Twenty-seven people have been selected to participate in Rural Leadership North Dakota’s ninth class.
Rural Leadership North Dakota (RLND) is a North Dakota State University Extension leadership development program. Beginning in November, participants will spend 18 months developing skills to help them shape the future of their organization, community and state.
Class IX participants include producers, farm assistance program representatives, educators, city and county officials, health-care and bank personnel, a pastor and a communications specialist.
Those selected for the 2019-21 class are: Stephanie Blumhagen, Bottineau, N.D.; Charlie Sorenson, Ross, N.D.; Shana Forster, Minot, N.D.; Karen George, Watford City, N.D.; Christel Laskowski, Minot; Tom Jones, Wyndemere, N.D.; Paula Moch, Braddock, N.D.; Becky Peterson, Mandan, N.D.; Kylee Merkel, Bismarck, N.D.; Kelly Richardson, Dickinson, N.D.; Dantae Anderson, Lemmon, S.D.; Jasmin Fosheim-Turner, Hettinger, N.D.; Eric Muller, Hillsboro, N.D.; Julie Johnson, Hillsboro; Seth Erickson, Galesburg, N.D.; Donna Georgeson, Michigan, N.D.; Fayme Stringer-Henry, Grand Forks, N.D.; Collin Voeller, Grand Forks; Kayla Lawson, Buffalo, N.D.; Susan Milender, Valley City, N.D.; Emily Alm, Streeter, N.D.; Sandy Franke, Jamestown, N.D.; Elicia Jacobson, Mandan; Andrea Nelson, Valley City; Kayla Miller, Wahpeton, N.D.; Kristina Dick, Englevale, N.D.; Kerri Kraft, Bismarck.
“Rural Leadership North Dakota is the premier statewide leadership program in North Dakota,” says Marie Hvidsten, RLND program director.
RLND includes in-state seminars with experts; tours of agricultural and community businesses; out-of-state trips (Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis in 2018) to meet with agricultural, business and government leaders; and a trip to another country (destination to be determined) to learn about international agricultural and community issues. Previous classes visited Brazil, Costa Rica, Panama, Thailand, Vietnam and Chile.
The program helps participants enhance leadership skills, such as thinking critically and creatively, communicating effectively, self-awareness, decision making, strategic planning and managing conflict. Participants also learn about agricultural and rural policy, the agricultural economy and future trends that could affect North Dakota, finding innovative ways to fund local and regional development projects, marketing, civic engagement, the value of coalitions and partnerships, industry and community advocacy, and how to work with the state Legislature.
In addition, participants create a network of contacts and resources they can continue to tap into for ideas, answers and support long after they graduate from the program. They also will practice the skills they learn by creating a project that benefits their operation, business, organization, community or region.
Class VIII participants created opportunities for community members and consumers to learn about agriculture and its impacts on the community, state and world; helped develop a forage management program for local producers; turned empty buildings and lots into a once-again useful spaces; branded and marketed their community or county to bring more visitors and new residents to the area; organized an event to empower women with knowledge and tools to improve their farm and ranch operation; increased community knowledge of concussion prevention and recovery; developed affordable rodeo clinics to give youth a taste of what rodeo competition and life on a ranch are like; created a mentorship program to ease the transition from college to the workplace by connecting young employees with senior industry leaders; started a Backpack Program to meet the weekend nutritional needs of students struggling with hunger; and planted a community orchard.
“With this experience from RLND, I have been able to challenge myself to be a better person and leader in my professional and personal life,” says Class VIII participant Kasey Bitz of LaMoure, N.D. She is a teacher and owner of Bitz Farms.
Since RLND began in November 2003, 166 people from 78 communities in 39 counties have graduated from the program.
“Starting a new RLND class is an exciting time for the 27 class IX participants,” Hvidsten says. “They will meet other North Dakotans who want to have an impact in their industry, organization and community. Class IX participants are beginning an experience that will take them across North Dakota, the U.S. and the world.”