Why I Give
"I've always felt giving was something I needed to do and should do, because there is so much value in this education, and I want others to have that opportunity as well."
Laura England has dedicated her career to serving as an advocate for the agricultural industry. Her duties have regularly called upon her communication skills, business and marketing background, and journalism experience – a winning combination of attributes, which Laura honed through her professional experiences and her own well-planned educational strategy. Selecting the College of Agricultural Sciences' General Agriculture major, she made good use of the major's option to take a block of elective classes, dedicating the credits to coursework in the School of Journalism. It was an ideal combination to expand upon her writing skills and her love of agriculture – a passion she developed growing up on her family's dairy farm in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, which continues to operate today as part of a larger family dairy, Penn-England, LLC.
"I knew I wanted to keep my hands in agriculture but yet I wanted to be able to do something in the field of communications," says Laura. "Penn State was always my first choice, no doubt. And around the time when I was getting ready for college, I came across the term 'Agricultural Journalism,' and I thought, that's it, that's what I want to do. Finding that term helped me put together my interests and realize there was a potential career in that area." During high school, Laura applied her strong interest in writing as a local correspondent on high school news for community newspapers such as the Altoona Mirror and Morrisons Cove Herald. She continued her journalism work during her first two years of college at Penn State's Altoona campus, serving as the sports editor and then editor-in-chief for the Altoona Collegian. "I enjoyed participating in clubs and activities where I could use my writing skills," says Laura. "When I got to the main campus, I was the editor of the college's Ag Activator student newsletter and I worked on the Dairy Science Club yearbook. I took the opportunity to be involved in things where I could work with communications and public relations."
Laura was also involved in University-wide activities, most notably as one of the original Lion Ambassadors when the student organization was formed in the early 1980s. She says it was one of several opportunities she enjoyed during her Penn State experience to represent agriculture to those outside the field. As a campus tour guide, she could introduce potential Penn State students both to the University and to the reasons she chose agriculture as her major.
"I had a nice balance of being in the College of Agricultural Sciences, where I was around people like me who either grew up on farms or were interested in agriculture as a career choice, and also spending time with fellow journalism students who were generally from larger cities or less rural areas," says Laura. "I got to learn how they think and look at the world and was able to be an agricultural ambassador in that setting."
"I give, because when I look back at the value I got from my college experience, being able to provide that to another student is important,” Laura says. “For me, it’s a combination of giving back both financially and in-kind, whether it's serving on an alumni board, serving as a student mentor, or being involved in career days. There are many ways to give back to the University."
When she completed her degree in 1983, Laura's involvement as an alumna of the College of Agricultural Sciences began almost immediately. Prior to graduation, she made her first financial pledge to the campaign that established one of the campus's key agricultural buildings, the Snider Agricultural Arena. As a young professional, giving a moderate amount spread over a three-year span allowed her to contribute to a piece of Penn State agricultural history.
"Over time, your life changes and your career changes, and some years you'll feel you can give more than others, but I always valued the opportunity to give," says Laura. "No amount is too small. Any amount you give contributes to the bigger goal of helping students, the College, and the University."
Her early contributions to the agricultural college weren't only financial. Shortly after graduation, Laura was encouraged to run for the Agricultural Alumni Society board, and she was elected to be a director. Her service to the board was honored when she was inducted as a charter member of the agricultural Armsby Honor Society.
Laura spent her first year in the workforce as a reporter and associate editor at the agricultural newspaper Lancaster Farming. She was then hired as Public Relations Manager for Atlantic Dairy Cooperative, which later merged with Land O'Lakes, a farmer-owned cooperative. Laura served the organization for 15 years during which she directed public relations, media relations, publications development, and industry and corporate giving communications for the cooperative's eastern U.S. operations. She added to her on-the-job business acumen by earning her Masters of Business Administration degree with a Marketing emphasis in 1994 from La Salle University.
Laura's degrees and the Food Marketing post-graduate certificate she later earned from Saint Joseph's University, served her well in her role as Vice President of Strategic Communications for the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association. During her 2000 through 2016 tenure with the dairy checkoff program, she directed the marketing communications, product public relations, media relations, and corporate strategic planning initiatives for a multi-state region. She also interfaced with other agricultural organizations and industry groups across Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic states, which sometimes brought her to industry events hosted by the College of Agricultural Sciences.
"I'm a typical Penn State alum, in that we never want to leave the College or the University," says Laura. "Thankfully, through my work, there were opportunities to come back to Penn State for agricultural meetings and seminars. I've also participated in a few Agricultural Career Days, and on the social side have attended events like football games or activities at the Bryce Jordan Center."
In addition to participating in student mentoring workshops for the College of Agricultural Sciences, Laura is a member of Lion Link, the Penn State Alumni Association's alumni-to-students mentoring program, through which she has offered advice to students in the communications and journalism programs as they prepare to enter the workforce. She has also inspired family connections to the University, with her son, Matt, currently completing a business degree with a marketing / management option at Penn State's Abington campus.
Today, Laura is serving as an advocate for Pennsylvania agriculture in a new way, having recently become the Agricultural Marketing Director for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Market Development. In her role as Director, Laura and her team oversee economic development, commodity marketing and international marketing initiatives for the Bureau, which is responsible for promoting Pennsylvania agribusiness products and services domestically and worldwide, and for assisting agribusinesses locating to or expanding within the state.
Throughout her career, Laura has maintained her connection to her alma mater, giving in a variety of ways. She has been acknowledged by Penn State for contributing something to the University every year since her graduation. She feels everyone interested in contributing to the college has an opportunity to enjoy the rewards of giving back.