CROOKSTON, Minn. - When Lynette (Amundson) Flage first arrived on the campus of the University of Minnesota Crookston, a two-year technical college in 1981, she never imagined the career that would be in store for her. Flage initially had the vision of being a family and consumer science teacher. The development of the family, and the home, and educating others always excited her. It just so happened her career turned down a different path, but still with an important lifelong emphasis on education. Flage has made a career as an extension educator and is currently serving as the Associate Director for North Dakota State University Extension.
Flage, a Red Lake Falls-native, had been very involved in the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) at the Red Lake Falls High School, and when it came time to decide on her next step, she found her way to the University of Minnesota Crookston and the Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management program.
“I have always felt strongly about the development of the home and the family,” Flage stated. “Whether it was family resource development, food and nutrition, or human development, they were all important life skills. I highly valued the work, and highly valued those courses. The fact that Crookston was nearby and had the opportunity for Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, I knew I could learn more and it could help me bring nutrition and human development together.”
After finishing her two years at UNM Crookston, Flage attended the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to complete her bachelor’s degree in home economics education. Her path toward becoming a teacher changed near the end of her time at UND after she had the opportunity to back-fill a position in extension for Grand Forks County. That opportunity changed the trajectory of her professional life.
“I back-filled for an extension agent in the family and consumer science area, and I loved it,” Flage remarked. “That was it, extension is what I wanted to do. I love that we can help people and this brought me back to my roots of feeling strongly about teaching others to have skills for life. I found extension to be an amazing opportunity.”
Though she went a different route with her career, Flage still holds her time at UMN Crookston dearly. One major takeaway from her time in Crookston, was the importance of customer service.
“My time at UMC instilled many core values, including the importance of building effective teams, and always providing exceptional customer service,” Flage stated. “Those are ideas I continue to value and talk about to this day within extension. When in Crookston and taking the restaurant operations course, I recall conversations about the importance of the team as well as great customer service to those that attended the restaurant scenario we provided. Regardless of what business you are in, teamwork and customer service are important.”
Flage’s career in extension has been at a variety of levels, including at the county level as an agent, and a specialist, working on special projects. A project she continues to hold close to her heart was entitled “Horizons,” where the focus was to build local leaders to help reduce poverty in communities.
“One of the most rewarding projects I was a part of during my time in Pembina Country was Horizons,” Flage said. “Horizons involved working with eight other states in the northwestern United States, a territory that spanned from Washington and Oregon in the west, to Minnesota and Iowa in the east. The project was a partnership with the Northwest Area Foundation for a 10 year period, and the mission was to build local leaders to reduce poverty in rural communities. We had 46 communities in North Dakota that got involved, and I had the opportunity to lead this and partner with many other extension professionals from the eight states, as well as staff at the Foundation. We were able to do great work in our communities through leadership development and capacity building for people and communities. It was such a rewarding project for me and while it ended in 2010, people from the communities involved still talk about it. I feel really good about the work we were able to do to help build leaders working to further develop healthy, thriving places.”
Flage’s focus within extension has changed slightly now that she is in a leadership capacity at NDSU. She misses the direct educational opportunities she had while serving in a county and as a specialist with Horizons, but now she has the opportunity to work with the entire NDSU Extension community.
“We have close to 250 people across North Dakota doing extension work,” Flage stated. “What is most rewarding for me now, is that I get to share the great impacts extension personnel have, along with the public and private value they provide. I am very proud and honored to be able to serve the organization in this way and do not think I would have been prepared for this leadership role if I hadn’t been involved in the multiple positions I’ve had in extension. Starting my career in a county, transitioning to specialist work and then to mid-management have all helped me in this role as associate director for NDSU Extension. Having all of these opportunities within the organization has helped me be able to talk about the incredible work that goes on in this system, in a way that is passionate, and is heartfelt.”
While Flage’s journey may have been different than originally planned, it has been a phenomenal one full of rewarding experiences. She never saw this opportunity within extension coming, but it has been a fulfilling time in her life.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams I would have the chance to do this, but am excited that I can help share this important work across the state. Our mission at NDSU Extension is to empower people to change their lives and communities through science-based education, and because this mission and experiences are so rewarding, it makes it easy for me to come to work every day. Every day brings something new and exciting.”