Luinenburg loving rural life, Minnesota West

WORTHINGTON -- Growing up on farm outside of Worthington, Amber Luinenburg enjoyed all of what rural Minnesota had to offer -- so much so that she knew that if she ever left, she would return to her hometown.

Luinenburg at work
Amber Luinenburg (right) is shown with her co-worker and former high school friend, Kile Behrends, representing Minnesota West at the National College Fair in Minneapolis.

WORTHINGTON -- Growing up on farm outside of Worthington, Amber Luinenburg enjoyed all of what rural Minnesota had to offer -- so much so that she knew that if she ever left, she would return to her hometown.

"I love rural America," she said from her office at Minnesota West Community and Technical College where she works as the coordinator of communications, marketing and advertising. "There's wholesomeness about growing up in Worthington. I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up on a farm. I learned the value of hard work. I walked beans, picked rocks, and did chores when we had livestock."

Luinenburg is the oldest daughter of Alan and Gayle Larson.

"I owe so much gratitude to my parents," she said. "If I am half the parents they are, I'll consider myself a success."

Throughout school, Luinenburg was more academically inclined than she was athletic, she admitted.


"I think I was too good," she admitted with a laugh, adding that she strived to maintain good grades. "I did softball in junior high, but that was it. After junior high I always had a part-time job, so I kept busy with that. I was a good spectator at events."

Post high school

Upon graduation, Luinenburg chose to pursue an associate of arts degree at Minnesota West.

"It was a great stepping stone for me at Minnesota West," she added. "I saved money by living at home, too. It was a great fit for me to be here."

Going to college, she did not know immediately what she intended to pursue.

"At that time, choosing a major was hard," she said. "I remember when I chose marketing, my family thought I was crazy."

"Then, marketing wasn't a term like it is used now," Luinenburg continued.

She explained how the various facets of marketing drew her into the field.


"The advertising part was the flashiest part of marketing," she said. "But I knew that with a marketing degree I wouldn't have to settle for just one job."

With her mind set on marketing, Luinenburg began looking at colleges for a bachelor's degree.

Her first choice was the University of Minnesota --until she toured the campus.

"It overwhelmed me -- the thought of hopping buses to get here and there to class," she admitted.

Eventually, she found herself about 30 miles east of the Twin Cities at University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

"There are several reasons why I chose River Falls," she explained. "It was really close to the Cities, but it was also in the middle of Wisconsin. It had that agricultural feel that felt close to home for me."

Back home

She married her husband, John, the summer after she graduated from UW-River Falls. Luinenburg explained that it was a natural fit for her to job-search in southwest Minnesota and Sioux Falls.


She was first employed as a brand manager at Farley's and Sathers Candy Co. in Round Lake.

"Being a brand manager is such a different aspect from what I'm doing now," she said. "I was responsible for different brands and the product development.

"It was really good fit for me until I had kids," Luinenburg went on, explaining how her previous job had involved a lot of traveling.

While working at Farley's and Sathers, Luinenburg pursued a master's in business administration at the University of Sioux Falls.

"I had a great opportunity through Farley's and Sathers because they offered tuition reimbursement for my graduate courses," she said. "It was too good an offer not to take advantage of."

After the birth of her first child, Autumn, Luinenburg returned to a familiar place -- Minnesota West -- but this time as an employee.

As the campus marketer in Worthington, she developed her skills in publicity of the campus as well as managing a marketing budget.

In 2010, Luinenburg was promoted to coordinate marketing efforts college-wide.


"It's more top-level marketing because it represents the college as a whole," she detailed. "It's definitely more holistic."

She explained how her day-in-the-life of a coordinator varies regularly.

"It could be working on the next TV commercial, or billboard graphic, or developing the marketing material for the year," she said. "I also recruit students from events, learn about latest marketing trends and analyze data on enrollment trends."

Working at her alma mater is comforting to Luinenburg.

"I really believe in the role of a community college and what it offers for students," she said. "I had a vision of coming back to Minnesota West in some form. .... Some of my instructors are now my co-workers.

Having attended school at Minnesota West, she explained how she finds it easier to relate to students.

"When I first started I felt as young as the students, but then there's that reality check," she said in between laughter. "I'll never forget when I had to take students on a field trip. One of the students asked me how old I was. I made the fatal mistake of saying, 'How old do you think I am?' He said, '35 or 40.' At that time I was only 24 but I thought, 'Wow, I'm not the same age as these students."

Apart from work


While she's not at work, Luinenburg keeps busy with spending time with her family. She and John have two young girls -- Autumn, 5, and Bree, 2.

"My hobbies are their hobbies," she said. "Worthington has changed from my childhood to now -- to become more culturally diverse. It has expanded on what is offered here, and that's a huge benefit for my kids to be a part of."

Last year, Luinenburg began serving a three-year term on the Worthington Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Directors.

While Luinenburg balances her time among family, work and community involvement, she is positive that her decision to move home after college was the best one.

"A lot of people say they don't want to come back to rural America," she said. "But I think the community that you're in isn't defined by the landscape but the people you're around. Thankfully, I love both."

Luinenburg family
Photo Courtesy of Rickers photography The Luinenburgs (from left): Amber, Autumn, Bree, and John.

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