Coming full circlePublished 1:09pm Wednesday, July 23, 2014
M State graduate starts as college foundation director
By Chris Reinoos
Lori Larson is on her way back to where she started.
Larson, who attended M State-Fergus Falls as a student, started her job as executive director of the Fergus Area College Foundation in June. She replaced Carolyn Glesne, another former M State student who had a successful run heading the foundation.
For Larson, the summer will be spent getting to know people in the community, although she is surely a familiar face to many. She has previously worked at the Daily Journal and with Lake Region Hospital and spent the last three years based on the M State campus working for Central Minnesota Area Education Center.
The Daily Journal sat down with Larson to discuss her goals with the foundation and her hopes for the future.
Editor’s Note: some responses have been edited for length.
Daily Journal: How have the first few weeks been going?
Lori Larson: Things have been a little stirred up because of some work in the office, but it’s going really well. I have a really great staff members and we have a great team of board members.
DJ: What was your experience before taking the job?
LL: Right before this I was with AEC. I was regional specialist and we covered 15 counties. We were housed on the campus of M State.
I was there for almost four years. The funding was through a federal grant and the University of Minnesota ended up sending it back, so we did not get the money and that went away throughout Minnesota.
The timing was great. This one opened up at the same time as that one was ending.
DJ: Why did this job hold appeal to you?
LL: Prior to AEC, I was the community and public relations director at the hospital. I was there about years, and most of that time I was also the foundation director. I already had some of that experience and I also had knowledge of education, so it just seemed like a great fit.
I’m also an alumni, so everything just feels so right. M State is such a huge asset to our community and our region. It feels good to be a part of this organization.
DJ: In your first few weeks, does it seem like there’s a lot of crossover between your job here and your work at the hospital?
LL: There is a lot of community support for both places, so there is some crossover. Hopefully some of those relationships that I already have will continue on in this role. I know the community will continue to get behind the college.
DJ: What are a few of your qualities that will best serve you in your position at M State?
LL: I’m passionate about helping students. I’m passionate about the community and I want it to be strong. A strong college can only help that.
I have a 7-year-old son and I would love it if he decides to come here. I want it to continue to be something people will be proud to attend.
Some of the qualities I have are not necessarily learned. It’s because I’m from here and I can’t imagine myself anywhere else right now. This is where I am needed.
DJ: What are your priorities in the new position?
LL: We have some events coming up, so some of those are priorities because they are education and chances to tell folks about what the college is doing.
We have the homecoming and tailgate party coming up, we help with that. We do the community luncheon where we talk about how the college is an asset to our area.
We also have a scholarship reception in November and that is a pretty big deal. Those are things right away that we are jumping into.
I think the main thing is talking with current donors and our board members, just communicating and relationship-building. If I don’t know them I want to make sure that they know I am here and available. I think that is important in any job.
We have some things we might be changing, so some of those things might be happening.
DJ: What sort of changes are you guys kicking around?
LL: We are looking at our database to see if there is a better option out there. We are analyzing our options right now.
We are also looking at events and what we have done in the past and what we want to do in the future. Not major changes, but we are always looking at ways we can improve.
Carolyn Glesne has done a wonderful job and we are just looking to see how we can build upon that and grow. Alumni, I think, will be a major focus. We would be willing to hear from there as we decide what to do.
Right now, we really do not have much of a presence on social media, so those types of things are going to be priority. It’s not going to take away from what we are doing, it will be another way to communicate.
DJ: What is the balance between keeping continuity with how things were previously done and also trying to integrate new ideas?
LL: I think the balance is whether something was done well, how much does it need to change right row, what are the resources and what is the timeline? Is there an opportunity for us to grow with this and is it going to help the college?
That is the main thing. Whether it is the students, the faculty and staff, or the building, if it’s going to help the college we should look at it and see if it is something we should be changing.
If it’s an event and it has been well-attended and successful, then there is probably no reason to change how that is done. it just depends on what we are looking at.
I’m hoping that everything doesn’t change right away. I want to learn from what has been done successful so we have a good base and then build from that. This is a long-term thing.
DJ: How excited are you for the school year?
LL: I love it when the students are here. Right now, it just seems quieter with the students not on campus.
Now I get to meet them and interact and learn from them. That’s exciting to me, that I get to do that part and share in some of their experiences.
I can’t wait until it starts.