Kristin Kirkpatrick: December message

Together We Grow members,

Somehow this year is already coming to an end, and this is our final newsletter of 2020. And what a year it has been! As I am reflecting on the challenges we have faced and the ways that we have responded, I sit here drinking my coffee, pecking at my keyboard, stewing in awe at your fortitude and adaptability. I am heartened by our collective will to remain undaunted and to be stewards of our own resilience.

To say this year has been hard is an understatement. For me, personally, it’s been a wild time to join the effort leading an emerging organization. The start-up, forming stage of an organization is always a period that is challenging and messy. Add a pandemic, contentious politics, a global economic crisis, a handful of natural disasters, and a cresting demand to rewrite our social contract with one another and to reach for that more just and equitable world we all want to see, and well, it’s been one heck of a way to start.

But, as I think about the progress we have made and the work ahead of us we have committed to, I am energized. We have come together to tackle some tricky issues, and I am so hopeful for the impact we will create within our organizations and the industry at large in 2021. Together We Grow’s mission is more critical now than it ever has been. And so, as we all look forward to turning the page into a new year, I want to close out this one with gratitude.

One thing I am grateful for is our new look! You’ll note our new logo at the top of this newsletter. My colleague, Jen Smith, at the CSU System created our new logo, which she affectionately refers to as “cornigami.” Our bold, modern look is inspired by an aerial view of agriculture fields, plant growth, and the ancient symbol for fertility. Look for a full rebrand of our communications structure in 2021.

I am also thankful for Together We Grow’s board — and want to thank Deborah Borg and Melissa Harper, in particular, for stepping up to lead us forward this year. I am so thankful for Chancellor Tony Frank at the Colorado State University System — another visionary who is building the world anew — and the incredible CSUS team that has embraced Together We Grow and dedicated their time to our success, including Jenny Frank who is the magic maker behind these newsletters. I am grateful for Tiana Kennedy, Daiana Endruweit, Wanda Jackson, Ebony Webber, Dr. Pamala Morris, Dr. Quentin Tyler, Philomena Satre, and Demetha Sanders for stepping up to co-chair our workgroups so that we can move our industry forward and create a sense of belonging for all identities in agriculture. I am thankful for Kemba Marshall, Mark Stewart, Zach Wheatley, Sam Hotshouser, and Janelle Duray for stepping up as champions for subcommittees. And, of course, I want to thank Secretary Tom Vilsack and Mike D’Ambrose for dreaming up this effort and delivering us to where we are today. And to each of our members, thank you for lending us your time and your talent, for sharing your expertise, for making connections, and for traveling this journey together.

Here’s to 2021!



This message was included in Together We Grow’s December newsletter. Subscribe to the monthly newsletter.

Melissa Harper, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Enbridge

Melissa Harper joined Enbridge in April 2021 as Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer,leading Enbridge’s Human Resources and Real Estate and Workplace Services. This portfolio includes HRBusiness Partners, Centers of Excellence, Operations, Rewards and Analytics, Talent Management, and Diversity and Inclusion.

Prior to joining Enbridge, Melissa held the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Bayer AG whereshe was responsible for the company’s global HR strategies and its Centers of Excellence includingresponsibility for Compensation & Benefits, Talent Acquisition & Development, Diversity & Inclusion, Digital Analytics, Leadership Development & Succession. Melissa joined Bayer through its merger with MonsantoCorporation where she spent nine years in a variety of increasingly senior HR roles supporting the company’sgrowth, including leading its HR integration with Bayer AG in 2018.

Melissa holds a Master of Business Administration and brings a breadth of experience in multiple industries including manufacturing, banking, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals.

Melissa has been active in her profession and community, sitting on the Boards of the St. Louis YMCA, Junior Achievement, Together We Grow and St. Louis Opera. She has also been recognized as a Top 100 HR Professional, and Diverse Business Leader.

Ms. Harper lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, Charles, and has a daughter and a son.

Russell Schiller, Social and Digital Content Coordinator, Together We Grow

Russell Schiller is the Social & Digital Content Coordinator for Together We Grow, located at Colorado State University. In this role, Russell works alongside a consortium of many of the world’s largest agribusiness interests, including members of industry, non-governmental organizations, higher education, and government institutions in order to tell their stories and bring awareness to the agricultural world. Together We Grow is focused on building a skilled, diverse, and inclusive agricultural workforce that can power the innovation needed to feed the future, Russell looks to bring that to life through a social and digital lens.

Russell has a passion for communications in all facets, looking to develop relationships and establish strong, genuine connections across a diverse field of industries. Russell believes we all have the ability to connect and can work together to do so through communication.

Russell graduated from Howard University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s of the Arts Degree with a focus in Strategic, Legal, Management Communications: Specializing in Advertising and a minor in Electronic Studio Art. He worked with Footlocker INC for three years with the Sports & Performance Division, Eastbay, to bring to life Marketing, Branding, Social, and Campaign efforts with vendor partners such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour. He loves to continue learning through freelance and manages social media accounts for professional athletes such as Kevon Looney, Sahvir Wheeler, and others.

Michael D'Ambrose, Executive Vice President of Human Resources, Boeing

Michael D’Ambrose is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for The Boeing Company as of July 2020. In this role, he is responsible for the company’s leadership and learning, talent planning, employee and labor relations, total rewards, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. He is also a member of the company’s executive council.

D’Ambrose has been a leader in human resources for over three decades, focused on leveraging innovative human strategies to influence business strategy, empower leaders, embrace change, and deliver business results. He is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion and brings deep expertise in talent management, succession, compensation, M&A, labor/union negotiations, and creating high performing teams that drive extraordinary results.

Prior to joining Boeing, D’Ambrose spent almost 14 years as the Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer for ADM, where he oversaw global human resources, helping to lead a corporate culture of innovation, inclusion, and integrity. Previously, he served in a series of executive-level business and HR positions, including Chief Human Resources Officer at Citigroup, First Data, and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc., along with senior HR roles at Travelers Mortgage Services and Ingersoll-Rand Corporation. He also served as the CEO of Shadow Broadcasting Services and as Chief Operating Officer for Westwood One, Inc.

In addition, D’Ambrose has extensive corporate board experience, serving on the board of directors for Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) as chair of the Resource Development Committee. He is chairman of the board of directors for The Cornell Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), and serves on several other high-profile boards, including the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the Center for Executive Succession at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, and the CEO advisory board for the USC Marshall Center for Effective Organizations.

In 2016, D’Ambrose earned HR’s highest honor as a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, a distinction that — when he was inducted — had only been granted to 163 individuals since 1992. He also helped to create Together We Grow.

D’Ambrose holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Melissa Werneck, Global Chief People Officer, Kraft-Heinz

Melissa Werneck is the Global Chief People Officer for The Kraft Heinz Company. She is responsible for overseeing the global human resources function.

Melissa joined Heinz in 2013 to implement the new performance methodology and the integrated management system. Prior to joining Heinz, Melissa served as Performance Senior Vice President and Chief People Officer at America Latina Logistica (ALL).

Melissa received a degree in chemical engineering from Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and a Master of Business Administration from Federal University of Rio De Janeiro.

Deborah Borg, Chief Human Resources & Communications Officer, Bunge

Deborah Borg assumed the role of Chief Human Resources and Communications Officer in January 2016. She is responsible for people, culture, and communications strategy and operations for the 35,000-employee global agribusiness and food organization based in New York. She is a seasoned business and human resources leader with a proven track record in general management and developing people and culture-based programs in support of business performance and growth. Deborah joined Bunge from Dow Chemical, where she served as President Dow USA, a role in which she was responsible for overall business performance, regional business strategy, new business development, and external relationships with customers, government organizations, and joint venture partners. She has served on the board of SWM International since 2019. Deborah has lived and worked in three continents, and currently lives in Manhattan, N.Y.

Kristin Kirkpatrick, Executive Director, Together We Grow

Kristin Kirkpatrick is the Executive Director for Together We Grow and the Center for an Enhanced Workforce in Agribusiness, located at Colorado State University. In this role, Kristin works alongside a consortium of many of the world’s largest agribusiness interests, including members of industry, non-governmental organizations, higher education, and government institutions. Together We Grow is focused on building a skilled, diverse, and inclusive agricultural workforce that can power the innovation needed to feed the future.   

Kristin has always had a passion for systems change that creates more equitable opportunities and has done this work through the lenses of public health, policy advocacy, and community development. Most recently, she helped lead Kimbal Musk’s national nonprofit Big Green, which integrates food literacy education into school curriculums across the country.

Kristin has been an instructor with the Colorado School of Public Health at CSU and served as Chief of Wellness Planning for Bellisimo Development Inc., helping lead the master planning, design, and actualization of the award-winning Bucking Horse and landmark Jessup Farm projects in Fort Collins, Colo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in health and exercise science from CSU and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Colorado.