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U of M, Crookston Graduates in Leadership Positions with Soil and Water Conservation Society
March 17, 2009

Contact: Dan Svedarsky, head, Natural Resources Dept., 218-281-8129, (; Elizabeth Tollefson, assistant director of communications, 218-281-8432 (

Russell Kleinschmidt, a 2004 wildlife management graduate is president elect of the Minnesota Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS)
Russell Kleinschmidt, '05, is president elect of the Minnesota Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS)
Russell Kleinschmidt, a 2005 wildlife management graduate of the University of Minnesota, Crookston was recently elected as president elect of the Minnesota Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS). Kleinschmidt is the District Conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Wadena, Minn. Since 2004, he has also worked for the NRCS in Crookston, Duluth, and Marshall.

Kleinschmidt transferred to the U of M, Crookston from Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minn., where he was mentored by Professor Lori Schmidt, natural resources program coordinator. At the U of M, Crookston, he was a star student and leader winning the Norman Pankratz Award and also serving as president of the Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, where he worked closely with Associate Professor John Loegering, Ph.D., club advisor. While at the U of M, Crookston, he also received the Student Conservationist Award of the Minnesota Chapter of The Wildlife Society, the highest honor which that professional organization bestows on a student.

In his current role, Kleinschmidt promotes natural resource conservation through farm bill programs; works with producers on agricultural, forest, wildlife, and grazing lands; and collaborates with many partners on conservation projects. These duties combine nicely with his personal background growing up on a small family dairy farm near Long Prairie, Minn., and his degree in natural resources and wildlife management.

Kleinschmidt’s family includes his wife, Jessica and 5-month old son, Hunter. When not working, he enjoys helping out on the family farm, gardening, hunting, shooting sports, skiing, hiking, biking, and many other outdoor activities. He and his wife hope to buy a small farm to begin rotationally grazing beef cattle, growing a small market garden, and to expand their farming and conservation interests. Kleinschmidt makes natural resources and energy conservation a part of his daily lifestyle, and has an interest in many emerging issues such as renewable energy and bio-fuels, the local foods movement, and invasive species management. When he becomes president in 2010, Russell plans to continue promoting
SWCS and conservation, but also hopes to expand current projects to focus on emerging issues relating to natural resources and energy conservation.

Also recently elected as a chapter officer and member of the executive committee was Jeff Hellermann, a 1997 natural resources graduate of the U of M, Crookston. Hellerman represents the Red River of the North region of the SCWS which includes northwestern and western Minnesota. His 18 years of work experience have been with the Stearns Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Becker SWCD as district technician, Waite Park and Crookston field offices as civil engineering technician, Willmar field office as soil conservationist, Olivia field office as district conservationist, and since 2004 as the district conservationist for Stevens County.

At the U of M, Crooksotn, Professor Phil Baird was an advisor and mentor for Hellerman and also Cheryl (Isder) Heard, a 2004 graduate who currently represents the Minnesota and Missouri River region of southwestern Minnesota with the SWCS. She is the district conservationist with the NRCS in Clarkfield. Of her leadership experience with the professional organization, Isder notes, “I’ve been involved in the SWCS since I was in college. As an executive board member, I've been able to network with other agencies on planning different activities. I help decide where the money goes: to help a non-profit organization with a project, to support an in-state conference, or towards out-of-state sponsored activities. I've had the opportunity to travel with the agency to other states and attend many events.”

While a student at the U of M, Crookston, Isder received the Woman of the Year Award, twice, Student Conservation Scholarship Award of the Minnesota Chapter of SWCS, the John Polley Soil and Water Conservation Award, and was extremely active in many clubs.

“One of the values of a smaller, hands-on program like Natural Resources at UMC is the leadership opportunities for students, notes,  Dan Svedarsky, Ph.D., professor and head of the Natural Resources Department.  “We have lots of clubs in all programs and have a number of projects. This experience shows when students enter the world of work as exemplified by these three leaders of their profession.”

Today the University of Minnesota, Crookston delivers more than 25 applied-science undergraduate degree programs and 50 concentrations, including several online degrees, in agriculture; arts, humanities and social sciences; business; math, science and technology; and natural resources. To learn more, visit