The University of Minnesota Crookston’s NXT GEN AG program’s first cohort of students recently completed their coursework and were presented with certificates at a September gathering on campus. Seven of the nine students, who represent various businesses and organizations around the region, attended the event in person or via Zoom.

The NXT GEN AG program was an initiative designated as a priority through the University of Minnesota System’s strategic planning process, MPACT 2025. This plan was developed through the insights of the Board of Regents, campus chancellors and deans, the University president, and other leaders in the UMN system. Chancellor Mary Holz-Clause volunteered to take the lead for NXT GEN AG on the Crookston campus.

“With a growing global population, the agriculture, food, and natural resources industry is transforming in ways never imagined,” explained Director of Strategic Initiatives Teresa Spaeth. “Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource (AFNR) positions are among the fastest growing in demand, but also among the fastest in transforming to modern practices. This takes leadership that can readily accept change and help others to see their place in the future.”

“Our charge was to develop a modern, relevant, educational program that encouraged the most promising students, especially adults, to explore their future in AFNR careers,” she added. “Wanting to incorporate coursework that could be immediately implemented in the workplace, we held statewide focus groups with employers from the smallest on rural main street to the largest AFNR companies in our state. The result was the NXT GEN AG certificate program.”  

NXT GEN AG’s first cohort of students who were present at the September gathering shared information about themselves and offered comments about the program:

  • Jesse Bushelle - location manager for Cenex Harvest States at the Erskine Grain terminal. “The knowledge that I gained through the NXT GEN AG program I am using right now in my current role. My future plans for continuing my education are still open for discussion.”
  • Samantha Deseth - sponsored projects administrator for the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. “I plan to use my learning to kickstart my bachelor’s degree in Accounting. What I gained from the program was a solidification of real world work experience, explained and taught through various means that were research based and grounded on best practice. A major takeaway for me was how simple making a large community impact can be, when broken into actionable steps focused on our customer(s).”
  • Mark Emery - operations supervisor for CHS Northern Grain in Greenbush. “I plan on using this knowledge to help me get a better understanding of the business side of the company and to help me work through different problems that may arise in the future. I plan on furthering my education by continuing online to get my bachelor’s degree in Management.”
  • Anthony Lane - controls system technical lead for New Flyer of America. “I lead a team of engineers who fix and implement programs for the buses in several different facilities. I have a team in Crookston, Winnipeg, St. Cloud, and Anniston, Alabama. I plan to use my education to be a better leader in my current position. I also plan to work towards my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.”
  • Justin Meyer - operations manager for CHS Northern Grain in Warren. “The knowledge I gained through the NXT GEN AG program has inspired me to become a better leader for my colleagues and help guide them towards becoming the next generation of leaders for CHS.”
  • Jessica Osborn - admissions associate for the University of Minnesota Crookston. “After completing this certificate, it is important to me that I use what I have learned within my workspace and community. The coursework had me look a little deeper into my own personal development skills, the power of using effective communication, as well as how to put new leadership techniques into action. My goal is to inspire and motivate others to make a difference.”
  • Chad Stevens - building official for the City of Jefferson, Iowa. “I have been able to use the skills learned through this course to be able to take on additional responsibilities with my job. During the summer semester I started taking classes from a local community college and have continued classes this fall; planning to work towards a bachelor’s degree.”

“We are grateful to Polk County and the Crookston Rotary Club, who provided tuition assistance to supplement this pilot program,” Spaeth shared. “Without this support, we would not have been able to conduct a pilot program giving our students a tuition discount, and, in return, allowing us to ask for ongoing impressions and insights from our first students.”

The University anticipates the next cohort for NXT GEN to move forward in Fall 2024 after they’ve had a chance to get feedback from the first cohort of students and employers, and make suggested updates.

NXT GEN AG first cohort of students receive their certificates

Samantha Deseth