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Class VIII alumna Krista Willis started the morning of day two off right with a presentation on Dressing for your Leadership Roles. Not only did Class IX get some hard answers about different kinds of dress, we also learned that current class member Steve Hoffman makes an excellent model. (Sadly, we have no picture here.)

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The mid-morning focused on the context for leadership. Dr. Kent Olson from the University of Minnesota shared about what is happening in agriculture throughout Minnesota and Ellen Wolter, a research scientist from Minnesota Compass, spoke about the demographic composition of our rural spaces. Small groups responded to the presentation by mapping the environment for ag and rural in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Significant Others of Class IX had a conversation facilitated by Kami Anez (Jared Anez, Class VII) and Chad Willis (Krista Willis, Class VIII), on how to be prepared for the dynamic and demanding schedule for the next 18 months.

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Class IX members had the opportunity to hear how other local Willmar leaders have impacted the agricultural and rural landscape in Minnesota with a tour to Nova-Tech Engineering. Nova-Tech leaders shared how they moved from a two-person company established in 1992 to a group that now had equipment in over 300 hatcheries in more than 46 countries and six continents while staying rooted in rural Minnesota.

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The afternoon ended with a lesson on dining etiquette and a meal to practice, highlighted by Keynote Joanna Schrupp, Business Developer for MinnWest Tech Campus, who highlighted the innovative leadership at work to keep the business park connected to the community and thriving.

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In addition to all of these firsts for Class IX, MARL had a first as well – the decision to cancel the last day of the seminar due to white out conditions from a blizzard! The decision highlighted other aspects of leadership – being in it for the long haul and looking out for the community’s welfare.


Joanna Schrupp

We had a great kickoff to Class IX and are even more excited for December’s seminar in Marshall.

Seminar Management Team (SMT) member Ryan Wendland introduced Ms. Schrupp with this poem

Driving toward the Lac Qui Parle River

I am driving; it is dusk; Minnesota.
The stubble field catches the last growth of sun.
The soybeans are breathing on all sides.
Old men are sitting before their houses on car seats
In the small towns. I am happy,
The moon rising above the turkey sheds.
The small world of the car
Plunges through the deep fields of the night,
On the road from Willmar to Milan.
This solitude covered with iron
Moves through the fields of night
Penetrated by the noise of crickets.
Nearly to Milan, suddenly a small bridge,
And water kneeling in the moonlight.
In small towns the houses are built right on the ground;
The lamplight falls on all fours on the grass.
When I reach the river, the full moon covers it.
A few people are talking, low, in a boat.
Robert Bly, “Driving toward the Lac Qui Parle River” from Silence in the Snowy Fields (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1962). Copyright © 1962 by Robert Bly. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: Selected Poems (1986)

The new MARL Class IX met for the first time at the MinnWest Tech Campus in Willmar, MN to begin their 18-month leadership development journey. This first seminar focused on the orientation to MARL, getting to know each other, and ways to understand leadership. Executive Director Olga Reuvekamp and Board Chair Cheryl Glaeser welcomed the class, Jim Tate of SMSU snapped the first (of many) group pictures, and then Mike Liepold and I began the exploration of leadership. The inspiration was palatable, as rightfully tweeted by Mary Kay Delvo, member.


How do we define leadership? What qualities are part of good leadership? Who in our lives display those leadership characteristics? And, prompted by the late Dr. Robert Terry, what kind of leadership choices shape the ways we lead?


With these questions rattling around the room, class members then went into Willmar to meet with local leaders and hear their takes on leadership. Class IX members met with local business owners, a conservationist, community developers, an agronomist, and a Dean of a college to learn how these leadership choices have impacts in different contexts.


Emcee Harmon Wilts (Class III) introducing MARL alumni


Dr. Connie Gores, President of Southwest Minnesota State University, welcoming the audience

The first night ended with a social and banquet where alumni and other MARL friends joined Class IX to build the network further. Emcee Harmon Wilts, Class III, and Keynote Speaker Glenn Leitch, CEO of Jennie-O Turkey Store, challenged everyone in the room to think about how we apply our leadership to our rural communities and the field agriculture. Alumni Steve Olson (Class II) and Lara Durben (Class VI) shared a message from the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association/Research & Promotion Council – banquet sponsor. A great fit with our turkey dinner and the upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving.


Keynote Speaker Glenn Leitch, CEO Jennie-O Turkey Store