Board of Directors Biographies

Andy Arsham 2013-14

What brings a biologist with a Ph.D. in genetics to the Board of Directors of KFAI? For Andy Arsham, it all started when he moved to Minneapolis in 2004 to be with his wife, who was already here. Andy scanned the dial on a Saturday night and landed on “Groove Garden.” His dial’s been stuck on KFAI ever since. In 2005, after hearing how much fun KFAI was having during its pledge drive, Andy signed up for volunteer training and started answering the phones down at pledge central. He was an instrumental part of KFAI’s Strategic Planning Committee in 2010, and became a member of the Board in 2011.

Andy was born in New York City and raised in the ‘burbs. He and his wife, Sonja, are the proud parents of 14-month old Harris, a KFAI member who was listening to Saturday morning jazz programs when he was only two days old and has already pledge-rapped and co-hosted 2 shows with his dear uncle, J. Otis Powell‽

Andy serves on the Board’s Governance Committee. Continuing to making elections for the Board and Programming Committees as robust and diverse as possible is Andy’s major goal for KFAI in 2014.

Susan Barrett 2013-14, VP Internal Affairs/Treasurer

Hello.  Like many of you, I find so much to appreciate at KFAI: the great music & knowledgeable hosts, the individuals getting involved to make music happen and to address the public issues in our community.  KFAI is community!  I'm Susan Barrett and have recently rejoined the KFAI Board after an eight year hiatus.  I'm a CPA, attorney and a long-time listener-member.  I look forward to helping establish a strong structure for KFAI to thrive in the upcoming years.

Mary Bensman 2013-14, VP External Affairs

My first brush with radio came at Marquette University where I was a broadcast journalism student.  I went on to print journalism and, eventually, public relations and marketing…all for nonprofits.  I love getting people in touch with goods and services that will expand their minds and improve their lives. KFAI is a perfect place for me to practice that.

In my current job, I market clinical services for Hennepin County Medical Center.  I know just enough about every dire disease to be dangerous.  I live in Southwest Minneapolis near Lake Harriet with my little dog, Leo.

I enjoy music of all kinds and the richness and variety of KFAI’s musical programming is what hooked me as a listener.  Working with the cool volunteers and staff keeps me going as a dedicated supporter.

Alan Carlson 2014-15

Being subversive by nature, Alan joined KFAI’s Board of Directors back in 2002 to do his part to fight the powers that be. He shared a passion for KFAI’s mission statement – giving voice to people ignored or misrepresented by mainstream media – and fostering the values of democracy and social justice. His KFAI listening experience began in the late 1980’s on Saturdays when his Dad would listen to Good n’ Country, and Alan would watch his Dad’s reaction when that show transitioned into the Lesbian Power Authority. What a wonderful juxtaposition of shows - and a direct example of promoting understanding between people that wouldn’t otherwise learn anything about each other! Alan knew that this was a different and unusual kind of radio station; shows like Fresh Fruit made him think differently about the world. He is still amazed by the quality of the music dj’s at Fresh Air; he has gained a deeper understanding of music through their passionate curation and knowledge – KFAI is irreplaceable!

Alan, a mechanical design engineer, grew up and still lives in St. Paul with his two kids, a girl, age 10, and a boy, age 12. He loves to get up north a couple of times per year to go camping and canoeing. He plays drums and bass with various odd characters and in a group that plays out occasionally.

In 2014, Alan’s goals for the board are seeing to it that the station remains healthy financially and, as a member of the outreach committee, he wants to better leverage the networks of our wonderful programmers by reaching new communities and organizations and making strong and long-lasting connections.

Gloria Castillo 2014-15


Chris Dronen 2014-15


Wendy Gaskill 2014-15, VP Governance

About ten years ago, Wendy was dialing around on her radio and bumped into this gem of a radio station. Wendy has found so much to love about KFAI: the Morning Blend with its mix of music and news; Tuesday’s Spoken Word; Good & Country. She’s delighted to be able to use her mobile app to get more listening time in.

Wendy joined the Board of Directors in order to put in volunteer time and to serve KFAI on an operational level. In 2014 Wendy was elected to serve as Vice President of Governance, which is a committee charged with the overall governance of the board itself, strategic leading and policy making. Wendy’s 2014 aspirations for the station and committee include: making more progress towards developing a diverse slate of officer candidates for this fall; planning a board retreat with an eye towards building a cohesive vision for KFAI in the coming years; making sure everyone’s voices are being heard – keeping our fingers of the pulse of the station; and working towards the financial and overall well being of KFAI.

Wendy is a Social Worker who works with high-risk pregnant women at Hennepin County Medical Center’s Birth Center. She lives with her partner, Sheila, in their home in South Minneapolis, along with one little dog. Wendy loves to relax by attending art gallery openings, meeting with people who share her interests, and has amassed a small North Shore watercolor collection. 

George Shannon 2014-15

George loves all things related to communications, and came to know about KFAI through a Tweet. He was inspired to join KFAI’s Board of Directors because he felt he could add value to KFAI and help get the word out about the station. George grew up in North Minneapolis and graduated from North High School in 1998, where he worked with their television and radio stations (KBEM). His early roots in his family’s church fostered a lifelong love for music – he feels music drives our emotions and is the antidote for just about everything!  

George is married with two children, Makhia, age 12, and Maezon, age 7. His family has a cat named Oliver, and his 7-year-old is lobbying for a puppy. George is employed as a Mentor with the White Bear Lake School District’s Change Equals Opportunities Program. He is currently coordinating a trip to Houston during 2014’s spring break with 25 boys in the 9th and 10th grades visiting area colleges, the Buffalo Soldiers’ Museum, and attending some basketball tournaments. George also coaches youth basketball and works part-time at Fifth Element Record Store, where he gets to meet lots of cool new people and listen to new music. He also loves to attend live music events – in his copious spare time.

Focusing on youth engagement, beefing up our website and ramping up our social media presence are some of George’s goals for KFAI during his tenure on the Board. Also, “Getting 10,000 new listeners, and collecting $1 or $2 from them in support.” He means it.

Barbara “Blanche” Sibley 2013-14 , VP Programming and Secretary

Blanche was searching for music she could “plug into” as a college freshman at the U. of M. in the spring of 1980. She came upon KFAI’s Larry Englund spinning “Hands Off, She’s Mine,” by the English Beat. She became a volunteer not long after, and in 1982 with college mates, started the morning drive-time show “Fubars on Friday.” Her various co-hosts all had “Fubar” names: Mavis, Oneida, Nick James, Hans, and Ralph. She retired “Fubars on Friday” for a little hiatus but was a frequent voice contributor on “Little City in Space,” and returned to KFAI’s airwaves in 1994 with “Fubar Omniverse.” She’s been on the air ever since.

Blanche was a member of the Strategic Plan Committee in 2010, and in 2011 was elected to the KFAI’s Board of Directors. Her overall goal for 2014 includes achieving more financial stability for the station. As Vice President of the Program Committee, her goals are to reinstate programming evaluations, be more data-driven in program decision-making, accomplish better integration with the Training Committee, work to build a culture where programmers help each other achieve success, and spread the word about KFAI programming.

The things near and dear to Blanche’s heart include technical writing, travelling, basketball and, of course, collecting music. Her love of cooking and gardening launched a line of adventurous herb and spice products. Blanche shares her home in St. Paul with her very sociable tabby, Bobo. She is famous for her elaborate and legendary Halloween parties.


John Slade 2013-14

John came to KFAI through media justice activism. He was one of the founders of the Counter-Propaganda Coalition, an activist group that was active during the run-up to, and the first few years of, the Iraq war. “We were holding Media Fairs, bringing together alternative and community media and peace and activist groups, and we knew we needed KFAI to be there” says John.

Since he’s been on the board, John was intimately involved with the SPLAN process – the in-house, grassroots strategic planning process that the Board is now using to guide the organization through our current challenges. He’s also served on the outreach, the nominations and elections, and the executive committees. (As well as volunteering with the news team for the 2008 RNC – now THAT was a trip!)

For most of the last few years, John has been working as a community organizer in the Frogtown and Rondo neighborhoods in St. Paul. He feels that the skills needed to make connections as an organizer can serve KFAI as we tie ourselves closer to the communities we serve. This kind of connection is the only way we will survive the current economic hard times.

Samuel Tekleab 2013-14

Non-commercial news, information and music not found at any other station. (And Democracy Now!) Those are the things that drew Samuel to KFAI and have compelled him to serve on KFAI’s Board of Directors. His hope for the station is to expand our reach to gain more listeners, and to continue to improve KFAI by serving on the Programming Committee. Samuel is working to support our foreign language programs. He feels that providing those programs with training can help them increase listenership and membership, and help them to feel more a part of the KFAI community. Samuel is very enthusiastic about our Sunday afternoon shows!

Samuel grew up in Ethiopia and came to Minnesota in 1984. He’s got many “crazy” stories to tell about his adventures as a Town Car Driver. When he’s not driving or being a Board member, Samuel loves to read about history (he’s a “history junky”) and watch a little television to relax. He lives in Woodbury with his wife and three children.


Barbara Vaile 2014-15

The world rocketed into a new future with the printing press. We are in such a moment, integrating the cosmos with personal relationships via computers - all of us self-organizing.  Amy Goodman at 8AM drew me like a magnet to KFAI. I co-create community by empowering individual wholeness. Raised suburbanite, I have lived off-grid, farm, small town, city, and world traveler modes. I am a former athlete, writer, grandmother -- midwife of possibility. I sojourn with the peace movement, independent media, Unitarians and Quakers and Buddhists, agricultural sustainability, YWCA, healing through wholeness. I am a huge Meg Wheatley fan. KFAI, with the 7th generation in mind, makes a space for us to dialogue, the highest use of the human mind. Feedback loops are critical to all systems - community evolves with listener participation in KFAI.

Patti Walsh 2013-14

The quest for cool music is what led Patti to Fresh Air Radio when she moved to Minneapolis in 1984. Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” was the first song she heard when she hit 90.3 F.M. She began volunteering at KFAI in 1986 and has hosted three programs, “So What?,” “Noise Factor Four,” and “Pop for the Unpopular.” She’s done just about every job a volunteer can do at Fresh Air, and was compelled in 2013 to join the Board of Directors. She is working on the Marketing Committee of the Board, putting her public relations skills to use in getting the word out about KFAI to the uninitiated – it infuriates her when someone doesn’t know about KFAI. KFAI should not be a secret!

Patti was born in New Jersey, but spent (or ”misspent” would maybe be more accurate) her formative high school years in the Downriver area of Detroit Rock City. She lives in South Minneapolis with her boys (one machinist and two canines.) She invades the KFAI airwaves whenever she can and is typically only heard after midnight, where she fits in as one of the denizens of the night.