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Kent Olson: "Be ready to learn anything from anyone in 4-H."

Kent Olson is the Associate Dean at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Community Vitality. Although he works in another part of Extension today, he still appreciates his 4-H experience growing up in Iowa. He is an alumni of Wright County, Iowa.

During his 4-H days, he primarily showed swine. He also enjoyed learning about leadership and special projects such as electricity. When he was an older member of 4-H, he remembers going on a trip to Washington, D.C. and staying at the National 4-H Conference Center.

He started out working in economics at the University, and soon worked his way up to the leadership role he holds today. Before coming to the University of Minnesota Extension, he worked with Extension in California. Even though it can be cold, he likes Minnesota and the Midwest.

Olson recalls many things from his 4-H years that helped him to be successful in his work today. The first thing that came to his mind was the opportunity to develop leadership skills. 4-H also helped him learn how to confidently talk and interact with people. He also remembers account books from raising pigs. Although he wasn’t too fond of them in his youth, they helped him with record keeping in his professional work. "It was engrained early-on," Kent said.

Kent started out his college career at Waldorf College before transferring to Iowa State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Farm Operations. With a chuckle, he says he followed Newton’s First Law of Motion by staying at Iowa State to earn his Bachelor's, Masters and Ph.D. in economics.

Kent has great advice for both youth still in the program or recent alumni. "Learn how to work with people. Pick a specialty, but be open to anything. Be ready to learn at any time from anyone," he said.

He believes that it is important to give to Minnesota 4-H. "We need to invest in the future of our country, world, and communities; and youth are our future," Kent said.

By Laura Wyatt
Minnesota 4-H Foundation

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