It wasn’t too long after she turned 13 years old that Jennifer Kuderer realized how much she loved meetings.
“I was kind of nerdy,” Kuderer said.
Without perhaps fully realizing it at the time, she was on a path that led her into a career as the regional economic development director for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
“I have chosen to make my career in economic development because, while not in the traditional sense, it is a ‘helping’ profession,” she said. “Each day I assist companies in leveraging exciting opportunities and overcoming challenges to grow, expand and be more successful. With each community development initiative, our communities become even better places in which to build a career, raise a family or retire.”
These are lessons Kuderer learned at an early age, which she credits to her parents, Kathy and Chuck, who own Down A Country Road, which specializes in gift shops, Amish furniture, Amish tours, just outside of Cashton. Kurderer was drawn to the energy and excitement of watching talent, goodwill and hard work come together and expand one’s horizons. It was a perfect storm of motivation.
“I believe I have carried that intrinsic motivation forward throughout my life, being motivated to be the best that I can be and to accomplish the goals I set forth for myself,” she said. “I also believe that it is important to set a good example for those around me so I have always tried to serve as a role model, particularly to my younger sister, cousins, nieces and now my own young daughter.”
Apart from her work in economic development in a seven-county region with WEDC, Kuderer has also served as an adjunct instructor since 2006, having taught classes at all three institutions of higher education in La Crosse — the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Viterbo University and Western Technical College. While her full-time work and commitment to her family no longer allow her to teach in the classroom, she continues to teach online economics courses at Western each semester. She also serves on the UW-L Foundation Board of Directors and the Viterbo University Dahl School of Business Advisory Board.
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“By virtue of my position with WEDC,” she said, “I also have the opportunity to engage with many community organizations throughout the region including downtown business associations, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and more to assist in community improvement initiatives. I’m a past Rotarian and look forward to being a part of a service club again in the future as family and professional commitments allow.”
Mary Gage, who along with Kuderer’s mother, Kathy, nominated her for Rising Stars Under 40, was effusive in support of the recognition.
“Jenny has lived and breathed the passion of the 7 Rivers Region her whole life,” Gage said. “Jenny was born and raised in Cashton, graduating from Cashton High School. She furthered her education by receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration—Economics and Public Policy from UW-La Crosse, and a Master’s in Business Administration from Viterbo University. She continues to live and raise her family in the region she loves.”
For Kuderer, remaining a vital force in her home region is part and parcel of who she defines herself to be.
“This is home,” she said. “This is where I always want to come back to. I don’t want to see myself anywhere else.”
She also takes her work in the classroom — and the impact it can have on students — very seriously. It’s exhilarating, she said, to help build the workforce of today and tomorrow.
“I feel I learn as much from them as they learn from me,” Kuderer said. “Education comes in so many forms and types.”