It didn't take her long to start immersing herself in the community.
First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your family, education, background/previous stops, career, etc.?
Chancellor at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. Prior to that -- dean of agriculture at Cal Poly Pomona, from 2014-2018. Before moving to California I was the first Vice President for Economic Development at the University of Connecticut (UConn), where I provided leadership for existing and new economic growth initiatives in the state.
From 2006-2011, I served as the Associate Vice President for Extension and Outreach and Director of Global Programs at Iowa State University (ISU), While at ISU, I was the founder of the virtual Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC), established in 2002. AgMRC is a multi-university consortium of value added ideas and knowledge gathered online to supply critical production, technology and business development. Received a B.S. degree in agricultural business, a Masters of Public Administration and a Ph.D. in agriculture education all from ISU.
Reg and I have a farming operation in central Iowa. We have three daughters, Alexis and her husband Jason, who are farming in Iowa and have six kids. Daughter Ebban and Phil both work for Caterpillar in Geneva, Switzerland and have two daughters who love to ski and ice skate. Our youngest daughter is Celia. She is an engineer for General Mills in the Cities. She and her friend Ian have two grand dogs.
We like to kayak, travel and hike. I like to swim and ride my bike.
When you interviewed for the UMC chancellor position, one person standing next to me mentioned that you had worked all over the country. But then another person jumped in, quick to note that you’d spent much of your career in Iowa and said that you were “practically one of us,” apparently, as in a Minnesotan. In your view, are people who call the Upper Midwest and the Northern Plains home unrivaled when it comes to that regional sensibility? Do you see it as a quirk to be proud of? Or do you think people need to broaden their horizons a bit?
Yes it is a quirk to be proud of. I came from a small place, as do many of our students. But our philosophy at UMC is that we live IN the world. I have found that perhaps because we are “fly over zone,” we go out of our way to be connected to the world. We have and are connected to the world in ways that perhaps other regions are more insular.
While I have lived on both coasts I have found that Midwesterners really are connected globally, at times more than those who live on the coasts. We know for instance that what happens to the weather in Brazil affects our prices today in Fertile.
You’ve had time to get your feet wet as the leader of the U of M Crookston and as a high-profile face in the Crookston community. What are some things that have surprised you about Crookston and its people? What about things that haven’t surprised you in the least?
Really no surprises. I lived in a small town for most of my life. I love the rhythm of the seasons, the community celebrations and the pride of the community. The genuine friendliness of the people in Crookston and their commitment to the community and the university is a treasure.
There are a lot of cities and towns in Minnesota, obviously, but only around a handful of them are home to a University of Minnesota campus. Do you think enough Crookston residents appreciate how fortunate they are to live in a community that has one of those campuses?
I think many people appreciate the relationship between the town and “gown.” We certainly are excited when people from the area attend our arts, culture, lectures and sports events. Our students provide an energy to the community through their presence, service learning and other interactions such as the “Dine Around Town.” Hosting sports tournaments and campus is another strong and natural interaction. With our new wellness center and other sports facilities we have capacity to provide venues and always appreciate the community utilizing the facilities. The more people we have on campus, the more people will see the unique aspects of the campus and tell others.
If you had a dollar for every time someone has mentioned to you the need to connect the campus more with the community and connect the community more with the campus, how many dollars do you think you’d have?
But, seriously, how does the Crookston community and the U of M Crookston campus become more connected with each other?
I think we all recognize we are stronger together and there are more opportunities to collaborate. The partnership with the community to have a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) here is a wonderful example of us working together for a common good.
We at the University appreciate it when organizations contact us and want to involve our students in their work. For instance recently the Polk Department of Health wanted the assistance of our students to help educate people about radon testing.
We need to be very aware that each of us is stronger if we work together.
Several UMC Golden Eagle athletic teams have made significant strides and built excitement among their fans and the community. But football continues to be the most obvious, highest-profile struggle. Any ideas on how to turn that around, or at least win some football games?
I have so enjoyed watching our student athletes. Our athletes are tremendous students too. If fact the cumulative GPA is over 3.0, something to be immensely proud of. While winning football games has been a challenge—I am an optimist. We now have stability in our coaching staff and the recruiting went well.
Do you have any vision for what you think Ed Widseth Field will look like in 10 years? Such as, artificial turf? Track removed? Any insight on that?
Right now in conjunction with the community members the Athletics Department is undergoing a strategic planning process. I anticipate when they have completed their plan we will see some new ideas, plans and thoughts about what our future is looking like.
On one hand, there’s the crowd that says future successes, financially and otherwise, means having at least a four-year college degree. Then, on the other hand, there are those who say not everyone is cut out for the typical, academic-based higher-education experience, and that they’d be better off pursuing a skill or a trade. Where do you come down on all of that? Is there some kind of a happy medium? And how can a place like UMC help a broad spectrum of audiences somewhere within that happy medium?
Every person needs to follow their likes and passions. Helping students recognize though that ultimately they need to be psychologically and financially independent from their parents is a big step. If our students don’t know what they want to do, we first talk about what they like to do, where they have talents and what types of occupations combined those. A four year college is a good economic choice. Over a lifetime, according to the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco, a college graduate can expect to earn around $800,000 more on average than if they never went to high school The globalized job market is hyper-competitive, and a four-year degree is increasingly a base requirement that’s necessary just to get your foot in the door for an interview.
Setting aside the monetary argument, perhaps a more worthy measurement of a four-year college degree is the reported self-satisfaction that degree holders express about their employment. Eighty-six percent of millennial college graduates view their current employment as a career or a “stepping stone to a career.” In contrast, 57 percent of millennial high school graduates feel that way. Furthermore, high school graduates are three times more likely to describe their employment as “just a job to get by.” You cannot quantify the sense of purpose and fulfillment an individual gets from the meaningful employment that a college degree provides.
We offer affordable tuition and are very hands-on. Our students have multiple job offers when they leave.
Do you possess any quirky or unique talents, skills or habits that people outside of your inner circle are most likely unaware of? Care to share any?
I have a passion for working and helping in agricultural development projects. I’ve worked in many countries around the world helping to strengthen their agricultural extension service or entrepreneurial agricultural efforts.
Quirky or unique? I am a baton twirler and even impressed my kids and grandkids recently.
Describe where you think/hope you'll be in 10 years, or what you think/hope you'll be doing, personal life-wise and career-wise.
Oh it is the old where do you see yourself in five years question. I don’t know. At my age health dictates where my life may take me. I hope to be healthy and continue to be actively engaged with my family and profession in some type of capacity.
Please describe yourself in ten words or less
(When I left CA, my colleagues did a Moodle (the more the word is used—the bigger it is on the chart. . Here are the top 10 words they used to describe me… please acknowledge the source – others (not me))
Adventuresome, kind, driven, entrepreneurial, creative, grower, innovative, whimsical, determined, humble