Jim Bensen is President Emeritus of Bemidji State University and former board member of the Blandin Foundation. He is a futurist, provides leadership on numerous boards, speaks throughout the world and consults with universities, corporations, and non-profits. He chairs Stewards of BemidjiLeads!, a highly successful community “re-invention” process that has resulted in Bemidji being named one of the most innovate communities in the U.S. Bensen has a passion for excellence and has been recognized by dozens of organizations throughout the world for his creative leadership.
Olivia Golemgeske is 16 years old and a full time PSEO student at Itasca Community College. Prior to ICC she attended Northern Lights Community School for 3 years. Golemgeske and Grand Rapids go way back; she’s lived here her whole life, as did her mother and her grandmother so she’s doing her best to make it a better place. Golemgeske’s major studies in school are writing and mass communications.
For fifty-two years, the experience of being alive has fostered in John Downing many unexpected transformations in relationship with love and loss, creativity and necessity, sleepwalking and awakening. Born the penultimate seventh child, John was in many ways left alone to quietly observe people and learn about the world. Nowadays, he finds himself awestruck by most of the story so far: his thirty-plus years with his partner Geri; children Joseph and Katherine; fond memories of his mom and dad and the other peaceful elders who raised him; the zany intelligence of his five brothers and two sisters; the solid caring of and for friends; discoveries and expressions within the arts, especially music; the many formal and informal educational endeavors; his current work with men in the domestic violence field; and many more interests and involvements that add nuance to his perceptions of self and others. As the chapters of his story unfold it becomes increasingly clear that the original potential – quietly observing and learning – continues to make meaningful connections with the here and now.
Jerry Nagel is the co-founder of the Meadowlark Institute, an organization committed to developing individual and collective capacity to engage in meaningful conversations with those who hold different traditions, values and goals. He is a Steward in the Art of Hosting Community of Practice and a Flow Game practitioner. As a fourth generation North Dakotan, Nagel has a deep respect for our connections to the land and places we each come from. He has attended the Senior Executives in State and Local Government program at Harvard University as a Fannie Mae Foundation Fellow and is also a Donella Meadows Leadership Fellow.
I am Neezshogahbow also known as Gerald White. My friend, partner and wife is named Delina. Together we have seven great sons and daughters: Sam who is currently serving in the US Navy, Zagajiiw who lives at home, Raining who is attending college in Brainerd, Jesse who is in his first year of college and will be graduating high school this year, and Ningozis who will be in the 10th grade. Our daughters are Lavander, a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu and Sage who recently graduated from UM-Morris. We have 4 beautiful grandchildren Nookwaakwii who is six and lives with us, Miskwaakone who is four and lives in Onigum with mother Lavander and sister Isabella. We also have Miskwaate, our baby boy who is 1. I am from the Eagle Clan of the Pillager Band of Anishinabe. I am from Chi- achabawning or Place of the Big Bowstring (Inger) on the Leech Lake reservation and have lived there most of my life except for college and 4 years with the US Army. I worked for Leech Lake for 20 years prior to working at Deer River Schools, where I am currently in my sixth year. I am an artist and an active hunter/gatherer
Aaron J. Brown is a communication instructor at Hibbing Community College, where he chairs the online education committee. Brown is the author of MinnesotaBrown.com, a nationally recognized Iron Range-based blog that covers news, commentary and creative nonfiction about northern Minnesota. His book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” won the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award in 2009. Brown is a freelance radio producer and commentator for KAXE, and a former radio and print journalist. He was raised in a trailer house on a family-owned junkyard in the Sax/Zim peat bog, and today lives in rural Itasca County with his wife Christina and their sons, Henry, Doug and George.
Chuck Marohn is the executive director of Strong Towns, a non-profit organization that advocates for a financially-sound pattern of development. He is a civil engineer and land use planner with undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of MN. Marohn is the primary author of the Strong Towns Blog, which publishes three times a week, and is syndicated in the New Urban News and reprinted in Grist and on MPR’s Public Insight Network. He is also the host of the Strong Towns Podcast and is an on-air contributor to KAXE, a community radio station out of Grand Rapids, MN. Marohn’s online work is available at www.strongtowns.org.
Steve Rothschild is the founder and President of Invest in Outcomes (IIO), the non-profit that developed the “Human Capital Performance Bond”. He is also the Founder, Chairman and former CEO of Twin Cities RISE! , an anti-poverty organization that trains under- and unemployed adults for skilled jobs that pay a living wage and provides employers with skilled workers. Rothschild is a director of the Greater Twin Cities United Way, an Advisory Board member of the Hubert H Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, and a director of American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio. He is an ASHOKA fellow.
Rothschild is the soon-to-be-published author of The Non Nonprofit: For-Profit Thinking for Nonprofit Success, (Jossey-Bass, a Wiley imprint).
Rothschild was an Executive Vice President at General Mills, Inc., where he held a number of positions including the launch Yoplait, USA, a yogurt company, and was the first president of Yoplait USA. He earned an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
Dane Smith is the president of Growth & Justice, a policy research organization that seeks a broader prosperity for Minnesota through smarter public investments in human capital and infrastructure. Prior to joining Growth & Justice, Dane enjoyed a 30-year career as a Minnesota journalist, where he wrote about state, local and federal government and politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Ron Ulseth, P.E. is a faculty member in the Itasca Community College Engineering and the Iron Range Engineering programs. He has been in the classroom, teaching for more than 20 years, and has been a contributor to the development of both programs. Ulseth recently retired after 24 years in the US Navy Reserve as an Engineering Officer.
From 2009-2011, Dan Ewert served as director of the Iron Range Engineering program in Virginia, MN. He is currently a professor of Electrical Engineering at North Dakota State University. Ewert’s post-secondary education is rooted at the University of North Dakota, where he received his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, and his Ph.D. in Physiology. He was a post-doctoral research fellow in Biophysics at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, where he studied the microcirculation of the myocardium. Since 1990, Ewert has held assistant, associate, and full professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering positions, and in 2001, was named Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
Ewert’s interests include industry-related problem-based engineering education, high-tech economic development and international engineering projects across geography and cultures.
Right up to high school graduation Aaron Wenger thought he’d continue the family tradition of farming, but instead found his way to Ohio University. He was the first of his immediate family to attend college, and picked physics because he liked science fiction and had to declare a major. Once he actually saw physics he loved it and went on to receive a graduate degree in astrophysics from Toledo University, where he researched comets.
Wenger came to Minnesota in 1968 to be near Quetico Provincial Park. He worked at Rainy River Community College, where he built an observatory and started an engineering program through Boise Cascade. In 1982, Wenger moved to ICC and took over a failing engineering program that had four freshman students. Over the next 18 years Wenger, along with Ron Ulseth, redesigned engineering education. Wenger is retired now, raises and trains horses, and occasionally “dabbles” in engineering education at ICC.
Tom Gibbons graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1983 and went on to earn a Masters in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a PhD in Computer Science from North Dakota State University. He has been on the faculty at St. Scholastica for the last 17 years, and is now Chair of Undergraduate Programs in the School of Business & Technology. Tom enjoys teaching a wide range of computer courses and summer technology camps.
Rose McGee, M.Ed. is a professional storyteller, educator and entrepreneur. She serves as a resident artist in schools, is a member of several storytelling affiliates and leads community dialogues on issues such as race, equity and academic achievement for all students. McGee has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Education from Lane College (Jackson, TN) and a Masters Degree in Arts Education from Lesley University (Cambridge, MA). She is host of School Matters, a cable television show that highlights the positive aspect of students in Minneapolis Public Schools, and is featured in several national television commercials. In 2011, she was recognized as a Community Hero during a half-time game by the Minnesota Timberwolves and as a Legacy Hero by Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
McGee is the founder of the Head Scarf Society™ and owner of Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts, specializing in “sweet potato pie”. She is a member of the American Pie Association and “Women Who Really Cook”. She is currently writing a book, “Can’t Nobody Make a Sweet Potato Pie Like My Mama” – The History of Sweet Potato Pie. McGee resides in Golden Valley, Minnesota.
Steve Boland practices what he preaches about “Kids These Days” with his three teenagers, teaching them technology and troubleshooting for their hyper-history world. Steve is a nonprofit leader with expertise in building strong communities, creating effective financial strategies and using technology to further nonprofit fundraising and operational goals. Steve has over 20 years of nonprofit and public sector experience, including executive director positions at Twin Cities-based nonprofits. He is currently employed by Nonprofits Assistance Fund, providing lending, consulting, and training services to nonprofits throughout Minnesota.
Steve is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and holds a Master of Nonprofit Management degree from Hamline University,
Tom Vellenga leads Heartland Democracy, a charitable group devoted to empowering “the uninvolved” and winning over hearts and minds to just and sustainable policies. During the Clinton administration, he was a senior advisor to White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and to Energy Secretary Federico Peña. Earlier, he served as an aide to several U.S. Senators and Members of Congress as well as the Agency for International Development. After returning to his native Minnesota with his family, he managed the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy before joining the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School to launch and direct programs.
Jack Uldrich is an author, speaker, and regular contributor on emerging technologies for publications including The Wall Street Journal, Leader to Leader, The Futurist, and BusinessWeek, and a regular guest on CNBC, MSNBC and CNN. His list of award-winning bestsellers includes The Next Big Thing is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business and Jump the Curve: 50 Strategies to Help You Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technology. Uldrich is the president of The Unlearning Curve—an international leadership, change management and technology consultancy dedicated to helping business, government, and non-profit organizations prepare for and profit from emerging technologies. He is a former naval intelligence officer and Defense Department official, and served as the Director of the Minnesota Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning under Governor Jesse Ventura.