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Mitch Pearlstein, Ph.D.
Founder & American Experiment Senior Fellow

Mitch Pearlstein's new title is Founder and American Experiment Senior Fellow, having served until 2015 as the Center's president for its first quarter century.  Before his 1990 return to the Twin Cities, Dr. Pearlstein served for two years in the U.S. Department of Education, during the Reagan and (first) Bush administrations, where he held three positions, including Director of Outreach for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement.  Just prior to his federal service in Washington, Dr. Pearlstein spent four years as an editorial writer and columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, where he focused on foreign and national affairs.

He also has been special assistant for policy and communications to Gov. Albert H. Quie of Minnesota; a research fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota; assistant to University of Minnesota President C. Peter Magrath (pronounced Ma-grah); director of public information at Binghamton University; a reporter for The Sun-Bulletin, again in Binghamton; and a columnist for CityBusiness and Twin Cities Business Monthly.

Complete biography and archive of publications.



Kim Crockett
Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President & General Counsel 

Kim Crockett is American Experiment's Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President and General Counsel. Prior to joining American Experiment, Kim served as corporate counsel to a national bank and had a long legal career in commercial real estate law. She enjoyed a decade at home with her young children before returning to the law and public policy. She has consciously built her career around options that maximize flexibility so she can still be “Mom” while making a contribution.

Kim, who is an enthusiastic student of the American Revolution and the written U.S. Constitution, has been a member of the Federalist Society since 1984 when she founded the student chapter at Penn Law in Philadelphia. She is currently Chairman of the Minnesota Lawyers Chapter. She has a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Minnesota and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (Penn Law ’87).  Kim is a retired two-term member of the Deephaven City Council and former chairman of the five-city Excelsior Fire District. She served Governor Tim Pawlenty as an appointee to Minnesota Compensation Council and the Minnesota Supreme Court as member of the Committee on Minnesota’s Code of Judicial Conduct.

Kim “has issues” with relaxation, but when she is not reading or working, she might be found on the Lake or on the slopes -- depending on the season. She is a devotee of Pilates despite the attendant jibber jabber. She is a huge fan of Minnesota author, Vince Flynn, and his Mitch Rapp series.

Archive of publications

Peter Nelson    

Peter J. Nelson
Director of Public Policy 

Peter J. Nelson is the Director of Public Policy for Center of the American Experiment, a public policy and educational institution that develops and promotes policies to build a culture of prosperity for Minnesota and the nation.   As the Director of Public Policy, Peter provides strategic direction and coordinates the development and promotion of American Experiment’s public policy research.   His research and writing focuses on health care, energy, and state tax and budget issues.  He regularly consults with state policy makers on these and other important issues of state and local governance.  His commentaries regularly appear in the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and other local newspapers across Minnesota.  Currently, he serves on the Minnesota Health Care Financing Task Force created by the 2015 legislature and governor.  Peter received his B.A. in economics from Wheaton College and a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School where he was a member of the Minnesota Law Review.

Archive of publications

Kathy Kersten    

Katherine Kersten
Senior Fellow

Katherine Kersten, a writer and attorney, is a Senior Fellow at Center of the American Experiment. She was a founding director of the Center, and its chairman from 1996 to 1998. Katherine has served as both a Metro columnist and an opinion columnist at the Star Tribune (Minneapolis), and has written on cultural and policy issues for publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard,First ThingsChristianity TodayPolicy Review and American Enterprise.. For two years, she served as a regular commentator on National Public Radio. Katherine has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including those hosted by Hugh Hewitt and Laura Ingraham. She also has been featured on Fox News and MSNBC, among several television outlets. Katherine is, along with Mitch Pearlstein, the author of “Close to Home,” a collection of columns on a wide variety of public policy issues. The center has published a number of her monographs on education.  A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Katherine holds a masters degree from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Archive of publications


Samantha Peterson
Deputy Development Director

Samantha Peterson is Center of the American Experiment’s Deputy Development Director. Samantha, also known as “Sam” or “Sammie,” began her career as a paralegal at a Minnesota law firm with an eye toward becoming an attorney. After twelve months, however, her interest in public policy led her to Mike McFadden’s U.S. Senate campaign headquarters where she offered to volunteer. She subsequently earned the opportunity to interview with the Finance Director, Kristen Sheehan, and was hired as Deputy Finance Director. As Sam enjoys planning events and engaging with people, fundraising has given her the perfect outlet to use her talent.

Sam is a graduate from University of Denver (DU), earning a B.A. in Political Science. During her time at Denver, she was involved in student government and studied abroad at the University of Sydney for a semester. Sam’s love for meeting people and exploring the unexpected is evident in her post-college life. She has traveled to Corsica, France for work, volunteered to build houses in Honduras, and is a current hospice volunteer for the Mayo Clinic.


Kristen Sheehan
Development Director

Kristen Sheehan comes to the Center off of running Mike McFadden's finance operation where she coordinated raising over seven million dollars for a first time U.S. Senate candidate. Kristen has a decade of experience in political, business and non-profit organization. From the Iowa caucuses to Senator Norm Coleman's 2008 campaign. Kristen excels in organizing for her clients and achieving measurable goals for the organizations she believes in. She spent five years at one of the top Public Affairs firms in the Twin Cities where she represented clients in numerous states on issues ranging from the Keystone Pipeline to the economics of the hunting and shooting sports industry.

She has a B.S. in Music from North Central University, and while she hasn't taught in ten years she periodically practices Chopin nocturnes in her free time.

When not actively staring at data or working the phones for the Center, Kristen can be found in a yoga studio or at a baseball field with her kids. She resides in Stillwater with her husband and kids (...and Pixie the cat).

Favorite quote:

The last of human freedoms, the ability to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, the ability to choose one's own way. --Viktor Frankl


Dwight Tostenson
Chief Financial Officer 

Dwight Tostenson is our Chief Financial Officer and oversees the business operations, staff and fundraising at the Center.  He also serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Intellectual Takeout a completely separate 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to educating and mobilizing the public about individual and economic freedoms.  Tostenson received his B.S. in Business Administration and a B.A. in Economics from Winona State University.

Peter Zeller    

Peter J. Zeller
Director of Operations
Peter . Zeller @ AmericanExperiment . org

Peter Zeller is our Director of Operations and has been involved with the Center nearly from the beginning, joining the staff in 1993.  He studied Speech-Communications, History, and Business at the University of Minnesota and has been involved in the conservative movement in Minnesota for nearly 30 years.