About the Norlien Foundation

The Norlien Foundation initiates strategic projects
to enhance the quality of life for all Canadians,
particularly those living in Alberta.

Created in 1997, the Norlien Foundation is a proactive private foundation with offices in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta. The Foundation is active in knowledge translation and mobilization, professional development and training, applied research, evaluation, and networking. It has established partnerships with numerous national and international organizations working in the areas of childhood development, addiction, and mental health. The Foundation initiates strategic projects to enhance the quality of life for all Canadians, particularly those living in Alberta.

Norlien Foundation Staff


Dr. Michelle Gagnon – Vice President

Michelle Gagnon holds an interdisciplinary doctorate (PhD) in population health from the University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Canada) and is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine. Her research focuses on public policy and policymaking and in particular the role of the state in global health. She also has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) and undergraduate degrees in liberal arts and nursing.  Michelle began her career as a nurse and worked in a variety of health care areas. She also spent a number of years working at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research where she occupied several roles including Assistant Director with the Institutes of Population and Public Health, and Health Services and Policy Research, Director of Knowledge Transition and Director of Research Capacity Development. Michelle comes to the Norlien Foundation from Alberta Health Services where she was the Director, Provincial Research Strategy and Priorities focusing on Alberta’s new Strategic Clinical Networks initiative.

Kim Ah-Sue – Program Officer

Kim Ah-Sue has a Bachelor of Business Management from McGill University (Montreal, Canada) and a Master of Science in International Development from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (London, England). Her Master's thesis examined the disparities in access to education across China and the implications for gender equity. Kim's professional experience includes work in the following areas: environmental and social impact assessment, stakeholder consultation and regulatory permitting in the extractive industry; factory sustainability assessments for clients in the information and communication technology industry; environment, health, and safety due diligence audits in the printing and packaging industry; and the design and implementation of training workshops on Corporate Social Responsibility issues. Kim joined the Norlien Foundation in January 2010 and is managing projects in the Early Childhood Development and Addiction programs, including the Supporting Father Involvement Alberta Pilot Program, the Children’s Mental Health Science-Policy-Practice Network, and several education and professional development initiatives with the Betty Ford Institute and the Hazelden Foundation. Kim has worked in Canada, the United States, and the People's Republic of China and is fluent in English, French, and Mandarin.

Carolyn Collins – Acting Program Officer 

Carolyn Collins holds a bachelor of laws from the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, Scotland), and a bachelor of arts from the University of Calgary (Calgary, Canada). She also studied International Politics at the University of Copenhagen (Copenhagen, Denmark) as a precursor to her degree in law, with a focus on framing global political interplay to better predict strategic decision-making. Carolyn’s professional highlights include Project Director to the Alberta Provincial Breast Cancer Program Chair, and planning committee member for Positively Pink, a non-profit education event to increase public knowledge of breast cancer. Carolyn has been with the Foundation in varying capacities since 2010, and is now managing the Foundation’s Supporting Father Involvement Alberta Pilot Program, along with her work for the Foundation’s General Counsel. She also has a long-standing history of volunteerism, including cancer prevention initiatives, equine rescue, and pet visitation therapy. Carolyn has travelled extensively and spends much of her spare time in the UK and Finland.

Marisa Etmanski – Director, Edmonton Office

Marisa Etmanski is a senior communications professional with extensive public relations, government relations, and policy management experience. She has provided strategic and tactical communications counsel to the former Premier of Alberta, Chief of Staff, members of Executive Council, ministry staff, and the Government Caucus on policy issues and implementation of communication initiatives.

Desiree Francis – Program Assistant

Desiree Francis holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Kinesiology from the University of Lethbridge and has been involved in the health and wellness industry for over 10 years. Her interest in health and wellness has led her to work in both the United Kingdom and New Zealand, resulting in a secondary passion for travel. Upon her return to Canada, Desiree played an integral role in the opening of the newest YMCA in northeast Calgary, where she then served as the Aquatic Director. As Program Assistant with the Norlien Foundation, Desiree is excited to expand her knowledge and put her years of experience to use. She also continues to work part time in fitness and instruction.

Suzanne Kear – Controller

Suzanne Kear holds a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Connecticut. In addition to her academic qualifications, Suzanne is certified as a Chartered Accountant in Canada and a Certified Public Accountant in the United States. She joined The Norlien Foundation’s accounting team six years ago. Previously, Suzanne worked in a high tech start up and in the natural gas marketing industry, but began to specialize in Foundations 12 years ago. Overall, Suzanne has 30 years of experience – working for five years in public accounting and then as a Controller for 25 years in both Canada and the United States.

 Dr. Nicole Sherren – Scientific Director & Program Officer

Nicole Sherren is a behavioural neuroscientist with a background in experience-based brain development, neurodevelopmental disorders, and developmental brain injury. She received her PhD in Neuroscience from Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada) and was awarded the inaugural Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research/NeuroScience Canada postdoctoral fellowship, which she held at the Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge. Nicole has worked both in academics and in industry and maintains an ongoing consultancy with an Ottawa-based pharmaceutical company. She joined the Norlien Foundation in 2007 to focus on translating scientific knowledge into policy and clinical practice. She currently manages the Foundation's addictions program and scientific research grants and sits on a number of working committees that support addiction-related community initiatives and evaluation projects in Calgary. Nicole also enjoys volunteering as a Board Director for Calgary Alpha House Society, a detoxification centre, shelter, and housing program for homeless individuals whose lives are affected by chemical dependencies and mental illness.

Kathryn Shimbashi – Office Manager & Conference Coordinator

Kathryn Shimbashi has a career background in marketing and print and broadcast media, after studying performing arts at MacEwan University College, economics and communications at University of Alberta, and broadcast journalism at British Columbia Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Norlien Foundation team as Office Manager/Conference Coordinator in January 2012, Kathryn worked at two Global Televsion Stations (Edmonton and Vancouver), CITY-Television (formerly Chum Limited) and the Calgary Herald. With a mandate to support national and international events, along with local charities within the City of Calgary, her volunteeer and work contributions involve working at two Commenwealth Games, several Grey Cup events across Canada, as well as being a former member of the Calgary Herald Christmas Fund Selection Commitee and the Canadian Progress Club.