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  • YPN Awards: One to Watch & YP of the Year

  • About the YP of the Year

    The Young Professionals Network YP of the Year is a new award. This honor is given to one YPN member that demonstrates outstanding commitment to their community and their professional development throughout the year. Previous Ones to Watch winners are eligible.

    We accepted nominations for the first award in December 2019, and announced our first winner in January 2020 after the YPN leadership committee evaluated nominations.

  • Current YP of the Year - 2020

  • Erin Larsgaard, Wold Johnson

    Erin exudes professionalism, drive, approachability, sincerity, expertise and is a great example for other YPs in the area. She is also incredibly involved with YPN – she is dedicated to the program, her network, and being there as an asset for other YPs and their networks. Erin was one of the most involved YPs last year, attending probably more events than anyone.

    Erin works to meet new people and make them feel comfortable and respected rather than flocking to people she already knows. Also, she is successful but sets an example by garnering her peers’ respect without bloviation; she is humble and respectable in how she conducts herself. She sets an example of how we all should network and care about each other. She is the epitome of a young professional the community should take notice of and get to know. Hers is a career we should all be watching!

    Erin serves as a Member at Large on the YPN Leadership committee.

  • About the One to Watch

    Each quarter, a YPN member is selected through a nomination process to highlight an up-and-coming professional in the business community. This award is granted quarterly to a Young Professional Network member who goes above and beyond to make a positive impact in their workplace, their community and with the YPN.

    We’re currently seeking applications and nominations for Ones to Watch! Recipients will be featured in our monthly Bridge newsletter, on our social media outlets, will be featured in Fargo INC! magazine, will receive a letter from Chamber leadership, a plaque and a complimentary ticket to a Business Training, Women Connect or Business After Hours event.

    Who can nominate? Anyone! Whether you are a YP and want to nominate a peer, or you're the supervisor of a YP superstar, or you just know someone pretty great, tell us about them!

  • Nominate the next One to Watch


  • Current One to Watch

  • Sara Hand, Communications Coordinator, Cass County Electric

    Sara has been in her current role at Cass County Electric for two years. She wears many hats in her role as the communications coordinator, and her days consist of writing for Cass County Electric’s Highline Notes magazine, photography and videography, and running the organization’s social media platforms. Sara believes it is important to be involved in YPN because the program gives its members connection with other young professionals and the opportunity to expand her network. “I love being social and meeting new people, and YPN gives me that opportunity! I love hearing different people’s stories, and YPN has given me that platform and allowed me to broaden my horizons.”

    Sara is currently working on her drone certification and hopes to have this completed early in 2021. She is also hoping to become a cat foster parent! She loves being creative and loves photography and videography. She is just starting to explore animation. Outside of her creative outlets, Sara loves being “in the trees” and outdoors, and she loves to explore. When asked, why the FMWF area, she said: “I feel like FMWF is where I am supposed to be! I love the opportunities to be involved here. My friends often ask me why I don’t move home, but I can still adventure to the woods when I need to fill that desire, but FMWF is my calling.”


  • Previous Ones to Watch

  • John Fisher, Executive Director, Friends of the Children

    Outside of serving on YPN’s Leadership committee, John serves as a pastor at Sojourn Church, is active with Park Christian School and a member of Fargo Kiwanis. John also serves on the board for Fargo Kiwanis, Badges of Unity and Youth Investment Boards. “I love living in FMWF because of the community vibe,” he said. “My wife and I chose to live here. We had our choice of almost anywhere in the U.S., and we chose FMWF. Cost of living, family friendly, job opportunities, active NPO environment, and tons of good eats/activities. There is an extremely welcoming and neighborly feel.”

    John joined YPN to grow his professional and personal networks and has seen this benefit through his involvement. John says he has found his chiropractor, a future board member and some of his best friends from this organization “It all came from me stepping out, signing up for an event and striking up a convo (back in 2014) and the rest is history!"

  • Casey Thielges, AVP & Mortgage Loan Officer, Gate City Bank

    Casey helps individuals become homeowners by providing them with the necessary resources in his role at Gate City Bank. He says the greatest perk of his position is getting to be part of one of his client’s biggest financial decisions. Casey is also active with the Fargo Moorhead Home Builders Association, where he serves on their Home & Garden Show committee. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Kelsey, son, Jack, and Golden Retriever, Sully. During the summer months, he can be found relaxing at the lake on the weekends and enjoying a round of golf. During the winter, he stays active by participating in a recreational hockey league.

    “Being a part of the Young Professionals Network has allowed me to broaden my professional connections,” he said. “I’ve been able to meet and get to know a lot of other professionals that I would have not have had the chance of meeting without being actively involved with the Young Professionals Network. It also has allowed me to form some great friendships along the way! Staying connected with others in today’s fast-paced environment is a necessity, and I truly enjoy having the opportunity to connect with a wide range of professionals in our community.”

  • Justin Gustofson, Property Resources Group, Commercial Sales & Leasing

    Justin Gustofson gets to enjoy a different day every day at work. Most are spent researching businesses, making connections, showing properties and facilitating sales and leases. He is working toward earning qualifications to earn his CCIM designation. In a job centered on relationships, he knows that you can’t just work for today; rather, he works for years down the road.

    “I feel that YPN has helped start successful relationships with individuals looking to do business together, as well as connect with people of the same age demographic,” he said. I believe it is important for others to get involved with YPN to expand their network and understand our growing community.” Justin is also a member of the Civil Air Patrol, is active with the West Fargo Exchange Club and recently started a group to help with United Way’s Day of Caring.

    Fargo INC! article

  • Celine Francisco, Business Banking Credit and Relationship Program Analyst, Wells Fargo Bank

    Celine started her career with Wells Fargo in 2016 as a business banking intern and began a two-year Business Banking Credit and Relationship training program in 2017. Her current role is a combination of credit underwriting and relationship building. From analyzing credit requests to meeting remarkable business owners and community members, she enjoys the getting the opportunity to get to know and help individuals achieve their financial goals and connect them with the network in the FMWF area. Celine feels that YPN is important because it offers exposure to new opportunities to develop and grow with an amazing community of young professionals. In addition to serving as YPN’s Professional Development Chair, Celine is involved with NDSU Business Connections and Coffee + Conversation. She is also excited to help with BIO Girls’ first annual gala, You Be You, this April. Celine enjoys living an active lifestyle and has running one for the Fargo Marathon events as one of her goals for 2019. Her favorite part of living in the FMWF community is the people. As a native of Duluth, the welcoming “Midwest nice” persona has been and always will be something she is proud to be a part of.

    Fargo INC! article

  • Thad Swanson, Associate Attorney, Nilles Law Firm

    Thad Swanson has been an Associate Attorney at Nilles Law Firm for two and a half years. Thad is a part of the transactional practice group, focusing on estate planning, trust and estate administration, corporate transactions and real estate. He is licensed in both Minnesota and North Dakota. Thad’s professional goal for 2019 is to continue to grow his legal business and pursue further opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills needed to best serve his clients.

    Thad says YPN has given him the opportunity to build relationships and get more involved in the community through volunteer activities, local events and committee participation. Outside of YPN, Thad is involved in a variety of professional organizations, serves as the Alumni Chapter President and on the Chapter Advisory Board for NDSU’s Sigma Chi Fraternity and is on the planning committee for Big Band Night, an event supporting CHARISM on Giving Hearts Day. Thad also enjoys golfing, snowboarding, playing hocking and tailgating at Bison games.

    Thad’s favorite part of living in the FMWF metro is how easy it is to get involved in the community. He says people are eager to encourage involvement and are welcoming when a person wants to join a committee or event.

    Fargo INC! article

  • Danne Doering, Universal Banker, Choice Bank

    Danne was born in Fargo, attended high school in Hibbing, Minnesota, and came back to the area to attend Concordia College.

    The versatility of her role at Choice Bank is why she loves it. “I love my position because it is always something different and love working for Choice because of our company culture of #PeopleFirst. I love that if I see someone in need of something I am empowered to help.”

    Outside of the office, Danne gives back to the community in a variety of ways. She serves as a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters in addition to serving on the Big Brother Big Sister Advisory Committee. She also serves on the American Diabetes Association North Dakota Community Leadership Board. She says the impact attending Diabetes Camp as a kid had on her was so large that she needed to continues to help and promote the American Diabetes Association as much as possible.

    Danne is a member of the 2017-2018 FMWF Leadership class, and is the chair of the Corporate Cup committee for the second year in a row.

    Danne joined YPN when she started her first 8 to 5 job to build a professional network. After attending a few of YPN’s events, she knew that she needed to be more involved. “YPN was the perfect fit for me, everyone was like minded in building their professional network and so friendly and inviting as well. Corporate Cup is my favorite part of the YPN.”

    When Danne isn’t at a Chamber event, planning Corporate Cup or serving the community, she lives in Moorhead with her husband, Trevor and their doxie, Charlie.

    Fargo INC! article

  • Kelly Halvorson, Recruiter, Essentia Health

    Kelly Halvorson moved to the FMWF area from Willmar, Minnesota, when she came to pursue a degree in marketing and communication from Concordia College. Kelly has had a diverse career background since her graduation and most recently started as a recruiter with Essentia Health. Her current role has her partner with managers to develop recruitment strategies that will support their staffing needs. She also works with local organizations and schools for special events, career fairs and other initiatives to grow Essentia’s network of candidates.

    Outside of work, Kelly is active with the Horace Elementary PTO and getting involved in the community with her family through their church and United Way. She believes involvement in these organizations teach her daughters the importance of giving back. Kelly is very family focused, and anything she can do while spending time with her family is her “happy place.”

    Kelly has been involved in YPN for a few years and currently serves as the member engagement chair. She oversees the welcoming of new members to the organization and the annual contacts to our members. Being involved in YPN is important to her as she believes it is motivating to be surrounded by people who are passionate about their careers and want to make a difference in this community.

    Fargo INC! article

  • James Hand, Project Engineer, Construction Engineers

    After spending a few years post-high school in Arizona, James Hand knew that he was meant to be in the Midwest. He packed his bags and moved to the FMWF community to attend North Dakota State University to earn a degree in business management. After a few years in real estate, James took a chance on a completely new industry: construction. James has been working with Mortenson Construction since 2014 and currently serves as a project engineer.
    When not on the worksite, James can be found studying for his MBA at the University of Mary, serving on the Moorhead Park Board as a member at large, providing guidance as the chapter advisor for the Sigma Chi fraternity at NDSU and being an active member of the YPN Leadership and Corporate Cup committees.
    In his down time, James enjoys spending time with his wife, Tessa, two sons, David and Tucker and the family dog, Kota. They can be found at the lake during the summer or enjoying all the things the community has to offer. A self-proclaimed gadget guy, he also enjoys "nerd-stuff" especially his drone.
    Speaking from personal experience, the best advice James can offer any young professional is to be open. Three years ago, he would have never thought he would get the chance to have a hand in building large, interesting commercial projects but taking the leap has lead him to new experiences and opportunities to learn.

    Fargo INC! article