Joni Ekstrum, executive director
Joni Ekstrum serves as executive director of South Dakota Biotech where she oversees its advocacy, communication, education and membership services representing more than 50 members in industries spanning from food and agriculture to human health and renewable energy.
Since she assumed this role in 2012, Ekstrum has grown the membership and increased gross profit while maintaining and expanding membership benefits. Her collaborative approach has provided connections for networking and led to career, new business and partnering opportunities for both members and individuals. Her passion for the industry and charismatic personality have helped build relationships with other states, and parent organization BIO as well as legislators, other advocacy groups, venture capital, economic development, and other industry partners.
Ekstrum has brought an emphasis to education and workforce development within the biotechnology industry through partnering with STEMWise, Sanford Promise, SD EPSCoR co-sponsoring eventsand thought leadership in facilitating and collaboration between industry and academia.
During her brief tenure, Ekstrum has made a significant impact on the biotech industry in South Dakota and energized the association. She is a tireless advocate and enthusiastic promoter for the association, its members and affiliates. She has brought attention to the important economic impacts of an innovation-driven economy and served as an influential liaison in advocacy issues to keep the progress of biotech moving.
As executive director of South Dakota Biotech, Ekstrum represents the interests and provides input on behalf of the biotech industry on many boards including:
- South Dakota State University Institutional Biosafety Committee;
- South Dakota State University Agriculture & Biological Sciences Advisory Board;
- Washington Pavilion Kirby Science Discovery Center, Advisory Board Chair;
- Washington Pavilion Board of Trustees;
- USD Tech Transfer Advisory Group;
- Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary Member Engagement Committee;
- Sioux Falls Development Recruitment Council.
Ekstrum remains active in the business community as a member of the Chamber of Commerce and anchor tenant at the Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship providing access to biotech startups and satellite offices. She also fosters biotech's relationship with FFA and other youth and trade organizations.
Ekstrum brings her contagious energy to her community as well volunteering as a client coach and mentor for Embe's, Dress for Success program that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.
Prior to South Dakota Biotech, Ekstrum served as administrator of POET's political action committee. In that role representing one of the world's largest ethanol producers, Ekstrum grew PAC membership from 100 to 700 members, making it the largest PAC in the renewal fuels industry. She also is a veteran of many statewide political campaigns.
Ekstrum attended South Dakota State University and is an active mother of three children. In her spare time, she enjoys running and hiking.
Shannon Van Buskirk, member relations specialist
Shannon Van Buskirk began her role as member relations specialist in 2021, building on a career that includes experience in broadcast journalism and sales in addition to more than a decade in the pharmaceutical industry.
Her multiple roles at Pfizer most recently included serving as a senior professional pharmaceutical consultant.
Van Buskirk has a passion for building trusted relationships, establishing a positive environment and keeping consistent communications.
Her role as member relations specialist includes growing new membership for South Dakota Biotech in addition to supporting existing membership with a variety of resources and communications. She assists executive director Joni Ekstrum in programming and industry outreach along with supporting South Dakota Biotech's external communications and public relations.
Van Buskirk earned her undergraduate degree in mass communications at Augsburg University and is working toward her MBA at the University of Sioux Falls.
Van Buskirk is a mother of two who enjoys cooking, Pilates, swimming, traveling and reading in her spare time.