a focus on the Midwest. Prior to joining Moody’s, Jared worked as a Director of Research for a private foundation.

Prior to working at the foundation, Jared was a Principal Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office where he was responsible for estimating and projecting debt and interest costs of the federal government. Jared holds an MPA from the University of Delaware and a BA in Political Science from Capital University.  


George T. Cook: Institutional Consulting Director, Graystone Consulting

As Managing Director and Institutional Consulting Director, George has dedicated his entire career to serving the specialized needs of institutional clients. He is responsible for shaping strategic policy, combining his deep knowledge of the global financial markets with keen insights about upcoming market trends. These insights guide important decisions impacting portfolio optimization and investment manager selection. They also serve as the foundation of his highly anticipated capital markets conference calls, which are presented quarterly to several hundred clients and industry insiders.

An education advocate, George has always been committed to advanced learning – for himself and his clients. An alumnus of Northern Illinois University, George earned the prestigious designation of Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®) from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business in 1997. He attained the Alternative Investments Director designation in 2014. He is a member of the Investment Management Consultants Association and has served on the board and on the Best Practices Committee of the Association of Professional Investment Consultants.

A strong believer in giving back, George is passionate about community service, particularly issues of justice and poverty. He has made regular humanitarian trips to Cuba, and actively volunteers for a number of nonprofit agencies, including Bright Hope International, International Justice Mission, and Willow Creek Community Church.

In recognition of his dedication to his community and his clients, George has received numerous distinctions and professional accolades throughout his career. In 2011, Registered Rep magazine awarded George the “Altruism Award: Advisors with Heart,” honoring advisors who exemplify the highest standards of professionalism and are active in charitable giving and mentoring. In 2013, George was awarded the Community Leadership Award by Morgan Stanley for his efforts in eradicating human trafficking around the globe and was also awarded the firm’s John J. Mack Leadership Award, recognizing his efforts to put clients first, lead with exceptional ideas, act with integrity, and be generous with his time, resources and talents. In 2016 and 2017 George was recognized as one of BARRON’S Top 30 Institutional Consultants. In 2018, George and the team were ranked 10th by BARRON’S listing of Top 50 Institutional Consultants.


Megan Dayton: Senior Demographer, Minnesota State Demographic center

Megan Dayton is a Senior Demographer at Minnesota’s State Demographic Center. Since 2012, she has been responsible for preparing demographic projections for the State of Minnesota, 13 Economic Development Regions, and 87 counties. Serving in this role, Megan is Minnesota’s state representative to the Federal-State Cooperative Program for Population Projections (FSCPP) with the U.S. Census Bureau. Megan’s work involves the creation of school district estimates upon request for intercensal levy cycle funding and providing data analysis for state agencies, councils, and legislators.

Megan’s research interests include improving upon existing data modeling techniques used for state and sub-state areas, as well as social stratification and more general demographic trends related to fertility, mortality, and migration patterns. Megan has hands-on knowledge of social and economic realities brought about by recent demographic shifts. Her work engages an attentive approach to relating current demographic trends with the resulting likelihoods.

Megan holds a master’s degree in applied demography from the Center for Demography and Population Health at the Florida State University.


Susan Fitzgerald: Associate Managing director – public finance, Moody’s Investors service

Susan Fitzgerald is an Associate Managing Director in Moody’s Public Finance Group and manages Moody’s Global Higher Education and Not-for-Profit Ratings Team. The team rates nearly 800 colleges, universities, and not-for-profit institutions worldwide. Susan has extensive public finance experience, serving as a senior analyst on both the higher education and health care ratings teams. She has also been involved in various initiatives related to ESG analysis, charter schools, intercept ratings, and public-private partnerships. Susan originally joined Moody’s in 1994 and rejoined in 2013 after a 6-year hiatus.

Susan’s other prior work experience includes managing the financial advisory practice at a boutique investment banking and advisory firm; serving as a commercial credit analyst for a community bank; owning and operating an art gallery and a bed and breakfast; and as the assistant director of development, focused on foundation and corporate relations, for a graduate school.

Susan holds a Master’s degree in International Studies (European Studies and Economics) from The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. Her A.B. degree in Diplomacy and World Affairs, with a minor in Economics, is from Occidental College, Los Angeles.  


Mitch Hickey: Issuer IR Associate, BondLink

Mitch Hickey joined BondLink in February 2020 as an Issuer IR Associate, helping manage client relationships. His prior experience includes working at Northwestern Mutual as a Financial Representative and as a Paralegal at a Boston-based law firm. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross


Ceridwynne Lake: AVP/Analyst, moody’s investors service

Ceridwynne Lake is an Assistant Vice President – Analyst on Moody’s Higher Education and Not-for-Profit Team with over a decade of experience in fixed income public finance and municipal credit. She joined the Higher Education and Not-for-Profit team from the Local Government and is the lead analyst for a diverse portfolio of colleges and universities and not-for-profit organizations. Ceridwynne’s previous experience is rooted in monitoring and managing stressed municipal credits for a monoline, as well as an asset manager. She currently serves on Moody’s infrastructure task force, providing her with a broad perspective on public finance.

Ceridwynne earned her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California at Los Angeles, and her Master’s in Public Administration from the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and speaks English, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese.  


Melissa Mcgath: principal, Voom creative

Melissa McGathMelissa McGath is an entrepreneur, graphic designer, illustrator, marketer, and brand strategist with more than 21 years of experience in a variety of design and marketing-related fields. Amongst starting and co-owning other businesses, she launched her creative firm, Voom Creative, in 2014 located in downtown Minneapolis. In 2020, the company was named Top MN Creative Agency by and Top MN Digital Marketing Company by Voom has also won 19 international and regional awards for branding and design work.

Melissa’s career began working at Taylor Corporation in North Mankato, MN as an illustrator where she created fine art for special occasions. During her time in Mankato, Melissa also became a published illustrator (Melissa Carpenter) and was commissioned by Picture Window Books, a children’s book publishing company to illustrate a six-book animal series. She then accepted a graphic design position at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale, MN. There she designed internal and external communications for print and web. She also designed the brand for Maple Grove Hospital, a partnership between North Memorial and Fairview.

Melissa earned a degree in communications art and design from Alexandria Technical College and has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Concordia University, St. Paul.  


Debra Roane: Vice President & Senior credit officer, us public finance group, Moody’s Investors Service

Debra Roane is a Vice President/Senior Credit Officer for the Higher Education and Not-for-Profits Ratings Team covering higher education and not-for-profit institutions across the United States including large public university systems, complex academic medical centers and prominent not-for-profit organizations. Debra was instrumental in expanding Moody’s coverage in the high profile sector for sub-sovereign ratings in Australia and New Zealand and, in particular, in the Australian and Singaporean universities sectors. She also helped Moody’s to strengthen its presence in the Chinese regional and local government sector by leading the initiative to develop a knowledge base, research and outreach, and credit architecture from an early stage.

Prior to joining Moody’s, Debra worked for the Federal Transportation Administration in Washington, DC as a Presidential Management Intern and in New York City as a Project Manager. Debra holds an MA from the New School for Social Research in Urban Affairs and Policy Analysis and a BA from McGill University in Montreal in Geography.