I’m excited to have been selected to become a board member of the metropolitan center for independent living MCL! This organization does such a good work in the distally community and I’m honored to have an asked to sit on the board to help continue to drive the organization, and be the best I can for the community of people of disabilities.

NEWS RELEASE February 21, 2024
For more information, contact: Jesse Bethke Gomez, MMA, MCIL Executive Director
Phone: 651-603-2012 | Email: jessebg@mcil-mn.org

Metropolitan Center for Independent Living welcomes
Mai Thor and Joan Willshire to its Board of Directors

ST. PAUL: The Metropolitan Center for Independent Living (MCIL) is pleased to announce two new
members have been appointed to its Board of Directors. They will join current board members,
providing strategic guidance, valued perspective, and expertise in oversight of the non-profit
organization. Guided by its mission of Removing Barriers, Promoting Choices, MCIL has assisted
people with disabilities in living their most independent lives for more than 40 years. Serving the
seven-county metro area through a wide range of services, programs, resources, partnerships, and
advocacy, MCIL is among the largest Centers for Independent Living in Minnesota.

New board members:

Mai Thor: Having advocated for disability rights for more than 20 years, Mai brings a deep-seated
commitment to justice, equity, and inclusion. As a person living with a disability and a leader who has
helped design more accessible and inclusive systems for people with disabilities, she has brought
meaningful change to the community. A 2021 recipient of a Bush Fellowship and awarded a residency
with the College of Liberal Arts Engagement Hub at the University of Minnesota, Mai is working to
develop a community-informed disability justice framework to incorporate into social justice systems
throughout Minnesota. Mai received her Bachelor of Arts from Augsburg University and a Master’s in
Nonprofit and Public Administration from Metropolitan State University. She has worked with the
Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and non-profit
agencies to advocate and advance disability community concerns and engagement.

Joan Willshire: With a passion and mission to advance disability inclusion and equity, Joan brings a
depth of personal and professional experiences to her work. From disability rights, autonomous
vehicles, transportation, healthcare, and emergency preparedness, she has deep knowledge of the
issues impacting the disability community. Joan served as Executive Director of the Minnesota
Council on Disability (MCD) for 15 years and has an acute understanding of navigating complex
public policies across multiple state agencies, legislators, committees, and Governors’
administrations. She has championed disability rights and worked to transform policies and practices
across Minnesota. Author, Speaker, Change Agent for Disability Inclusion, and President of Willshire
Consulting, Joan currently works with businesses and organizations to embrace an intersectional,
equity-driven approach to disability inclusion, citing how diversity and inclusion drive innovation,
collaboration, and success.

“We welcome this ‘dynamic duo’ to the MCIL Board of Directors,” said MCIL Board Chair Beth
Fondell. “Mai Thor and Joan Willshire bring impressive backgrounds, proven leadership, and deep
commitments to the causes and concerns of the disability community. We are so pleased to have
them join us in our continued work. I look forward to their contributions in advancing MCIL’s mission of
Removing Barriers, Promoting Choices, in assisting individuals with disabilities to live their most
independent lives.”

MCIL Executive Director Jesse Bethke Gomez, MMA, shared, “MCIL is honored that Mai Thor and
Joan Willshire have joined our distinguished Board of Directors. The MCIL board is deeply dedicated,
and I welcome the addition of these two extraordinary individuals and all they bring to complement our
current board. Their combined experiences and advocacy are inspiring, and their input will be pivotal
in supporting the board’s work and our mission. We are profoundly grateful for such a wealth of
expertise and guidance to help position MCIL for a promising and productive future.”