This past Wednesday was the start of MARL Class X’s second session at Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU) in Marshall, MN, for me it was my first MARL experience. The past month has been full of changes for me and my family that have brought up challenges and growing opportunities for us. During the first MARL session my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world, our oldest daughter was transitioning from only child to big sister and I was beginning my MARL experience. Prior to the second session Christy and I were able to have a conference call to go over the items that I missed during the first session and the theme that stuck with me most was the fact that Christy and Eriks were going to force us to challenge ourselves and step outside of your comfort zone and into the growth zone. That theme of challenging ourselves resonated throughout the entire second session and started right away on day one!

To ease us into the first day of session one we started with lunch that included SMSU’s President Dr. Connie Gores and Marshall Mayor Robert Byrnes as our guests. Dr. Gores gave us an overview to SMSU including its student body, it program offerings and its importance to the Marshall, SW Minnesota and Agricultural Communities that it serves. It was interesting to learn about SMSU’s international footprint and their concurrent high school enrollment program. Mayor Byrnes provided the group with an overview of Marshall and how important the town is to SW Minnesota and how important agriculture is to Marshall.

After lunch, I was able to give my 90 second introduction to the rest of Class X and then we got rolling into the seminar. Our MN State geography was challenged right away when we were tasked with finding our State and Federal Representatives for our upcoming St. Paul and Washington DC seminars. Christy and Eriks challenged us to set up a meeting with an organization in DC that has opposing views to our own. I am looking forward to this aspect of our DC seminar as it will force me outside my comfort zone and will open me up to how other individuals view issues that I am passionate about.

After a quick class photo, I may be biased but this is probably the best looking MARL class, we dove right into Emotional Intelligence. I have heard of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) prior to attending this seminar but have never been able to partake in an EQ assessment, I believe this to be true for most of the class. I will summarize EQ with one of the quotes that was provided to us during the seminar, “Emotional intelligence is an array of capabilities, competencies and skills that influences one’s abilities to succeed in coping with environmental demands” (Reuven Bar-On 1997). Those skills include self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. After reviewing a sample EQ assessment many of us were hesitant to see our own EQ assessments, I know I was. However, after some time to digest the assessment, the assessment gave me a clear picture on where I excel in handling the environmental demands and where I need improvement.  We then meet in small groups, our Leadership Coaching Teams, to start to build our trusting relationships. Within my group I know we will challenge each other to break old habits and develop our EQ skills to better handle the environmental demands. I would like to thank Catie Rassussen for being our EQ guide and providing us with some outstanding information that will benefit the entire MARL Class X.

The evening was capped off by a banquet at SMSU, where MARL alumni, SMSU students and other guest joined us. The banquet was emceed by Brian Brandt, MARL Class 1 “the premier class” as Brain stated it. The key take away I had from Brian’s comments were about the network that we were becoming a part of and how we were already a part of it. I think this will be the most beneficial aspect of the entire MARL experience, not only will I get to know my 29 Class X cohorts, but I will become a part of a community that is 300 strong. That to me is impressive. The evening was concluded with a key note by, by Brian Knochenmus, CEO and Owner of Ralco. Mr. Knochenmus challenged us as well during his key note. For our session two pre-work, all of Class X were asked what are the major challenges facing agriculture and rural Minnesota? One of the most common responses were that we as an agricultural community do not tell our story well enough, which I whole heartily agree with. However, Mr. Knochenmus challenged us to think differently on that issue. He told us we need to relate our story to the consumer and the outside world’s story. We can not just tell our story we have to tell everyone how our story impacts their story and so on.

Grant Crawford (Class X) was challenged with blogging for day two, but I know that we were all challenged throughout the entire second session to take a deeper look at how our actions and attitude can impact those around us.

Submitted by Ben Mussehl – Cloquet, MN


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