News Release

Defining the Future: Chancellor Holz-Clause Takes the Lead

By Elizabeth Tollefson on
Thursday, July 13, 2017

Growing up on an Iowa farm the youngest of five taught University of Minnesota Crookston Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause that when the occasion calls for it you have to stand up for yourself. And, while it might have helped make her tougher growing up, it also taught her that muchChancellor with students can be accomplished when you work together.

Her style of servant leadership adheres to the adage that you not ask others to do what you are unwilling to do yourself. Throughout her career, Holz-Clause has found there is always room within a role to be an entrepreneur. “We all are leaders and capable of leading within the space in which we work,” she says. “Today’s actions help define our tomorrow, and as the chancellor, I look forward to working with the faculty and staff to define not only who the University of Minnesota Crookston is today, but who we will become in the future.”

As Holz-Clause settles into her new role, she comes to it well prepared to lead. One of her earliest jobs was running political campaigns, and when they were finished, she worked as a vocational agricultural teacher. Her career would take her around the world as she led international trade missions for the Iowa Department of Economic Development and served as vice president for economic development at the University of Connecticut (UConn), where she oversaw initial development of the UConn Technology Park in Storrs, Conn., and created an Office of Economic Development, garnering millions in outside contracts.

Prior to stepping into her role as chancellor, Holz-Clause served as the dean of the Huntley College of Agriculture and as a tenured professor in the Department of Agricultural Business Management and Agriculture Science at California State Polytechnic (Cal Poly) University Pomona.

 Mary with Beth Novak“While I was not necessarily aspiring early in my career to work in administration, I love what I do today because of the opportunity I have to work with great people who are witnesses to the transformative power of education,” she says.

“The power of education to change lives is one of the things that attracted me to the role of chancellor at the U of M Crookston,” she continues. “Once I met with students and heard about their experience on this campus, I knew I wanted to do what I could to grow both resources and opportunities for the students here.”

For Holz-Clause the most influential person in her career has been Stanley Johnson, the vice provost for Iowa State University Extension and an internationally acclaimed agricultural economist. “He was so engaging, so entrepreneurial, and he had the ability to push people to be more than they thought they were,” she reflects. “His love of life was contagious. He truly pushed the entrepreneurial window for me and he is the leader I want to emulate.”

Her bookshelves are lined with books on leadership and management, but she also enjoys reading for pure pleasure.

She recommends one of her most recent reads—The Perfect Horse by Elizabeth Letts, which relates the story of a covert rescue operation during WWII by U.S. Army cavalryman, Colonel Hank Reed, to save some of the world’s finest purebred horses destined to be slaughtered by theMary Holz-Clause approaching army.

Like this story of courage and a willingness to go beyond the call of duty, Holz-Clause is ready to work hard, to be an advocate for the campus, and to help define the future of the University of Minnesota Crookston. 

Additional Background

After earning her B.S. in Agriculture Business, a Master in Public Administration, and a Ph.D. in Agriculture Education and Extension there, Holz-Clause spent 25 years working at her alma mater. During that time, she helped ISU Extension become a dynamic engagement and outreach partner across Iowa, the U.S. and the world.

An internationally-known researcher and speaker, Holz-Clause has served as principal investigator on contracts and grants totaling more than $40 million in the last decade, with extensive background in agricultural development and policy. She also was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the California Department of Food and Agriculture Advisory Board, the primary advisory board for the $100 billion agriculture industry in California.

The University of Minnesota Crookston now delivers 34 bachelor's degree programs, 23 minors, and 40 areas of emphasis on campus as well as 14 degree programs entirely online.  These degrees are offered in the areas of agriculture and natural resources; business; liberal arts and education; and math, science and technology.  With an enrollment of 1,800 undergraduates from more than 20 countries and 40 states, the Crookston campus offers a supportive, close-knit atmosphere that leads to a prestigious University of Minnesota degree.  "Small Campus. Big Degree."  To learn more, visit

In the photos:

Top, right photo, left to right, are Junior Maggie Mills, Chancellor Holz-Clause, Junior Bethany Novak, and Senior Daija Williams.

Middle, left photo: Chancellor Holz-Clause walks across campus with Junior Bethany Novak. 

Bottom, right photo: Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause


Elizabeth Tollefson

University Relations