Ready for the World

Watching students embrace academic life and hearing them talk about their experiences outside the classroom are unexpected perks of being editor of Penn State Ag Science. Over the years I’ve interacted with many as they worked through their academic lives and moved on to careers. While paths may diverge in wildly different ways, one constant remains: the college’s commitment to their personal and professional growth, which helps them succeed in a demanding world.

Curtis FrederickIn this issue you’ll meet Curtis Frederick, a recent horticulture graduate now managing the Ukulima Root Biology Center in South Africa. While reading Leonie Joubert’s article, I was impressed by how creative Curtis must be to be successful. A few weeks back he stopped by my office to talk. It’s winter now in South Africa, so he’s working on field projects here, at Rock Springs, before returning to Ukulima. A shared interest in motorcycles started the conversation as Curtis described his primary form of transportation, a Kawasaki KLR650, and the landscape in which he works. He answered my questions about lions, leopards, snakes, and other routine job challenges. Then the conversation turned to the necessity of learning to speak Afrikaans, the challenges of hiring and managing work crews, and what’s involved in overseeing research projects 9,000 miles from home.

I can’t help but wonder why I wasn’t so mature at his age.

While our college’s programs are academically rigorous, additional professional and personal growth results from experiences outside the classroom—internships, studies abroad, clubs, and competitions.

Alyssa KleinAnimal sciences major and Schreyer Honors student Alyssa Klein comes to mind. Alyssa competed as part of a four-member team in the Business Plan Competition at Washington State University. Collaborating from a distance, her group created a detailed business plan to commercialize a technology developed by Troy Ott, associate professor of reproductive physiology in the Department of Dairy and Animal Science. The team included two MBA students from Washington State University and a law student from the University of Idaho. At the event, they made oral presentations and engaged judges in a Q&A session. At the end of the day, Alyssa and her teammates shared the $14,000 first prize and the opportunity to move on to further competitions and possibly gain venture capital for their plan.

This is just one way our students learn outside the classroom. One reason why they can hit the ground running after graduation.

Our graduates are ready for the world.

I’m interested in hearing from students about their careers, or from readers about their experiences with our students in the workplace. Drop me a line and let me know how an education from our college makes a difference.

Steve Williams