Foreword: About the Title

About the Title: “Developing Human Potential”
By Mark Balschweid

I first met Gina Matkin in February 2008 while visiting the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication—also known as ALEC. I was impressed by her line of scholarly inquiry in leadership theory and was excited to meet her. I was immediately struck by Gina’s humility and curiosity. Over the past 15 years, I’ve witnessed firsthand Gina’s passion for seeing her students grow in their comprehension and application of leadership theory and practice. Much later, I met Jason Headrick and Hannah Sunderman as ALEC graduate students and was instantly impressed by their love of learning and interest in developing others.

This book has been in development for over a decade. Maybe not the composition of actual pages and chapters – but the principles and concepts herein. I can honestly say that the editors live the essence of the leadership theories and best practices contained in the following pages. They have collectively taught thousands of undergraduate and graduate students. Their learners, one by one, have engaged in, embraced, and lived the concepts in Developing Human Potential: A Personal Approach to Leadership. And it is these students who have helped to refine and validate the contents in the following pages.

In 2010, while engaging in a strategic planning effort, ALEC faculty, staff, and graduate students created and refined the requisite vision, mission, and strategies to guide the department over the next several years. There was nothing distinctive about the process until the end. In a casual discussion about how to best summarize what we’d created in the planning process and ‘what we do,’ someone said, “we develop human potential.” From that moment on, Developing Human Potential has not only been the tagline for ALEC – it has been the ethos guiding us for who we are, what we do, and how we desire to function.

I realize there is nothing unique about this concept. In fact, there are many on UNL’s campus who maintain that their department develops human potential. And certainly, any enterprise that teaches students, trains people, or offers professional development can make that claim. But what sets Gina, Jason, and Hannah apart in this effort is that they study human development literature, have worked for years in developing and refining theoretical models, and deploy those models in countless settings to further operationalize what it means to develop human potential, and they do it within the context of creating guiding principles for those who are passionate about food, energy, water, and societal systems, and with a focus on interpersonal skills based in trust, treating others with dignity, and finding common ground.

I’ve had the privilege of a front-row seat watching Gina, Jason, and Hannah engage in this work of developing human potential over the past several years. I can tell you they live out this concept every single day, with every individual, in every interaction they have. They embody the principles found in this book. And I have witnessed their impact on students in profound ways. To these editors and the chapter authors, the principles in this book aren’t just what they do…it’s who they are. If you know them or have met them, you’ll know what I mean.

The sheer number of books published on leadership is enormous. I won’t promise that this is the best textbook on leadership ever written. But what I will promise is that if you read and internalize the concepts and principles contained in Developing Human Potential: A Personal Approach to Leadership, you will begin to discover the keys to unlocking possibilities for a greater understanding of yourself and others and navigating that intersection we call interpersonal relationships. My hope as you read this book is that you will grow in the comprehension of your own potential, as well as your influence in developing the human potential of others.

Mark Balschweid, PhD
Professor and Head
Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication
University of Nebraska – Lincoln



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Developing Human Potential Copyright © 2023 by Gina S. Matkin, Jason Headrick, Hannah M. Sunderman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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