What are the odds three University of Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagle alumni would end up working under the same roof? Pretty decent when you have the same or similar majors, it turns out.
Aaron Larsen 2007, who majored in wildlife management and natural resource management, began working for Pheasants Forever in Fergus Falls, Minn., in 2008 before transferring to West Otter Tail Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) in 2013. Jonah Olson 2011, majored in natural resources and law enforcement, started working for West Otter Tail SWCD in 2016, and Jake Nelson, who majored in wildlife management, worked for Pheasants Forever since graduating from UMN Crookston in 2015 but has since accepted a position with West Otter Tail SWCD.
Jonah Olson 2011
Olson grew up in White Bear Lake, Minn., and is a resource conservation technician and county ag inspector for West Otter Tail SWCD. Olson said he really enjoyed his natural resources professors at UMN Crookston and his overall experience was great.
“I got to cross over from natural resources and take a lot of criminal justice courses, too,” Olson recalled, adding one of his favorite professors was Dave Seyfried.
Olson originally went to school to pursue becoming a conservation officer, but ended up with a career in a different area of natural resources law enforcement administering the Noxious Weed Law, Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act, and Minnesota Buffer Law with the district.
When Olson wasn’t doing schoolwork, he was playing drums in the band that he and other ‘NatR’ students formed called “Mucky Peat.” They played shows for several years in Minn., N.D., and Wis., and that’s how Olson said he got to know a lot of people. Members of Mucky Peat included Olson, Jeff Wilson 2014, DJ Salquist 2014, Paul Anderson 2011, Jake Anderson 2011, and Chris Evans 2011. Olson added he and his bandmates/friends have a reunion every summer.
Olson met his wife, Megan Van Slobig 2015, at UMN Crookston and they were married in September 2021 at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Fellow alum, Derek Savage 2011 and Paul Anderson 2011 were groomsmen in their wedding.
“Both Jake and I have been asked to sit on a committee for the natural resources program where they bring in professionals and alumni to discuss the past performance of the department and how professionals in the field could offer suggestions on how students could learn from the program,” Olson shared.
Jake Nelson 2015
Nelson, who grew up in Lake Park, Minn., and is currently a farm bill technician for West Otter Tail SWCD, said one of the main reasons he transferred to UMN Crookston was because of professor John Loegering and watching Loegering work with students at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge.
“I had a lot of respect for him and what his students did, and I got to know him as a professor,” Nelson recalled. “I connected with a lot of the students I had classes with, and some of them are working in the area I’m at as well.”
“I also worked a lot with (associate professor) Phil Baird,” he added. “He worked his magic and got a lot of us that transferred in to graduate on time, and found classes that met the right criteria.”
Nelson and his wife, Micayla, were married in October 2022 West Glacier, Mont., and fellow UMN Crookston classmate, Pat Hagen 2015, was a groomsman in their wedding.
Aaron Larsen 2007
Larsen, who grew up in Morgan, Minn., is currently the district manager for West Otter Tail SWCD, said he enjoyed Crookston’s small campus feel and the natural resources department overall. He recalls crossing paths with many other alums who graduated from UMN Crookston and likes the camaraderie he has with his fellow colleagues.
“A majority of us had the same professors; both Dan Svedarsky (professor emeritus) and John Loegering were influential,” Larsen shared. “John steered me in the right direction and encouraged me to take internships out of state and get a variety of experiences before graduating.”
“I appreciated the accessibility of faculty while at UMN Crookston,” he added. “I remember after my summer internship concluded, I came to campus in August and my advisor was not there. I was able to find Phil Baird who took the time to sit down with me and he basically rerouted my remaining two years, and refocused my track toward graduating. If you went to a large university, I doubt you’d receive the same attention.”
Nelson and Olson echoed Larsen’s sentiments saying UMN Crookston accessibility was more appealing to him than the other bigger university he previously attended.
Next up for the trio of alum at West Otter Tail SWCD is to get ready for spring planting season, continue to address erosion control with private landowners, and assist landowners with Conservation Reserve Program signups.
Written for the March 2023 Torchlight e-Newsletter