One year’s worth of student stories from COE’s Kruse Scholars

I’m very pleased to share Communities of Excellence 2026’s exciting new social media effort with you.  Starting Friday March 18th, and continuing each Friday for the next year, you will read stories from students at the University of Minnesota and Augustana University about their views on community leadership, collaboration and their vision of a community of excellence.  These students were selected for the Communities of Excellence Scholarship, established by Lowell and Leslie Kruse.  The scholarship began in the spring of 2011 with students at the University of Minnesota, and in 2014 expanded to Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. During the 11/2 to 2 year-long scholarship experience, Kruse Scholars engage with the Communities of Excellence 2026 Initiative through educational activities and projects designed to add value to student learning and orient them to the skills needed as future leaders to improve the performance of the communities they will live in. The Kruse Scholar experience is grounded in the Baldrige Principles of Performance Excellence.

In establishing the Kruse Scholarship, Lowell and Leslie stated, “Over the years the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework has had an enormous impact on improving the performance of organizations from all sectors of our economy.  Communities of Excellence 2026 believes it holds the potential to improve the performance of entire communities and ultimately influence the overall success of our country. It’s very important that students have exposure to this approach and thought process as they prepare to enter their chosen careers and a lifetime of community leadership.”

We’ve asked each of the past and current Kruse Scholars to share their thoughts on community leadership, performance excellence, and how their experience as a Kruse Scholar has or may influence their careers.  I hope that you enjoy reading their stories each week and are as inspired by their hard work and dedication as we are.

Stephanie Norling

Managing Director, Communities of Excellence 2026


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