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$8M woman: Ekblad brings grant money for Minnesota State College Southeast

Callie Ekblad, Minnesota State College Southeast business relations director, has helped write 41 grants for the college throughout her time with the school, which nears three and a half decades. She has been recognized multiple times for her contributions to the college and area businesses. (photo by John R. Russett)

Calli Ekblad began her career with the newly renamed Minnesota State College Southeast right around the same time the Minnesota Job Skills Partnership began. In the 33 years since MJSP’s inception, Ekblad has had her hands on 41 grants for the college, which helped train 7,302 employees and totaled $8,508,495 in grant money.

Grant writing is a process with which Ekblad has become familiar with over her years with the college, now as the business relations director.

“It’s curriculum building, it’s bringing us enrollments,” Ekblad said. “Sometimes we offer classes for credit and when we do that, that benefits the college as well.”

The process usually begins by businesses contacting the college about the training they need, she explained, which is followed by nearly three months of preparation, fine-tuning the language and making sure all parties are satisfied.

“It has to be a win-win for both of us,” Ekblad said.

College President Dorothy Duran said one of the primary focuses of the college is partnering with local businesses to meet their needs.

“It’s an opportunity to support business establishments, but in partnership with schools, colleges, to provide the training or retraining for employees at businesses,” she said.

Duran said Ekblad has a “remarkable” work ethic and her successful grants in her time with the college are great evidence of Ekblad’s hard work.

“Honestly, in my career, I do not believe I have met anyone so focused on getting the job done,” Duran said. “She takes a personal responsibility for her job. Even when she was ill, we were having to take away her keys so she wouldn’t come into her office to work.”

Ekblad also said the grants help develop curriculum the college can carry on for years to come, pointing to one of the first grants she wrote for garbage combustion training for the state of Minnesota.

“And so, to this day, that’s an example of a grant that had a focus and now we still, to this day, are offering classes and are the only site in Minnesota,” she said.

Duran said she has been impressed with Ekblad’s ability to understand the process and build strong relationships with area businesses.

“She’s been very successful at doing that,” Duran said.

Throughout the years, Ekblad said, there have been unique grants, fun grants and hard-to-manage grants, but nonetheless, writing grants is one of the most rewarding elements of her job.

“It’s all worth it,” she said, “because the businesses do benefit and we benefit in the partnerships that we build with them.”

The humble approach Ekblad takes, Duran explained, was the catalyst for recognizing her accomplishments.

“I can’t express how much I appreciate her,” Duran said. “When people have that level of humility, you just want to recognize them more.”

John R. Russett

John Russett is a regional reporter for RiverTown Multimedia, covering a variety of issues facing RiverTown communities. Previously, he worked at the Red Wing Republican Eagle, where he reported on education as well as crime and courts. 

You can follow him on Twitter at @JohnRyanRussett


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