Mediation Center is a recognized leader in the mediation and conflict resolution field. Established for over 30 years, and affiliated with the Dispute Resolution Institute at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, Mediation Center has a long reputation for excellence in providing direct services and training for professionals. A team of trainers/consultants, each with at least twenty-five years of experience, is led by experienced conflict resolution practitioner Aimee Gourlay.

Training participants learn to settle disputes, solve problems and manage decisions, enhance relationships and improve communication, negotiate with confidence, navigate workplace challenges, and hone leadership skills. Mediation Center training offers professional accredited ongoing education training for Rule 114 Roster Neutrals, attorneys in MN, LMFTs, and others. 

Aimee Gourlay, JD, CEO of Mediation Center, brings more than twenty-five years of experience managing mediation programs, designing and providing adult education in conflict resolution topics, and as a mediator/facilitator for complex issues with multiple parties.  She serves on the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution National Roster of Environmental Dispute Resolution and Consensus Building Professionals, on the senior facilitator and mediation panels of the State of MN Department of Administration Master Contract Program, on the umpire panel for the WI Department of Natural Resources for environmental remediation disputes, as a lead faculty member for MN CLE’s court certified Civil Mediation Skills course, and was the MN Supreme Court ADR Ethics Board’s Consultant between 2005 and 2018.

With expertise in providing facilitation and other conflict resolution assistance to people who hold diverse worldviews, Aimee mediates and facilitates resolution of workplace issues, public policy concerns and organizational problems.  Her clients include corporations, non-profit organizations, professional associations, state and local governments, and educational institutions.  Her work includes conflict assessments, process design consulting and mediations.  Examples of the broad range of the topics in Aimee’s experience include: conflict resolution for teams within state and local government, facilitation of nonprofit organizational dispute resolution processes, development of and facilitation for community advisory committees;  design and management of community comment processes; mediation to address systemic racial discrimination claims; process design to decide allocation of public resources; legislative policy making dialogue; and mediation of  environmental disputes.  She is also on the team for Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Services’ which focuses on organization-wide collaboration; and served on the EEOC panel of mediators and the United States Postal Service EEOC State of Minnesota Department of Human Rights mediator panels.

Aimee is a Qualified Neutral under Rule 114 of the General Rules of Practice for the MN District Courts, and she graduated Cum Laude from the University of MN Law School.  She teaches Organizational Conflict Management Systems Design and Family Mediation Skills at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, MN, where she is a Senior Fellow at the nationally ranked Dispute Resolution Institute.

MEDIATION CENTER TEAM (Click for pictures and bios)

Abdi Ali

Abdi Ali, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Multicultural Mediation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration and a Certificate in public Dispute Management from Hamline University.

Karen Irvin

Karen Irvin, PhD, LMFT, received her bachelor’s degree from Ball State University, majoring in secondary education. After teaching at the secondary level for six years, she obtained her master’s and doctorate in Family Social Science from the University of Minnesota. She worked with Hennepin County Court Services Domestic Relations Division for six years, serving as a mediator, counselor, and custody evaluator, and worked in a supervisory capacity for four years. Dr. Irvin has been in private practice as the owner and director of Minnesota Mediation & Counseling Center since 1981. She recently retired from her clinical practice in which she specialized in working with separating and divorcing individuals, couples, and families, providing mediation, parenting consulting, custody evaluations, and closure therapy. She has also provided mediation and parenting consulting workshops and training throughout the United States and internationally. Dr. Irvin was on the marriage and family therapy faculty of Argosy University for six years, and is currently adjunct faculty at St. Mary’s University. She is the past Chair of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Ethics Board. Dr. Irvin’s current professional focus is teaching, training, and consultation.

Stephen Blair Venable

Stephen Blair Venable, is a management consultant, attorney, and author of the book entitled “The Commencement Odyssey: Why We All Have a Stake in Transforming the American Workplace.” In addition to having had a successful career as a corporate attorney, he has successfully owned and ran a $23 million business, ran a nonprofit organization representing 300 minority-owned businesses across the Upper Midwest, and was a member of a congressional trade delegation to the Middle East. 


Jennifer Joseph


Jennifer E. Joseph is an attorney; however, her practice focuses solely on providing neutral services in family law matters. Ms. Joseph specializes in helping parents resolve custody, parenting, and co-parenting disputes through her work as a mediator, parenting coordinator, parenting coach, custody evaluator, and SENE (social early neutral evaluation) provider.
Ms. Joseph is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. In addition to her private ADR practice, she serves as an adjunct professor of family law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and provides training through the Mediation Center. Ms. Joseph presents regularly on family law and ADR issues to professional associations and organizations across the country. Ms. Joseph a long-time member of the international Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC), and begins her term as President of the Minnesota AFCC Chapter in July 2020. She is also on the Board of Directors for Overcoming Barriers, a non-profit organization dedicated to finding more systemic solutions to families experiencing parent-child contact problems.


Tobin Lay

Tobin Lay is the city administrator for the City of Birchwood Village, MN. Lay earned his Juris Doctor, International Business Negotiations Certificate, and Certificate in Advocacy and Problem-Solving from Hamline University School of Law; and his MBA from Hamline University School of Business.

Sia Lo

Sia Lo is an attorney and mediator in MN.  He has partnered with Mediation Center to train and support a project that brings culturally appropriate mediation for Hmong families in the MN court system for the past twenty-five years.

Susan Mainzer

Susan Mainzer is an attorney and experienced alternative dispute resolution practitioner, trainer, retreat facilitator, workplace coach and organizational development consultant.  Susan is recognized for her expertise in helping people in highly conflicted relationships and from diverse backgrounds reach agreements.

Mark McCrea

Mark McCrea, was Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Services and mediated and arbitrated workers’ compensation claims for the MN Department of Labor and Industry.  He has also mediated special education and civil rights mediation in MN and partnered with Mediation Center to develop its EVOLVE model for addressing worldview conflicts. 

Katherine Nevins

Katherine Nevins, Ph.D., is a Professor of Psychology at Bethel University offering courses in gender studies. She is a family mediator and trainer, and has mediated community, civil rights, and vocational rehabilitation issues.  She has served on the Minnesota Department of Education’s Special Education panel since its inception.

Andrea Niemi

Andrea Niemi, JD is the owner of Andrea Niemi Dispute Resolution LLC, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In practice since 1982, Niemi has a broad range of experience in family and juvenile law. She received her BA from Macalester College and her JD from William Mitchell College of Law. She currently limits her practice to alternative dispute resolution in family and juvenile law matters, including mediation, parenting consulting and parenting time expediting. Niemi is past president of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the Friends of Children Foundation and the Collaborative Law Institute. She is an adjunct professor of family law at William Mitchell College of Law and has served as an adjunct professor at the St Thomas School of Law. She is a frequent lecturer at various state and national continuing legal education seminars. She previously served on and was chair of the Minnesota ADR Ethics Board. She has been named one of the top 40 Family and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Lawyers in Minnesota, one of the top 100 women lawyers in Minnesota, a Super Lawyer, a Minnesota Leading Attorney and has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America.

Milt Thomas

Milt Thomas is an Organization Development Specialist for the State of MN where he designs, coaches and facilitates continuous improvement efforts and other large and small group projects and meetings, especially when conflict is present. He also developed and teaches the annual leadership academy, manages the employee engagement program, and consults with and coaches employees at all levels. He teaches Leading Through Change for Hamline University graduate programs; graduate courses for the Opus College of Business and workshops for the Executive Education and Business Excellence program at the University of St. Thomas; Communication for Metropolitan State University; and, taught courses in leadership, interpersonal skills, gender and communication, and training and development for St. Catherine University. Milt also spent many years as a lead trainer and volunteer mediator for Dispute Resolution Center in St. Paul, MN.

Ellen Velasco-Thompson

Ellen Velasco-Thompson was first trained as a rehab. nurse working catastrophic cases.  She moved into mediation/arbitration formally with workers’ compensation.  She has done family co-mediation, business mediation, but spends most of her time now as a special education mediator.  She is a former Litigation Manager at Honeywell and the Director of Risk Management & Claims at the City of Minneapolis.  Currently, she is an independent consultant, trainer and mediator with a specialty in helping people problem solve issues across cultural divides.