“The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities partnership has proven that removing ﬁnancial barriers to driven young people allows potential to expand and opportunities to develop,” shares Patti Annexstad. “This institution is a ﬂagship for the Foundation in my family’s home state. The University of Minnesota serves as a pillar for Annexstad Scholars to receive a world-class education close to home. Minnesota’s mission of excellence deeply resonated with my family, especially in the areas of research, science and agriculture, while we explored partnerships in the early years of our organization.”
In 2006, the Foundation supported the ﬁrst University of Minnesota Scholars.
In 2012, Minnesota joined the national Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship program. With over 40 graduates and 10 active students, the degrees of study and professional endeavors this cohort has pursued include: education, engineering, business, agriculture and computer science. The Annexstad Family Foundation has pledged over $1 million dollars to support deserving undergraduates through Scholarship.
“When it comes to business and philanthropic leadership, Al and Cathy Annexstad have been two of Minnesota’s brightest stars,” says Bob McMaster,
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. “The University of Minnesota, our state’s ﬂagship institution, cannot thank you enough for your outstanding and enduring partnership.”
“The Foundation’s mission aligns with our deeply held belief that the road to success is through education. We value those same qualities of intelligence, determination, and a strong work ethic that will be needed by the future leaders of our nation, and our world.”
Annexstad Scholarships make an immediate impact on a student’s ability to pursue a college education. Students who are both eligible for need-based scholarships and who are also ﬁrst-generation college students often have additional challenges in obtaining a degree. This is why the Annexstad Family Foundation, and the University are committed to supporting these students. Scholarships increase their access to and success with higher education, allowing them to remain focused on their coursework and co-curricular activities, internships and undergraduate research, to further enhance their learning and growth.
“Your Scholarship is important to me because the Annexstads faced hardships as kids and, with the help of others, they were able to create a life for themselves,” shares Liana L., Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarship Recipient, Class of 2026. “I also faced a lot of hardships growing up. Those experiences shaped me into the person I am today and made me stronger than ever. I didn’t get a lot of help from others growing up, but I worked hard to create the future I wanted for myself.”
Courtney Bell-Duncan is determined to make a change in education policy. Courtney ﬁrst received the Annexstad Family Foundation Scholarship in 2007 and is a three-time graduate from the University. After completing her bachelor’s degree in Sociology of Law, Criminology, and Deviance, Courtney received a master’s degree in education. “My focus for speaking out and standing up for educational equity was fostered in my youth as a student leader, but my academic training in the Sociology department provided me with the terminology and in-depth understanding of social systems to translate my passion into action. With my newfound love of the social sciences, I decided that I wanted to pursue a Master of Education. The College of Human Development Education and became the social studies teacher that I never had.”
Through her master’s program, Courtney had the opportunity to learn the power of student-centered, project-based learning, which built her foundation as an educator. “Dr. Pat Avery taught me the importance of teaching critical analysis and thinking to help my scholars form their own perspectives and opinions of the world.” After graduating with her master’s in 2014, Courtney worked at her high school alma mater for two years. That experience deeply inﬂuenced her decision to pursue her PhD in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development.
“As an educator, I witnessed ﬁrsthand the impact that leadership and policy had on the outcomes of the scholars that I served. I wanted to gain a systemic understanding of educational inequity in order to create educational system change,” Courtney shares. Courtney completed her PhD and successfully defended her dissertation during the pandemic, receiving her degree in 2020. Following graduation, Courtney founded and is CEO of her own educational consulting ﬁrm in the Twin Cities metro area. “I can say in full conﬁdence that my work as an educational policy and leadership consultant has been made largely possible by my outstanding education and training.”
Cavonte Johnson is another example of the opportunity the University provided in creating his pathway towards a career as an engineer. “The university gave me a Cavonte Johnson chance and opened doors that I never thought I would be invited to open,” Cavonte shares. “My Engineering degree is fundamental in how I approach everything in life. There may be multiple solutions to every problem.” After receiving his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2017, Cavonte began working for Mortensen as a Field Engineer, excelling in a managerial position and overseeing community construction projects.
Today, Cavonte is currently a Construction Manager for United Companies, a commercial property investment company. “Engineering is still at the epicenter of making a project viable. The geotechnical report, the foundations and the structure of a building to ﬁt a speciﬁc use is a large cost to a project. Finding the most efficient and affordable way to build something is more important than ever with shortages in material, longer lead times and a volatile construction industry that is led by innovating engineers.”
Cavonte hopes his Minnesota legacy inspires the next generation. When asked what his proudest memory was, Cavonte shares, “Walking across the stage on graduation day with my one-year-old son in my arms.”
For current Annexstad Scholars, Cavonte advises, “Your education is everything. Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. Wake up every day, try to put positivity in the world and make this world one for your kids and others to know what love is.”
Courtney shares, “I would advise all new Annexstad Scholars to make the pursuit of your education your number-one priority. Treat it as a full-time job, because trust me when I tell you that completing your degree(s) will change the trajectory of your life. The investment of The Annexstad Family Foundation into my life and education will ensure beneﬁts for many generations, and for that I am grateful.”