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Conference lives on with Hayenga's help

brian korthals/daily globe Roxanne Hayenga sits in her office on the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

WORTHINGTON -- Since its inception, this community's annual Regional Bioscience Conference was coordinated by the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corp. and its longtime manager, Glenn Thuringer.

This year, there's a change. The conference will take place for a ninth time -- it's scheduled for April 18-19 -- but is being organized through the Minnesota West Community and Technical College community development and customized training program. Roxanne Hayenga, the program's director since August 2011, is spearheading the effort.

"Glenn had accepted a different position with (Worthington company) Bioverse, and we happened to be at a meeting where he mentioned that the bioscience conference might not be taking place because there wasn't anybody to coordinate it," Hayenga explained. "Although conference coordination is not one of the things that really was written in my job description to begin with, it is something that we do through customized training. We do leadership development conferences and then offer professional development opportunities.

"I met with my department here and created a proposal for them (WREDC) to contract for my services," she continued. "Because of what we do, we have connections in the educational network as well as the business network. I'm also pretty connected with a number of different people, having grown up this area."

Minnesota West's Worthington campus is no stranger to the yearly bioscience conference. The college has hosted a pre-conference laboratory day involving students --"Marie Johnson and Amber Luinenburg have really taken a big lead in getting that organized," Hayenga noted -- and the campus hosted the actual conference up until the 2012 event, which took place at the Biotechnology Advancement Center.

Hayenga said this year's conference will feature a variety of speakers. As of early March, all speakers except one had already been confirmed. (The full agenda can be viewed online at{069FCDA0-A829-4F6B-B222-BD5F68A13F7E})

"In my mind, the overall arching kind of theme is building community," Hayenga said.

"In this day and age, 'community' kind of has a more global meaning to it. Instead of having just one area of the biosciences we're concentrating on this year, we're trying to have speakers from some of the different facets, so there are areas for everybody to be able to learn something from."

Hayenga noted that while the Regional Bioscience Conference has usually focused more on an animal science component, the biosciences are, in fact, a huge field offering multiple types of career opportunities. With that in mind, some of the scheduled speakers are:

l Dr. James Reecey, an Iowa State University professor, who will speak on "Genomics and its Relationship to On-Farm Profitability."

l Madonna Carlson, whose topic will be "Finding a Path to Commercialization."

"She's originally from Heron Lake," Hayenga said of Carlson. "She's now an independent consultant for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. ... She'll be talking about bringing things from education and research into actual production."

l Dr. Randy Simonson, president of Newport Laboratories Inc. in Worthington, who will talk about "Expansion into Chinese Markets."

l Gary Muehlbauer, from the Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota.

l Arvind Raghavan of Tychon Bioscience of St. Paul, whose presentation will be "Innovative Nanostructures for Cancer Treatments" ("like targeted chemotherapy," Hayenga said.)

l Brian Wiertzema, a commercial merchandiser with Minnesota Soybean Processors in Brewster.

l A representative of Bioverse will also lead a breakout session on the company's products.

"If you go, some of these topics may seem like they're over your head, but it's also so exciting to hear that some of these things are happening locally," Hayenga added.

Sessions are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. April 18 and end at 2:30 p.m. April 19; all will take place in the Fine Arts Theatre. Additionally, a social for conference attendees is also scheduled for the evening of April 18 at BenLee's in Worthington.

"If people would like to attend just the reception, there are tickets that are going to be sold for just that," Hayenga said.

As well as planning the bioscience conference, Hayenga has plenty of other items on her to-do-list. She recently wrapped up a "Foundations of Intercultural Competence" conference, and also had the "Farmers Spring Break Conference" on her March calendar. In May, Minnesota West -- in cooperation with the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and local businesses -- will be hosting a United Way Chick Fil-A Leadercast, an event that aims to develop community leaders.

"The over-arching umbrella is the idea of lifelong learning opportunities," Hayenga said of her position with Minnesota West. "Each customized training representative kind of has an area of focus, and my area of focus is community development."

There are seven coordinators in the program scattered across Minnesota West campuses. In addition to Hayenga, there are two apiece in Marshall, Granite Falls and Pipestone -- in Worthington, Hayenga is charged with the training through the I-90 corridor.

In encouraging community development, Hayenga is hopeful that a pair of organizations on the Regional Bioscience Conference agenda can encourage attendees to move ideas and businesses forward.

Melissa Kjolsing, director of the Minnesota Cup Challenge -- a funding resource through the Carlson School of Management -- will give a presentation on its annual contest in which funding is awarded to promising businesses. Also, the school's Gopher Angels program, another funding opportunity for bioscience initiatives, is on the conference agenda.

Individuals interested in attending the conference may register through the WREDC website at Hayenga, who has attended several past bioscience conference, is eager for this year's event.

"I just to want show them (attendees) what Worthington is all about and say 'this is a great place to find students and to operate your business," she said.

"I had no idea when I went last year that I'd be coordinating this year."

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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