'97 Animal Science, '01g MBA; Senior Marketing Manager, AgChoice Farm Credit

Why I Give

"For me, giving back is about returning the favor. I was the recipient of several agricultural scholarships while I was an undergraduate. Since I benefited from other people's giving, I feel it's my obligation to keep paying it forward."

Carrie's Story

Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences alumna Carrie Bomgardner grew up with early family ties to both agriculture and Penn State. As time went by, it seemed those connections were destined to expand - both among her immediate relations, and within the extended family of College alumni to which she now belongs.

Carrie grew up on a northeastern Pennsylvania dairy farm, which has been in her family since 1841. Carrie and her siblings were active 4-H members and attended activities at the College of Agricultural Sciences throughout their youth. The College seemed a natural destination when they continued their agricultural studies - Carrie's sister majored in food science and her brother majored in agricultural education.

An animal science major, Carrie's agricultural focus was shaped by her early farming background - her eventual interest in pursuing a career that incorporated communications and marketing took root during her Penn State experience. Following her freshman year, she enrolled in summer classes at the local Penn State Worthington campus while working on the family farm. Her general education class in business communications was a turning point. "I had a great professor who changed my outlook on writing and the challenge of delivering messages professionally," says Carrie. "I never was attracted to fictional story writing. I always liked the challenge of business writing. I love helping people with cover letters, or writing news releases or feature stories. Those kinds of projects are fun to me."

Carrie decided to pursue both her interests, completing the College's agricultural communications minor, to complement her animal sciences studies. She served as an Ag Advocate and as a yearbook organizer and president of the Dairy Science Club - experiences that utilized her verbal communication and writing skills, from speaking to groups visiting the College, to developing communications products.

"One of my best all-around experiences was editing the Dairyman Yearbook. It was a capstone of both academic coursework and the practical application of developing a piece people would want to read," says Carrie. "I wrote articles about students from farming backgrounds, so I needed to be able to 'talk the talk' and have a firm grasp of the farming vernacular to tell stories about people's experiences. We developed a yearbook theme, secured advertisements, met deadlines, and followed up with student writers to include their articles, so it was almost a communications course in itself."

Carrie remembers her activities involvement and her commitment to her studies also aided her opportunities to earn agricultural scholarships from the College. "It was a tremendous benefit to have scholarships to help with my education," she says. "I was fortunate to attend our scholarship banquet and say thank you to the folks responsible for helping defray my college expenses."

The commitment of Penn State's alumni and supporters was something that would stick with Carrie and shape her own contributions as a College of Agricultural Sciences graduate. In addition to later volunteering as an alumna, she says she felt it was important to donate to the College's student scholarship program.

"Every little bit helps. Depending where you are in your journey, it could be various amounts," says Carrie. "Even if it's just something like $25 a year, you can develop that habit of giving back, and hopefully, increase donations over time. Giving back is a great habit to get into."

After completing her animal science degree in 1997, Carrie worked for the Pennsylvania Beef Council for 12 years. She served as Communications Director, advancing the organization's commodity promotion, education and research programs. During that time, she also expanded her expertise by earning an MBA degree with a Marketing concentration from Penn State's Harrisburg Campus.

In 2011, Carrie became an Account Manager with Streetmarc Advertising and Marketing agency, coordinating initiatives for several agricultural clients, including the development of the "Celebrate Agriculture" logo used by the College of Agricultural Sciences. Most recently, she joined AgChoice Farm Credit, organizing marketing projects for the agricultural financial cooperative's ten branch offices, which serve a 54-county Pennsylvania territory.

Carrie and her siblings also have continued the strong agricultural legacy of their family's seventh-generation farm, the home of Calkins Creamery, which produces artisan cheeses for restaurants, grocery stores, and farmer's markets across the Mid-Atlantic region. Carrie's sister operates the creamery, while Carrie's father and brother manage the dairy herd. All the siblings have maintained an interest in the creamery - Carrie says she contributes "behind the scenes," by developing marketing materials like news releases and the creamery's e-newsletter.

Throughout her career, Carrie has served Pennsylvania's agricultural industry from a home base of central Pennsylvania, which has been a convenient locale for her role as an active volunteer in the College of Agricultural Sciences' alumni community. Carrie began her involvement as a member of the Dairymen's Club Alumni and Ag Advocates Alumni affiliate program groups - then was elected to the Ag Alumni Society Board of Directors. She went on to serve as Board President for the Ag Alumni Society and to represent the College on Penn State University's Alumni Council, and was honored for her service with her induction into the agricultural Armsby Honor Society. Carrie says she deeply values the opportunities she's had to represent and serve the College, its current students and its alumni, and the chance to build relationships with her fellow agricultural alumni through the Ag Alumni Society, including several individuals she mentored through the College's inaugural student mentoring program.

"It keeps me connected to our older and younger alumni within the many generations of Penn Staters in our College's alumni organization. I appreciate learning from the experience and stories from the past, from our seasoned alumni, and the excitement and energy of those who just graduated and are starting their careers," says Carrie. "And it's been great for my kids - they've attended events with me and been nurtured by the Penn State family along the way."

Carrie's three children are now approaching their own college years. They've heard many stories about the College of Agricultural Sciences, not only at alumni events, but from both their parents - Carrie and her husband met through their College student activities. With their children preparing for college, Carrie says she values scholarship opportunities like those she enjoyed, even more. "I know the real world application of scholarships and how that can help with sizable college debt. Today, it has a real impact for me as a parent." Whether or not her own children continue on an agricultural or Penn State path, Carrie says she continues to value her opportunity to contribute to her alma mater's initiatives to support today's agricultural students.

"Within the College of Agricultural Sciences, I think we all have that compass of giving back. And for me personally, it's important to share your time, talent and treasure with charitable organizations. And I think the College is a very worthy recipient. Our college experiences were shaped by those who gave back ahead of us, and we can keep paying it forward as alumni."

Office of Development and Alumni Relations


240 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802