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The Inaugural NextGen Leadership Class Is Here!

Aug 16, 2019

Michael High ResBy Michael Dykes, D.V.M., President & CEO

NextGen Leadership Program

As industries grow and evolve, they all face unique challenges. Dairy is no exception, and we will continue to need capable and talented leaders to make and market our ever increasing array of healthy and delicious products for an evolving global marketplace.

That's why I’m so proud of IDFA’s first NextGen Leadership class. We hosted these upcoming leaders in Washington, D.C. this week with a focus on leadership and advocacy, and I was incredibly impressed by their expertise, passion and creativity. I think it’s safe to say the future of the dairy industry is in good hands. 

The NextGen Leadership program is designed to support, guide and prepare mid-senior level dairy industry professionals ready to take the next step in their leadership journey. This unique program convenes a class of 10-20 IDFA members annually for a multi-faceted, year-long curriculum. The program equips participants with skills required to successfully conquer business demands today and in the future. Participants build relationships with their peers, develop leadership skills and learn to become advocates for the dairy industry.

This week’s meetings focused on advocacy and leadership, with the group of 13 professionals attending the George Washington Leadership Institute at George Washington's Mount Vernon, followed by a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill.

The class started on Tuesday afternoon with a discussion of their Clifton Strengths to discover which talents they rely on to build relationships, think strategically, execute plans and influence others to accomplish goals. IDFA’s partner Egon Zehnder then led an interactive dinner discussion around leadership, diversity and career management.  The group spent Wednesday at Mount Vernon (President George Washington’s home) attending the George Washington Leadership Institute program. They engaged in Mount Vernon’s newest digital interactive leadership experience where they used their own judgement to make decisions based on the information Washington had at the time and then compare their own decision making with that of Washington.

I welcomed the group back to our IDFA offices Thursday morning where the team completed professional head shots and video interviews responding to questions about the NextGen program, before departing for a tour of the U.S. Capitol and meetings with Congressional staff. We concluded the day with a group lunch and photo in front of the Capitol.

One member of the NextGen class, Patrick Schallberger, CEO of Hollandia Dairy in San Marcos, Calif., said, "So proud to be part of this program. I came into work today feeling as inspired as ever."  

For me, Patrick's comment not only made my day, but also demonstrates the value of investing in our leaders of today and tomorrow.

I am grateful to our IDFA members for nominating these very talented individuals who participated in this week’s activities; we have other learning sessions planned for IDFA’s Dairy Forum 2020 in Scottsdale, Arizona as well as at the May IDFA Board meeting and through various webinars.

Initiatives like NextGen are only possible with the support of IDFA members like you. Thank you for all you do to grow and support our dairy industry. Together I truly believe we are making a difference for dairy today and well into the future.

For more information about NextGen, stay tuned to the IDFA Blog or visit the NextGen page.

The 2019 class includes:

  • Ebru Basaran-Shull, Director, Compliance and Government Affairs, Sargento Foods, Inc., Plymouth, Wisc.
  • Mark Benson, Vice President Supply Chain, Leprino Foods Company, Denver, Colo.
  • Brian Fletcher, Vice President, Commercial/Institutional Service and Sales, Rice Dairy, Chicago, Ill.
  • Lucas Fuess, Director of Dairy Market Intelligence, HighGround Dairy, Chicago, Ill.
  • David Hakes, Regulatory Product Compliance Manager, Company Affairs, Schreiber Foods, Inc., Green Bay, Wisc.
  • Jeff Larson, General Manager, Dairy Operation, H-E-B, San Antonio, Texas
  • Megan Lesch, Food Safety and Compliance Manager, Shamrock Foods Company, Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Erin Massey, Product Development Manager, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., Kirkwood, Mo.
  • Matt McClelland, Director of Operations, Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc., Earth City, Mo.
  • Caleb Robinson, Strategy Manager, Saputo Dairy Foods USA, Dallas, Texas
  • Michael Sachau, Market Development Director, TC Transcontinental, Ada, Mich.
  • Patrick Schallberger, CEO, Hollandia Dairy, San Marco, Calif.
  • Matt Wilkinson, General Manager, IT (CIO), Strategic Projects and Contract Management, Great Lakes Cheese, Hiram, Ohio

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