Class X of the South Dakota Agricultural and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program worked on developing awareness and competencies with diverse populations in the state during the Multi-Cultural Societies Seminar held in the Chamberlain, SD, area April 22-24, 2019.

The seminar started with a presentation by diversity trainer and consultant Naomi Ludeman Smith, who reviewed results from class members Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI provides valuable information about people’s orientations toward cultural difference and commonality. IDI results were presented to the class as a whole, and then to individual class members in one-on-one discussions, with the goal of helping class members reflect on their experiences around cultural differences and similarities.

Kari O’Neill, Community Vitality Field Specialist with South Dakota State University Extension and a SDARL program graduate, presented examples of community development projects and embracing differences completed under the auspices of the South Dakota Change Network.

Malcom Chapman, pictured above, a consultant with The Chapman Group from Rapid City, SD, began the second day with a presentation and exercises about the skills necessary to become effective community leaders in a multi-cultural society. Changing the discussion to economic development, Suzy Geppert, Executive Director of the South Dakota Beef Industry Council, provided an overview of the beef checkoff program and efforts to develop markets for beef. She discussed the threats to the industry and the work of the council to maintain a vital beef industry in the state.

The class toured the Akta Lakota Museum and Cultural Center in Chamberlain, gaining insights into the Native American culture and history. The class also learned the history of St. Joseph’s Indian School. The day concluded with a presentation by Rachel Haigh Blume, Education Director for South Dakota Farmers Union, about the new STEM-Fuse computer-based learning program. This program provides science-based curriculum on agriculture issues and topics of interest through a low-cost online environment for K-12th grade classrooms.

For the final day of the seminar, the class travelled to the Lower Brule Reservation Tribal Headquarters for a briefing by Chairman Boyd Gourneau. He spoke about financial and social struggles and opportunities in the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, the structure of the tribe, and an overview of tribal farming operations. A panel then discussed the agricultural and natural resources on the reservation. Panel members included Chairman Gourneau, Darrel Duvall of the National Resource Conservation Service, and Joel Bisch, of the Tribal Wildlife Office of the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department.

The day concluded with a tour of a hydroelectric pivot station on the Lower Brule Reservation, and discussion of crops and animal agriculture.

The SDARL flagship program is a series of seminars over 18 months where competitively-selected class members learn the skills, knowledge, and character of leaders for agriculture and rural communities in South Dakota. SDARL also offers leadership training to partner organizations through a “Leadership 2.0” series, and to graduates through SDARL “Graduate Experience” seminars. The SDARL Foundation, a 501 –c-3 corporation under South Dakota law, is the management and funding organization for the program and other leadership development efforts.

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