2024 MREA


Opening Keynote

Brittany Mauney  | Thriving Together: A New Vision for Public Education and Student Belonging



Public education stands as America's most profound investment in its future, shaping our societal values and aspirations. Two decades into the 21st Century, a new vision for public education is needed to ensure every young person develops the knowledge, skills, and character that enable their thriving and our success as a society in a time of disruptive change. This vision must: 

  • Enable students to develop a healthy sense of self, supporting them to understand who they are and how to make the most of their talents and passions
  • Prepare students to engage effectively in American democracy and civic life
  • Equip students to thrive in the world of work

Amidst a crisis of belonging and opportunity, we are increasingly faced with the reality of the implications for young people and their livelihoods – nearly 40% of US high school students feel disconnected from their school community, a reality that exacerbates challenges in mental health and academic success. Our approach advocates for actionable strategies to enhance student belonging, creating the conditions that will allow them to thrive in school and beyond. 

This pivotal moment for educational leadership demands bold actions to transform schools into communities where every student feels valued and engaged. Join us in this keynote as we explore practical, evidence-based recommendations to combat the belonging crisis and lay the groundwork for an inclusive, resilient public education system that aligns with America's values and future aspirations. 

Brittany Mauney is the Director of People and Strategy at the Aspen Institute’s Education & Society Program. Prior to joining Aspen, Brittany was the Chief of Staff at Gradient Learning, led the Educator Data and Analytics team at the Delaware Department of Education, and managed the Teacher Recruitment team at DC Public Schools. She began her career as a high school math teacher in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Brittany is a proud Golden Gopher, having earned her BS in Business from the University of Minnesota. She also holds an EdM in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and an EdM in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston University. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, daughter, and golden retriever. 

Legislative Keynote

Sam Walseth  |  What's Next for Rural Schools?



Coming off the 2024 Legislative Session, Sam Walseth is addressing what's next for rural districts. Sam will dive into the details of the 2024 session and give updates on MREA priorities going into the 2025 budget session.  

For over 16 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

Jenny Severson  | How to Nurture Holistic Well-Being



How does change or crisis impact one’s body? Relationships? Careers? Finances? Facing these difficult questions can leave people feeling physically weak, emotionally vulnerable, and lacking in hope. Attempts to navigate from the chaos of crises into a new normal is a process that has the potential to deplete all areas of our lives. The good news is that personal margin, balance and strength are attainable—even through change and crises—and as we nurture them, we maximize our impact in our scope of influence. 

One of the most loving things we can do for those depending on us is to offer them the best version of ourselves. Learn about the five core areas of wellness, complete your own wellness inventory, and leave with your own mandate for self-care.  

Jenny Severson, Ed.D. became a school principal at 26-years-old after being a classroom teacher at the same campus. Jenny now serves districts as an Educational Consultant & Speaker. 

Her dissertation on teacher shortage has been a catalyst for retaining teachers, identifying and improving school talent, on-boarding and sustainability of quality staff. Of the 40 school districts where her methods (The CLIMB Experience) were implemented, rural and suburban districts saved $175,000-$1 million dollars. Jenny’s mission is to grow talent inside the district, engage in meaningful professional development, and produce longevity in the teaching profession.  

Jenny loves educators, is a community builder and collaborator, and is known throughout the country for her work with Freshman House programs, building leadership pipelines.