2023 MREA


Opening Keynote

Tuleah Palmer  |  Rural People as Powerful Agents of Transformation



Rural Minnesota has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, with increased pressures from economic disparities, demographic shifts, and energy transitions. Moving rural places forward to equitable and sustainable futures requires strengthening rural resources and skills, regional coordination, and raising rural voices.

Tuleah Palmer, President and CEO of Blandin Foundation, joins the Summit to address core challenges today’s rural leaders face, and celebrate the importance of rural education to rural communities.

She’ll take an honest look at the macro issues affecting rural education, and the disproportional amount of responsibility rural leaders take on. She’ll share ways education is the bridge to moving rural places forward, so Greater Minnesota doesn’t become lesser Minnesota.

With 20 years of nonprofit executive experience focusing on community and economic development, workforce development, and systems change, Palmer is leading the foundation’s vision to build rural capacity, rural grantmaking, and rural advocacy. She sees, every day, how a spirit of community – fueled by healthy pride and the faith people place in rural educational leaders to make a difference – plants seeds for a strong future, for students, leaders and communities alike.

Legislative Keynote

Sam Walseth  |  What's Next for Rural Schools?



Coming off a record setting 2023 Legislative Session, Sam Walseth is addressing what's next for rural districts. Sam will dive into the funding and mandates that the 2023 session brought and give updates on MREA priorities going into the 2024 session.  

For over 15 years, Sam has been working on behalf of MREA and its members to advocate for rural Minnesota education at the legislative level.  Each fall, MREA works with members to determine their legislative priorities for the upcoming session, which is developed into the MREA platform. Sam takes the platform issues and advocates on MREA’s behalf during the legislative session. He serves as the point of contact for people inside of the state Capitol Complex on issues relating to rural education. He drives the MREA agenda with other advocacy organizations and key policy makers, keeping MREA members focused and abreast of what’s happening at the state Capitol.

Closing Keynote

Brandon Jones  | Cultivate Youth Well-Being for the Future of Education



Brandon Jones will close the MREA Greater Education Summit on Tuesday morning, November 14. Brandon’s keynote, “Cultivate Youth Well-Being for the Future of Education,” will motivate and inspire educators.

Brandon is the Minnesota Association for Children’s Mental Health Executive Director & consultant. He specializes in Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Historical and Intergenerational trauma, Social/Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Leadership, and Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Brandon holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota, a Masters’s in Community Psychology from Metropolitan State University, and a Masters’s in Psychotherapy (MFT) from Adler Graduate School. Brandon is also a 2013 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow. He lives by the motto of “Live Life with Purpose on Purpose.”