On a recent afternoon a local lawyer, an architect and a city employee joined a hair salon employee, MRCI staffer and dozens of others to challenge themselves and build teamwork skills on the high ropes course at Minnesota State University.
Challenging a group of people coming from diverse backgrounds has been the goal of the Leadership Institute, offered by Greater Mankato Growth for three decades.
“There’s some apprehension about doing the ropes course, but they have great experiences from it. It’s a great way to get people to push themselves,” said Shannon Gullickson, GMG Talent Program Director, who is leading the Institute this year.
Last month, 43 people began the 30th class in the nine-month program, which includes 11 day-long sessions.
Gullickson said the program has grown in participation and scope since it began. “Thirty years ago a group of citizens wanted to form an organization to help people become more familiar with the community and become better leaders. If they can see some of the issues they have a better way to tackle some of the issues.”
But since it started, several business leaders asked the Institute to focus not just on community awareness but on building leadership skills.
A number of local nonprofit leaders as well as some experts from around the country are brought in to present different leadership and local awareness topics for the class.
Gale Bigbee, a graphic communications faculty member at South Central College, went through the program three years ago. She still remembers the high ropes course well.
“It was drizzly and cold and miserable. It really put me out of my comfort zone, but it was a lot of fun,” Bigbee said.
“But now I’ve done that and don’t need to do it again.”
Bigbee got into the program because she had been focused on kids and her job for several years and been more removed from the community.