Category Archives: Leadership

Celebrating Graduates and 10 Years of Great Lakes Leadership Academy

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) graduation and 10-year anniversary celebration. First, I’d like to congratulate all of the graduates of the program, especially our very own Imelda Galdamez, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension health and nutrition educator.

“The Great Lakes Leadership Academy has helped me believe in the power of leading from love, leading authentically through conflicts, trusting the process of change and working collaboratively across differences,” Imelda said. “As GLLA’s states on their website, ‘The value of people working together is greater than the sum of what they can accomplish alone. When power is shared and diverse voices are heard, solutions are more likely to benefit the community as a whole.’”

I’ve heard nothing but good things from the more than 400 participants like Imelda who continue to live GLLA’s mission statement by promoting positive change, economic vitality and resource conservation, and enhancing the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good.

The GLLA began with the aid of a planning grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It allowed the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), MSU Extension and Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station (now AgBioResearch) to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders who represented communities and the food system, agriculture, manufacturing, natural resources and environmental sectors of the economy to collaborate on the elements of a leadership training program. The result was a program that presents leadership concepts in the context of current issues and brings together current leaders in government, nonprofits and industry to broaden their perspectives about key sustainability issues and consider how leadership for the common good can influence Michigan’s future.

I was thrilled when MSU CANR Dean Ron Hendrick asked that we move the management of GLLA to MSU Extension. GLLA has been developing and empowering leaders since its first cohort was formed in 2007, so it is a perfect fit with the work we do through the leadership and civic engagement work team within the Greening Michigan Institute.

We’re looking forward to welcoming GLLA into the MSU Extension family and the ability to shape the direction of developing and empowering Michigan leaders for the next 10 years and beyond.

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Strategic connections take time: Reflections from D10

Andy Northrop, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator, works with communities statewide to create and maintain sustainable communities using tourism and economic development. He is the chair of the tourism team for our Greening Michigan Institute (GMI), and he is also on the government and public policy work team. Andy has built connections over the past two years by consistent networking and needs assessment in the communities where he serves.

“I have a personal passion for social change and sustainability,” Andy said. He also gives credit to his GMI colleagues and their programming for building trust in communities around the state through their track record of facilitating the rebirth of rural communities. “I have learned that strategic connections and anticipated outcomes take significant time,” he reflected. “Although we want to see change today, being patient and confident success will come is all part of the process.”

In St. Clair County, in MSU Extension District 10, Andy built a relationship with the St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) and The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce. The EDA and the Chamber of Commerce became partners in hosting the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in 2016. Their collaboration on the conference brought together planning agencies, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, private investors, nonprofits, educational professionals, and a number of partners and interested citizens in seeing Port Huron’s rebirth and vision for fostering a culture to support entrepreneurs. The conference drew 138 people, who traveled from two countries, five states, 27 counties and 58 communities.

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Andy, like many of you, works to create connections across the state as well. He has developed key partnerships with Region 6 of Gov. Snyder’s Prosperity Initiative (RPI 6), which comprises seven counties across MSU Extension Districts 9 and 10. One key partner in RPI 6 is Genesee County Planning, which has been instrumental in strengthening our relationship by employing GMI’s tourism team to deliver four First Impressions: Assessing Your Community for Tourism (FIT) programs during 2017.

FIT, officially offered in 2017 for the first time, assesses communities through the eyes of first-time visitors. Four teams of four educators from GMI will conduct unannounced assessments as tourists to four communities across RPI 6 during the spring and summer of 2017 and work directly with their community leadership teams to strengthen their rural tourism industry potential.

This program was adapted to Michigan by modeling from program partnerships with five Northeast Central for Rural Development land-grant universities. It will be the first of its kind to be offered under Extension in partnership with a prosperity initiative.

The four successful communities will also receive state funding from RPI 6 to implement the suggested results from assessments. In 2017, the program is already serving as a cross-workgroup program within GMI. The tourism team envisions this being a cross-institute/Extension-wide program where experts across all four institutes can be tapped to move rural community tourism development forward.

“Overall, these partnerships have positioned GMI and other institutes as reputable partners in areas related to business and economic development, sustainable tourism and placemaking,” Andy said.

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New College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Announced

Ronald L. Hendrick will be recommended as dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. If approved by the MSU Board of Trustees, Dean Hendrick’s appointment will be effective July 1, 2016. We are excited to welcome him back, as he is an MSU alumnus who earned both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from MSU in forestry and forest ecology.

Photo of Dean Ron Hendrick.

Dean Ron Hendrick from Ohio State University  begins July 1, 2016 with approval of the Board of Trustees. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

Dean Hendrick currently serves as interim dean for the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Science at Ohio State University(OSU). He has extensive experience, as he has served OSU since 2013 in a variety of roles, including as senior associate dean and director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources. Before that, he was associate dean for academic affairs in the D.B. Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia (UGA). He was also graduate program coordinator for UGA’s School of Forestry.

His research program has focused on forest ecosystem productivity and element cycling, especially below ground, and various aspects of ecosystem restoration and reclamation. His teaching experience includes leading a number of study abroad programs in the South Pacific, including New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Antarctica.

At OSU, Hendrick led the creation of a comprehensive master plan for college facilities that totaled $350 million and encompassed more than 300 physical structures, two campuses and nearly a dozen outlying research and outreach stations. Additionally, he led successful fundraising efforts to raise $14 million in capital funds to improve facilities, and an $80 million multi-stakeholder effort to re-envision the college’s animal populations is underway.

Dean Hendrick will be a tremendous addition to Michigan State University and the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources. His appreciation for the values of a land grant university and significant experience as a scientist, program builder and leader will make us all better. From my conversations with him to date I know that he is a strong proponent and supporter of Extension who will work closely with us to adapt and grow programs throughout Michigan.

We look forward to welcoming him into our college and showing him the important work his fellow Spartans are doing throughout the state.

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Coordinator named for District 11

Richard Wooten

Richard Wooten

Ever since Richard Wooten took over the interim district coordinator position in District 11 for Michigan State University Extension in August, he has exhibited a strong track record with stakeholders in southeastern Michigan. Because of the unique needs of the district, it was important that we could find an experienced leader to serve in this role for the long term. It has become clear that Richard is the right person for the job. He has accepted a direct appointment, effective April 1.

Richard began his tenure with MSU Extension as an educator with the Government and Public Policy Team in the Greening Michigan Institute. It was his decade of experience in land use planning, community and economic development, public policy, and economic development, which set him up to be a great candidate to fill the space. Marie Ruemenapp, outgoing district coordinator, and Edward Scott, district coordinator intern, assist him in building strong relationships with staff members, county officials and stakeholders.

District 11 serves the three most populated counties in Michigan. Richard’s experience, expertise and knowledge in the district will help us further our mission. Richard told us that he is excited to have the opportunity to continue building relationships within the district with county government, industry, human service organizations, agribusiness, youth-serving organizations and other potential partners of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. In this new role, he will also have an opportunity to provide guidance, encouragement and support to the work of MSU Extension faculty educators and staff members as they enhance Extension’s mission and programs.

Please help me officially welcome Richard to his new position, and thank Marie and Ed for continuing their supportive roles!

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Representing MSU Extension and AgBioResearch to the state Senate

Last week, members of Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch administration had the opportunity to testify before the Michigan Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee and the Michigan House of Representatives Agriculture Committee. We were lucky to be able to state our case to both committees, highlighting MSU Extension programming and our impacts on the state.

The reason we testify in front of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee every year after the governor’s budget proposal comes out is to ensure that the state Congress will understand our impact when they consider voting for or against the proposal. This year’s budget proposal recommended that we receive a 2 percent increase in funding – this is great news, and a whole tenth of a percent higher than the rest of higher education. This year, we also testified before the Agriculture Committee, and a big thank you to Mike Kovacic for opening that door for us with that committee.

George Smith, associate director of AgBioResearch, and I testified before the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee at Central Michigan University. I was part of the team that testified for the House Agriculture Committee in Lansing; others included Mike Kovacic, director of stakeholder relations; Doug Buhler, director of AgBioResearch; and John Baker, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine; with an assist from Kelly Millenbah, associate dean of the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Our testimonies to the committees were very well received – they were very interested in hearing about the very great work that you are all doing. In this case, I’m just the messenger, whereas you are all out there doing the work, and thank you all for having such great stories to tell. There will be another opportunity to testify in front of the Michigan House of Representatives Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee next month. We anticipate that it will be just as successful.

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Leadership academy application deadline approaches

A great opportunity exists for you – but you must act by Sept. 30 to seize it. The Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) seeks applicants for the 2014 Emerging Leader Program and 2014-15 Leadership Advancement Program. This news release gives details on both programs.

The academy helps develop the next generation of leaders in the areas of communities and food systems, agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing and the environment.

Rita Klavinski, Michigan State University Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute, is a 2008 graduate of the Leadership Advancement Program. Rita believes her time with the academy was time well spent.

Rita said, “The program was a life-changing experience for me, both personally and professionally. The work that I am doing now in community food systems is a direct result from my issues team project. The academy provided a vast array of cutting-edge leadership content and experiences that I continuously use in my leadership roles. Personally, I became more aware of my ability to be an advocate for others and be a servant leader.”

The GLLA will accept applications now through Sept. 30 for both programs at Partial scholarships are available from GLLA for both programs to help offset the cost for those with demonstrated need. Direct questions to Vicki Pontz at or at 517-432-8685.

To learn more, visit

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Extension colleagues take part in leadership session

Several of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues took part in a session of the North Central National Extension Leadership Development (NELD) workshop held in Chicago Jan. 23–26. The session, “Understanding Our Roles as Leaders,” was the first of four sessions scheduled for 2013 exploring leadership and facilitated by the University of Minnesota Extension.

NELD’s mission is “to build leaders in Cooperative Extension at all levels and provide them with the vision, courage, and tools to lead in a changing world.”

The program helps the participant to develop leadership skills on a personal level and then use those skills to improve the effectiveness of extension programming.

The first session, an intense introduction to leadership, included developing facilitation skills and techniques, and working on team and consensus building.

Each participant did a self-assessment of emotional intelligence, which evaluated the leadership style each feels most comfortable using. In times of stress, people default to this style. When facing a difficult situation, people are less likely to use the leadership style they tend to be weak in. The program concentrates on getting participants to strengthen the weak areas so they have a variety of strengths to use in various situations.

Each participant also developed a personal philosophy of leadership and a plan of work in the leadership field to learn and implement in the upcoming year.

Participant Kelley Hiemstra, MSU Extension District 4 coordinator, had this to say about the experience: “The first session of NELD was fantastic. I look forward to the entire program and I am sure that it will assist me in my leadership roles.”

Besides Kelley, other participants from MSU Extension included Extension educators Eileen Haraminac, Erin Lizotte, Kendra Moyses and Kendra Wills.

Each are assigned to core groups of four to continue the work between sessions and act as mentors and coaches to each other. Each group consists of Extension employees from North Central Region states.

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Seeing the full picture

Our programs support a variety of people from across the state and in various subjects. If you go to our website, you’ll find eight subject headings, and under each of those, you’ll find nearly 80 additional topics. I’ve voiced my discomfort with that dizzying number before. My concern is that some of us and some of the people we serve might interpret that to mean that we claim to be expert on all things to all people. But I have to remind myself that the list of topics is more like an index at the end of a book and not the table of contents at the front. Still, I listen carefully to people our programs serve to see if they think of us as an encyclopedia of information on all subjects, or specialists with expertise in key areas.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with community leaders who serve on two of our 13 district advisory councils. I always come away from those encounters impressed by the leadership we’re able to attract to serve on our councils. And in these two cases, I’ve come away pleased with the diversity of interests represented by our council members. They each come to Michigan State University Extension with a particular interest related to one or several of our programs.

I met a farmer, an economic development expert, someone who markets agricultural products globally, an advocate for school children, a mayor of a small city, and a dean at a community college, to name a few. The diversity of their expertise and vocations helps define the diversity of our programs. And they seem to appreciate the breadth of those programs, and the need for us to be focused in the areas that concern them.

Having them share their perspectives is one of the richest experiences I get to have as Director. They each come in with a commitment to their interest area and often encourage us to delve deeper into the needs they see as being most critical in their district and from their perspective. But in the discussions around the table, they also get to hear what matters most to others.

I deeply appreciate the needs and suggestions that each council member brings, they help further sharpen our focus and innovate ways to better address their needs. And just as deeply, I appreciate that they hear each other – the diversity of needs and perspectives that we are trying to address. We don’t have 80 program priorities or work groups, we have 16. And it is always a struggle for those 16 work groups to set annual priorities and set their focus to maximize impact in communities across the states.

We’re still working on being more effective at telling the stories of our stakeholders, the differences we make and how we are being accountable for the resources entrusted to us. But we’re strengthened tremendously by the willingness of community leaders to sit with us and with each other to discuss their needs and how we should focus our future efforts. At times like that, not only do I get to see the full picture of what we’re doing those council members do as well. I’m grateful for their insights and their commitment to help make us better.

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Apply for the GLLA Emerging Leader Program by Nov . 15

I’d like to remind you about an important opportunity for enhancing and refining your leadership abilities. The Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) offers the Emerging Leader Program (ELP), designed for developing individual leadership skills.

The program meets twelve days between April and October 2013. It seeks a diverse group of outstanding candidates representing government, academia, nonprofits and industry to broaden perspectives about key sustainability issues and consider how leadership for the common good can influence Michigan’s future.

The GLLA brings together current and emerging leaders to influence Michigan’s future. It bases its programs on the belief that leadership is a skill needed across many interests and sectors. Leading effectively will aid you in your efforts to contribute toward the common good.

Apply online for the Emerging Leader Program by Nov. 15 at Please direct any questions to Vicki Pontz at or 517-432-8685.

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GLLA honors leadership for common good award winner and graduates, kicks off endowment campaign

On June 11, the Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) held its Graduation Ceremony and Endowment Campaign Kickoff.

In addition, Dr. Russ Mawby, former president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) and trustee emeritus of Michigan State University, was honored as the third recipient of the William Milliken Award for Leadership for the Common Good. Dr. Mawby helped to develop the original model for an agricultural leadership program that was funded by the WKKF in the 1960s. It became known as the Kellogg Farmer Study Program that was presented by the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The program was replicated in dozens of states and other countries, and gave rise to subsequent leadership programs in Michigan, including the Michigan Agricultural Leadership Program in the 1980s and the Great Lakes Leadership Academy in recent years. Dr. Mawby’s legacy also includes having helped to create the Michigan 4-H Foundation. He and his wife Lou Ann were present at the GLLA banquet to receive the award. A summary of Dr. Mawby’s legacy was captured in this video, produced as an in-kind gift by the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Three MSU Extension colleagues were recognized as recent graduates of GLLA programs:

Sonia Joseph Joshi, outreach specialist for Michigan Sea Grant Extension and the NOAA Center of Excellence for Great Lakes and Human Health, graduated from the Leadership Advancement Program.

Bethany Prykucki, Extension educator, and Dixie Sandborn, 4-H horticulture specialist, graduated from the Emerging Leader Program.

The mission of the GLLA Leadership Advancement Program is to promote positive change, economic vitality and resource conservation, and enhance the quality of life in Michigan by encouraging leadership for the common good. The program is designed for those who are preparing for top leadership positions.

The Emerging Leader Program is a leadership development initiative designed to equip individuals who are interested in their community and the food systems and agricultural, natural resources and environment, and business and manufacturing sectors with tools for successful leadership.

Vicki Pontz, GLLA director, announced the launch of the Capital Campaign for an endowment to support the ongoing success of GLLA. With a goal of $2.5 million, Vicki announced more than $400,000 in gifts and pledges to launch the campaign. The plan is to reach the campaign goal over the next year. With these initial gifts, the campaign is getting off to a great start.

Congratulations to Dr. Mawby, to our graduates and to Vicki for a great evening of celebration!

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