Through a partnership with Rotary Club of Crookston, Minnesota’s Polk County, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and CareerForce, the University of Minnesota Crookston will soon offer groundbreaking skills training to help develop the next generation of rural professionals. The NXT GEN Ag pilot is intended for students who are currently in the workforce and may have had some previous higher education experience. The initiative’s pathway is aimed at personal development, communication skills, and leadership techniques that can lead from a certificate into a four-year degree. 

A significant scholarship that will cover 75 percent of course costs for the first cohort of students was made possible by a grant the Rotary Club of Crookston received from Polk County for job training assistance. Employers that have access to dual-training grants may help further reduce the rest of the cost or cover it completely.  

“After significant research and focus groups, this new group of courses will address gaps in skill sets of rural workers as identified by regional employers,” Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause explained. “The course pathway will be tailored to returning adult learners to help them to advance in their careers, engage with their communities, and persist in further post-secondary education.”

“This effort makes a positive impact on the community and supports the goals of Rotary,” adds Macey Buker, president of Crookston Rotary. “The courses will provide a new set of skills for professionals and improve the local economy by educating the workforce in essential job skills. Partnering with the university makes sense to provide the opportunity to expand skills that are needed by regional employers.” 

NXT GEN Ag pilot courses, which are scheduled to begin November 7, 2022, follow a pathway that includes seven classes to be taken online in an asynchronous pattern meaning one after the other. Course titles include Emerging Leaders Success Seminar, Personal Leadership, Introduction to Creative and Innovative Thinking, Foundations of Business and Technology, Problem Solving and Decision Making, and Community Engaged Project, plus an upper level elective of choice for a total of 21 credits. Students will also have one-on-one meetings with faculty and access to peer tutors. 

To apply or for more information, visit or contact Alyson Leas, director of admissions, at or call (218) 281-8576.

Story Contact: Jess Bengtson