Underwriting Supervisor Melanie Mason has never set a foot — or a skate — in an Olympic ice hockey rink. In fact, she’s much better known for her leadership in the ProAg underwriting department. Yet, in August 2022, Melanie was recognized with the first Olympics-inspired Front of the Jersey Leadership Award at the annual ProAg Leadership Training Camp.

This award was inspired by the United States men’s ice hockey team’s “Miracle on Ice” victory during the 1980 Winter Olympics. The team faced what some deemed an impossible challenge. To win the gold medal, they would have to defeat the Soviet Union — an opponent who had dominated the sport for decades and was highly favored to take home the top spot that year. United States Head Coach Herb Brooks rallied his team. He told this group of college students that the name on the front of their jerseys was more important than the name on the back. He encouraged his players to remember they were a team representing the nation, not just individual hockey players out for personal glory. Against all odds, the U.S. team took home gold.

The lesson — that silos hold teams back from their collective goals — is true for any business. And it inspired the ProAg Front of the Jersey Leadership Award, given annually to a ProAg leader who demonstrates the ability to work across departments and put the needs of the overall organization first. To be selected for this award, nominees must demonstrate the ability and motivation to work cross-functionally in a relationally healthy, productive manner. They must demonstrate a desire in word and deed to put the needs of the overall organization ahead of an individual’s or department’s needs and wants. Finally, they must model a collaborative, team-oriented leadership approach when working with others.

ProAg President and CEO, Kendall Jones stated, “Melanie personifies the core values at ProAg. She has advanced expertise in crop insurance and uses that to improve her team, ProAg agents and insureds, colleagues and ultimately drives positive results at ProAg.”

“Melanie tackles hard challenges while taking the time to recognize successes and correct issues, and she hits each day and challenge head-on,” said Vikki Blettner, ProAg National Underwriting Manager, one of her nominators. Vikki continues, “Melanie has worked closely with claims, sales and compliance teams on multiple projects to create a truly cross-functional team.”

Melanie received the ProAg Front of the Jersey Leadership Award during the 2022 Leadership Training Camp. “I’m humbled and honored to have been selected for this leadership award,” said Melanie. “Winning this award would not have been possible without the other leaders here at ProAg. I would also like to thank our team members for all their hard work and perseverance. It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

More than 70 ProAg leaders meet yearly at the camp to grow and develop our capability to lead well, align our leaders around our strategic vision and goals, and develop relationships grounded in trust so we can solve problems and address existing challenges together as a healthy, productive team. This year the ProAg Leadership Training Camp focused on a definition of leadership which states, “leadership is taking the initiative to make things better by adding value to those we serve.” Tim Rich, HR director, said, “You’ll notice nowhere in this definition does it mention a title or position. Being a leader is being an initiator to make things better. When you take the initiative, you are leading. Those are the people we are looking to honor with this award.”

Melanie was among 19 ProAg leaders nominated for this award. Nominees also included:

  • Andrew Headrick, Operations Manager
  • Chad Kiniston, Area Claims Supervisor
  • Debbie Pound, Executive Office Manager
  • Dustin Tubbs, Eastern Region Claims Manager
  • E’Lise Bracker, National Training Director
  • Jennifer Red, Operations Accounting Manager
  • Jennifer Umscheid, National Compliance Manager
  • Joe Sharp, Regional Vice President of Eastern Sales
  • Joel Block, Director of Customer Experience
  • Leigha Calder, Manager Business Analyst
  • Lindsay Van Allen, Area Claims Supervisor
  • Lisa Greene, Regulatory and Licensing Supervisor
  • Mindi Hall, Senior HR Generalist
  • Natalie Raymond, Area Claims Supervisor
  • Richard Stinson, Communication and Media Manager
  • Ryan Bakke, Controller
  • Steve Renter, Director of Business Innovation
  • Vikki Blettner, National Underwriting Manager

Join us in congratulating Melanie on this well-deserved honor as well as the 18 team members nominated for the 2022 award.