Deb and her husband Rob Kupec reside in the Historic Comstock Neighborhood in Moorhead. Their son Quinn graduated from Moorhead High School in 2016 and is studying aerospace engineering at University of Maryland, College Park. Deb enjoys gardening, biking, and camping with her family. She is also a very enthusiastic but SLOW runner! She has completed the Fargo Marathon, six half marathons, and about fifty other 5K and 10K races in the last five years.

Commitment to Public Service

Deb has a deep and long-standing commitment to public service. In 2001 she established NEW Leadership Northern Lights, a regional public leadership program for women. The program places particular emphasis on serving women from traditionally underrepresented communities, in order to broaden the voices at the table when important decisions are being made. Since 2004, over 600 regional women have completed the program.

Graduates have gone on to run for public office, lead nonprofit organizations, and develop projects benefitting their communities such as an air ambulance service in Linton, ND, a parent-teacher association in Frazee, MN, and a container garden program in the Fargo-Moorhead area to help new American families access healthy food. In addition to leading NEW Leadership Northern Lights, Deb has served for nearly ten years as a member of her union’s government relations committee. As a government relations representative, she works with state government officials to promote progressive public policies such as access to affordable, quality higher education and support for organized labor.

Proven Leader and Innovator

While finishing college, Deb and her husband purchased a small business that provided coffee service to offices and stores in the greater Albany, New York area. Even though they were young and inexperienced they jumped into the work with enthusiastic, can-do attitudes. They strived to make the most of limited resources and eagerly sought new and innovative ways to better serve their customers and expand their business. By the time they sold the company in 2000 they had achieved a six-fold increase in their customer base.

In her second year as a faculty member at MSUM, Deb read an announcement from the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) inviting colleges and universities to join the NEW Leadership Development Network, a national network of public leadership programs for women. She felt strongly that such a program would benefit our community and decided to submit a proposal. Shortly before she was to submit it, the call for proposals was rescinded because of a lack of funding.

Not one to be easily deterred, Deb contacted representatives at CAWP and convinced them that they should continue. Even though Deb had no fundraising experience, she assured them that she would find a way to fund our regional program. She was successful at persuading them and this year NEW Leadership Northern Lights celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Deb has led efforts to raise over $375,000 for the program to date to support the training of over 600 regional women. The program has received honors including a 2008 YWCA of Cass-Clay Women of the Year Award for a Business or Organization that Empowers Women.

In 2013 Deb was invited by the Obama administration to represent the program at the White House Conference on Girls’ Leadership and Civic Engagement.

Work and Professional Experiences

  • Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at MSUM since 2000
  • Founder and coordinator of NEW Leadership Northern Lights, public leadership program for women (2001- present)
  • Former small business owner (Gold Eagle Coffee Service)
  • Moorhead Planning Commissioner (2011-2015)
  • Proud union member since 2000 (IFO public employee union)


  • A.A.S., Business Administration, Broome Community College, Binghamton, NY
  • B.A., Economics, State University of New York at Albany
  • Ph.D. Sociology, State University of New York at Albany