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Welcome Back!

The Minnesota Higher Education Facilities Authority is inviting you to attend our 36th Annual Conference. The conference will once again be held in the RedCap Room on the 2nd floor at historic Union Depot. We encourage you to attend in person, but for those who cannot attend in-person, we will also be offering online viewing. 

We have a great line-up of speakers on topics relevant to your work. We look forward to you joining us for interesting presentations, an opportunity to meet your peers, and a great networking opportunity.  

Please take a moment to RSVP to save your seat for MHEFA’s 36th Annual Conference. 


9:15 am Registration, Networking, and Breakfast

9:45 am Introduction, Welcome, and Authority Perspective

  • Barry Fick, Executive Director, MHEFA

10:00 am Economic Realities in 2024: Inflation, Interest Rates, and the “Illusion” of a Soft Landing

  • Dimitri Delis, Ph.D., Managing Director, Director of Fixed Income Research, Piper Sandler Financial Strategies

10:45 am networking break

11:00 am Moody’s RATINGS Overview and Insights on Higher Education Trends

  • Debra Roane, Vice President, Senior Credit Officer
  • Emily Raimes, Associate Managing Director
  • Melissa Nicandri, Associate Lead Analyst

Moody’s Ratings: Higher Education and Not-For-Profits

11:45 Am Higher Education Topics: Best Practices in Faculty and Staff Compensation Studies

  • Rachel Pauletti, Director, Higher Education Consulting, Forvis

12:30 pm Municipal Advisor Panel

North Slope Capital Advisors:

  • Steph Chichester, President

  • Nick Taylor, Managing Director/Chief Compliance Officer

Blue Rose Capital Advisors:

  • Erik Kelly, President

  • Max Wilkinson, Vice President

1:00 pm Lunch and networking


speaker biographies

Dimitri Delis, PH.D.: Managing Director, Chief Portfolio Strategist, Piper Sandler Financial Strategies

Dimitri Delis is a Managing Director and Chief Portfolio Strategist within Piper Sandler Financial Strategies (PSFS) in the Fixed Income Department. He is responsible for evaluating economic trends, analyzing current economic issues and generating relative value strategies by integrating fixed income cross-sector trends with macro/economic analysis. He identifies/analyzes market dislocations across all fixed-income asset classes and makes presentations to clients.

Prior to joining the group in 2005, Delis served as the cross-sector strategist for JP Morgan. Prior to the JP Morgan-Bank One merger, he was the derivatives strategist for Bank One. Dimitri’s experience includes market risk management for ABN AMRO where he was responsible for identifying and monitoring all market risk-taking activities for the derivatives and FX trading desks and bond modeling for Solomon Brothers’ proprietary portfolio tools.

Dimitri Delis holds a Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and mathematics from the University of Chicago. He completed his Master of Business Administration degree at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in 2006. He is a registered representative with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Debra Roane: Vice President, Senior credit officer, Moody’s RATINGS: Higher Education and Not-for-ProfitS

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.

Emily Raimes: Associate managing director, Moody’s RATINGS: Higher Education and Not-for-ProfitS

Emily Raimes is an Associate Managing Director in Moody’s Ratings Public Finance Group, overseeing the global higher education and nonprofit team, covering over 700 colleges, universities, and nonprofit institutions worldwide.  Previously, she managed the States Team, covering state credits across the US. Prior to joining Moody’s in 2006, Emily spent seven years at the New York City Office of Management and Budget, working primarily in Economic Analysis. Emily holds a BA degree in government from Wesleyan University and a Master’s in Public Administration from New York University.

Melissa Nicandri: Associate Lead Analyst, Moody’s RATINGS: Higher Education and Not-for-ProfitS

Melissa Nicandri is an Associate Lead Analyst for the Higher Education and Not-for-Profits Ratings Team, where she covers institutions in the Midwest and South. Prior to joining Moody’s, Melissa was a Senior Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton where she worked as a public sector consultant primarily for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She holds an MA in International Economics and Finance from Johns Hopkins University and a BA in Economics from Vanderbilt University.

Rachel Pauletti: Director, Higher Education Consulting, Forvis

Rachel leads the firm’s higher education consulting practice, which takes a data-driven approach to financial health, people and culture, and strategy. She has extensive experience in consulting and as an academic. Prior to joining FORVIS, she worked as a strategy consultant and analyst at a boutique firm specializing in higher education, where she facilitated strategic plans for institutions ranging from small nonprofits to community colleges to schools housed within large public universities. She also completed comprehensive program reviews and compensation studies, all using a robust quantitative and people-focused approach. Before moving into consulting full time, Rachel was an associate professor of psychology at Lynn University, where she coordinated a graduate program and helped launch a successful revival of Lynn’s accelerated degree program. In addition, Rachel chaired several institution-wide committees and was directly involved in program and institutional accreditation. An academic by training, she has published in some of the leading journals in the fields of developmental and personality psychology. She speaks regularly at industry conferences and participates in thought leadership through the firm’s Center of Excellence for Higher Education. Rachel is a graduate of Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, with a B.A. degree in psychology, and a graduate of Florida Atlantic University, with a Ph.D. degree in psychology.

Steph Chichester: president, north slope capital advisors

Since 1992, Steph has structured or advised on over $35 billion in tax-exempt and taxable financings for more than 200 issuers around the country. With a dedicated focus on higher education financings, Steph has facilitated borrowings secured by a wide range of revenue pledges and interest rate modes including fixed and variable rate public-sale and bank direct purchase loans, inaugural commercial paper programs, interest rate swaps, and off-balance sheet financings for over 40 public and private institutions.  In Minnesota, Steph has served as advisor to the Authority for issuances on behalf of St. Olaf College, the University of St. Thomas, and Mitchell Hamline School of Law, among others.  Steph began her career at Smith Barney and worked at two Wall Street firms and two regional investment banks before launching North Slope Capital Advisors in April 2008.

Ms. Chichester’s professional and community service includes current or past board seats on the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association, Denver Venture Charter School, Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, and volunteer service to Denver Health Foundation and the National Charity League.  She holds an MBA from the University of Colorado, a BS in Finance from University of Northern Colorado, with additional undergraduate studies in aerospace engineering and applied mathematics.  In addition to passing the Series 50 exam, Ms. Chichester also passed the Series 54 exam.

nick Taylor: Director & Chief Compliance Officer

Since 2002, Nick has been the lead banker or advisor on over $20 billion in tax-exempt and taxable financings for a variety of issuers across the country.  With a dedicated focus on higher education financings, Nick has extensive experience structuring fixed and variable rate bonds, interest rate swaps, off-balance sheet financings, forward refundings, direct placements and other committed fundings, and; senior/subordinate structures for over 30 public and private institutions.  In Minnesota, Nick was involved in the first issuance of Build America Bonds for the University of Minnesota and has served as lead banker or financial advisor for St. Catherine University, Gustavus Adolphus College, and the Authority, among others.  Prior to joining North Slope in 2004, Nick worked at one Wall Street investment bank and two regional investment banks.

Mr. Taylor’s professional and community service includes service to the Denver Children’s Home, Mount Saint Vincent, and the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business Professional Mentorship Program.  Nick holds a BSBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado and recently held Series 7, 53, and 66 securities licenses.  

Erik Kelly: president, blue rose capital advisors

Erik Kelly serves as President of Blue Rose, providing leadership, coordination, and oversight of the firm’s advisory services since 2011.  Mr. Kelly contributes to the strategic direction for the firm, oversees compliance with the changing regulatory environment, and ensures the quality of professional advice provided to the firm’s clients.

Mr. Kelly also serves as a strategic advisor to many of the firm’s clients, including advising higher education, non-profit, and other borrowing entities on long-term capital plans and the execution of all types of debt and debt-related derivative transactions. In his work for clients, Mr. Kelly provides expertise in the creation of a long-term strategic capital plan that is supported by risk assessment and market opportunities.  In connection with specific financing transactions, Mr. Kelly provides strategic and quantitative thought leadership supported by detailed analytics, working to educate clients regarding the risks and opportunities of various debt and derivative structures.  Prior to joining Blue Rose, Mr. Kelly worked for two nationally recognized financial advisory firms.

Mr. Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Amherst College and a master’s degree in theological studies from Bethel University.  Mr. Kelly passed the MSRB Series 50 Examination to become a qualified municipal advisor representative and the MSRB Series 54 Examination to become a qualified municipal advisor principal.

Max Wilkinson: Vice President, blue rose capital advisors

In his role of Vice President, Max Wilkinson manages a number of the firm’s clients, ensuring that their transactions progress smoothly and effectively throughout the financing process. He has significant expertise in the preparation of credit and debt capacity analyses and is experienced with the pricing and execution of fixed rate bond transactions, direct purchase bonds, and derivative and reinvestment products. Mr. Wilkinson is closely involved in every step of the financing process for clients, from initial capital planning stages all the way through closing. He joined Blue Rose Capital Advisors in 2016. Prior to joining Blue Rose, Mr. Wilkinson worked as a Reinsurance Analyst intern at the London office of JLT Re (now Guy Carpenter), where he provided analytical support for JLT’s property and casualty brokerage teams. Mr. Wilkinson also worked for years as a member of Yale’s chapter of the global nonprofit organization AIESEC, where he served on the executive board as Vice President of Business Development in 2015. Mr. Wilkinson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University. He passed the MSRB Series 50 Examination to become a qualified municipal advisor representative and the MSRB Series 54 Examination to become a qualified municipal advisor principal.