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Andre Koen        

Program Director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Mayo Clinic Rochester

Andre Koen is an energetic presenter, a powerful communicator, and a dynamic teacher.

Andre integrates his abilities as an improvisational comedian, large group facilitator, keynote speaker, and classroom teacher to captivate and educate his audience.

There are many words that define Koen: Educator, student, improvisational comedian, speaker, activist, facilitator, coach, mentor, leader, team member, community organizer, diversity trainer, motivator, friend and son; The most representative, however, is, Andre, the Enkindled Spirit'.

Andre Koen, the son of a Black Panther-turned-preacher, was talking about people reinventing themselves. He recalled a confrontation with a stranger who assaulted him with a racial slur.

Koen is the Anoka County cultural coordinator and a motivational speaker whose clients have included the Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association, the Centennial Lakes School District and the New York Knicks. Intelligent and savvy, Koen has dealt with all kinds -- including a chicken farmer, whose beet-red face, alcohol-scented breath and struggle to maintain any semblance of balance suggested he'd strayed beyond his limit.

The farmer told Koen he didn't like black people -- only, Koen recalled, the man didn't say it that politely.

Koen, 39, is a tall, angular man with dreadlocks, a disarming smile and a simple philosophy: "We recycle minds." Instead of walking away or sparring verbally or physically with the farmer, Koen sat down with him. When their conversation was over, the farmer wrote his name and phone number on a napkin, handed it to Koen and told him to call if he ever needed chickens or fresh eggs.

"Andre just defused a situation in our office an hour ago, with a woman and her son who walked in here expecting to get jobs," said Melanie Ault, Anoka County director of human services. "Andre stepped in and very clearly addressed the mother, then the son, and developed a rapport very quickly.

"Other staff just watched and marveled. He has a way of turning awkward situations into very positive experiences."

Koen has been honored by the National Association of Human Rights Workers as its Worker of the Year, and he has received the American Red Cross Marketing and Community Presentations Volunteer of the Year awards for community service.

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