Learn. Grow. Do.

Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence

Our Mission

The Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence will align students with the resources of academic institutions and industry to develop and sustain the workforce needs of agriculture in Southern Minnesota.

Our Vision

The Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence will serve as a dominate force in the promotion of education in agriculture and agricultural careers, aligning colleges and curriculums across the region. 


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - Executive Director

Tina LeBrun

Tina has more than 15 years of experience working with faculty, staff and students in higher education and has been a South Central College Farm Business Management instructor since January 2009.  She is also past president for the National Farm and Ranch Business Management Educator Association. She holds a bachelor's in agriculture economics and animal science from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and a master's in education from the University of Minnesota.

Tina was born and raised on a dairy/crop farm in south-central Minnesota; she and her husband are active producers and live on a cattle farm in Lafayette.

She looks forward to continuing work with farm producers, supporting ag educators and students, and strengthening relationships with the ag business and industry.



This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - Program Coordinator

Nathan HanelNathan is the Program Coordinator for the Minnesota State Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence and grew up on a family farm in rural Mankato. His family was in the popcorn business, Hanel Popcorn, and he was an active part of all aspects of the operation until his dad retired in 2007. As a kid, he was in 4-H and the Lake Crystal Saddle Club and couldn’t wait to get home from school and help out on the farm. Nathan also has had horses from an early age and one of his favorite activities is camping and trail riding with friends. Over the years, he’s ridden his horse in 8 different states.

Not far from home, Nathan graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College earning a B.A. in organizational management. A few years later, he attended Concordia University, St. Paul and graduated with a M.A. in organizational management. Over the past 20 years, Nathan has been in leadership roles in customer service and technical support in the printing, telecommunications and publishing industries.

Presently, Nathan enjoys living on his family farm and is an active volunteer within our community. He is a board member for Junior Achievement and also serves on committees for GreenSeam, Farmamerica as well as an AFNR advisory member for Mankato Area Public Schools. He also helped establish the Mankato FFA Alumni and Supporters chapter in support of Mankato FFA.  Nathan is proud to share his passion and enthusiasm for ag education!


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. - Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator

Courtney Spence

As the Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator with Minnesota State Southern Agricultural Center of Excellence, Courtney will primarily focus on targeted outreach initiatives and strategic recruitment efforts, aiming to bridge the gap between academia and industry, empowering young talents to make a meaningful impact in the field. 

Courtney grew up on a Century Farm near LaSalle, Minnesota where she still thoroughly enjoys spending time at whenever the opportunity allows. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Minnesota State Mankato. Over the past 20 years, Courtney has developed leadership skills through programs such as Leadership Minnesota, Blandin Leadership Program, Cooperative Communicators Association and most recently, Elizabeth Kearney Women’s Leadership Program.  

Outside of work, you can find Courtney behind the lens of a camera, parenting two amazing young men, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. 

Courtney looks forward to empowering the next generation of agricultural leaders, building lasting relationships with industry partners, and helping to create a sustainable future for agriculture. 





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