Who is Jennifer Alstad?

Board Member Q&A

Board Term: 2009-2020

Jen Alstad

Photo by Bruce Silcox.

Multicultural, multilingual

Adopted as an infant from Korea, Alstad was raised in a Norwegian-American family on a “century farm” near Granite Falls, Minnesota — the same town where Archibald G. Bush grew up. In addition to Norwegian and French, she is fluent in Mandarin and moved to Taiwan to study the language.

Baked to perfection

To improve her award-winning entry in the Minnesota State Fair’s 4-H baking competition, Alstad baked 200 practice loaves of pineapple bread with a cinnamon-and-coconut topping at the age of 13.

Community contributor

“My belief system stems from growing up in a place where you can’t just pick things to do because you’re good at them — you have to do them because they need to get done. Alstad served as president of her class from seventh to tenth grades, and earned varsity letters in tennis, basketball and track for the Granite Falls Kilowatts. “I was a terrible athlete, but they needed everyone so they had enough kids for practice.”

Early riser

After tenth grade, Alstad earned a scholarship for the University of Minnesota, becoming the first high-school-age student to enroll under the state’s new postsecondary options. (Her parents made sure she lived in a dorm on the farm campus in Saint Paul.) After graduating with a degree in political science in 1992, she considered becoming a lawyer before she cofounded bswing, a digital design and consulting firm based in Minneapolis.

Force for the future

The mother of a first-grader and a preschooler, Alstad was named Minnesota’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and made Minnesota Business Magazine's "(Real) Power 50 List" in 2013. She joined the Foundation’s Board in 2010 and believes passionately that the Foundation is “an important force for good and innovation” in the region. She likes to ask questions to help decide what work needs to be done: Why does it matter? What difference does it make? How will it make things better in the future? “I think we are true to what Archibald Bush envisioned — to ask how your gifts and challenges can be used in the world, to make it a better and stronger place. We have to hold those things up.”

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