Ag Alumni Profile - Melanie Barkley '86 AN PR, '92g Ext Ed

Posted: September 7, 2012

Teachers want to inspire students to succeed in school and life. Senior Extension Educator, Melanie Barkley goes beyond the classroom and into the shoes of agricultural inspired 4-H members to impact their future careers.

Jena Sigel, Ag Alumni Relations Intern and Animal Science major talked with Melanie Barkley '86 Animal Production and '92g Extension Education on finding true satisfaction when she sees a 4-H student master a new concept or come up with an innovative idea and embraces those challenges. 

Career: Penn State Cooperative Extension, Senior Extension Educator

How has being a Penn State and College of Agricultural Sciences alum benefited your career? 

The contacts that I made within the livestock industry by attending Penn State have been invaluable. I formed not only good friendships, but also made contacts that allow me to do a better job as an Extension Educator. Some of these contacts have hosted Extension programs and field days and others have served as presenters at various events.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career? 

Watching youth develop has easily been the most rewarding part of my career. I started with Penn State Extension by working with the 4-H program. There are some amazing youth who have gone through the 4-H program and who have developed important skills that they use throughout their life. I really didn’t appreciate this fact until I was able to see the changes the 4-H program made in my own children. It is very satisfying to see youth develop self confidence, communication skills, and leadership skills.

What is your favorite creamery flavor?

Coconut chip

What advice would you give to current students? 

Explore as many options as you can so that you have several opportunities to market yourself for employment. Get involved with clubs on campus so that you have hands on experience working within your major. I would also recommend that students take some business courses because they are always useful whether we are talking about home finances, working for a business, or running your own business.

What characteristics are needed to be successful in your career field? 

A good Extension Educator needs to have excellent communication with both written and speaking skills. I think it is also important for an Extension Educator to be flexible and well organized in time management.

Barkley and her husband, Brian raise Dorsets, Tunis and Border Leicesters sheep on their family farm. Combining her personal experience with animal science projects easily allows her to have experience when asked questions as a Senior Extension Educator. “I enjoy most about the sheep flock is choosing the rams to mate to the ewes and then watching the lambs arrive. I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the lambs bounce around the barn. One friend even commented that they look like popcorn popping,” Barkley says. She previously served as the President of Penn State Stockmen’s Club.