Open to Opportunities: Grad student finds reward in her passion
by Megan Holmes
I’m a Bobcat for life! I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in forensic psychology here at Texas State and I’m currently completing my master’s in agricultural education. My soul’s drive is to make an impact in the lives of high school students through agriculture.
One of the things I love most about Texas State are the dedicated professors. The professors here have a genuine interest in my personal success. Late last year, my graduate advisor, Dr. Tina (Waliczek) Cade, informed me of an essay contest that would grant 20 undergraduates and 10 graduate students from across the nation the opportunity to attend the 2014 USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, VA. The USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum brings together producers, policymakers and leaders in business, government and industry to meet, exchange ideas and discuss timely issues at the forefront of America’s agriculture.
I have a passion for policy, so this opportunity grabbed my attention. The essay topic, The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture Over the Next 5 Years, was not only a one I could relate to, but also one I felt strongly about. After meeting with Dr. Golato, dean of the Graduate College, and brainstorming ideas with Dr. Cade and Dr. Aditi Angirasa, chair of the Agriculture Department, I knew exactly what I was going to write. In my opinion, the greatest challenge facing agriculture over the next five years will be industry’s ability to effectively and successfully recruit a young, diverse group of educated leaders determined to proudly turn agriculture into a career.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average age of today’s farmer and rancher is 57; in order to sustain a growing population with limited resources, it is imperative the next generation of agriculturalists be not only diverse, but committed to meeting any and all challenges ahead. For example, feeding a population expected to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050, and taking into consideration the sustainable resources necessary for cultivating crops and raising livestock in a limited space, while also conserving valuable resources such as water, arable soil, and the labor required for maximizing production and working the land. Replacing the current retired workforce with an equally strong and more diverse workforce will help ensure the preservation of future generations.
Well, my passion and research paid off! I was selected to attend the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program as a graduate student representing Texas State University and the Department of Agriculture in the Student Diversity Program. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget, and by far one of the most amazing and memorable experiences of my academic career.
Winning the trip to the Washington D.C. area and attending the Forum gave me new insights and allowed me to network and make important connections. USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program is designed to introduce students to contemporary agribusiness, future trends, scientific research, and agricultural policy in today’s real world environment. Having the chance to network with students from different universities across the nation was invaluable.
As students, we were always engaged. From visiting the USDA Headquarters, Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, and the National Plant Materials Center, to attending breakout sessions and a networking luncheon, we were constantly being exposed and gaining insight into the agriculture industry as a whole. Some of the highlights included meeting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Krysta Harden; personally addressing the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, during a discussion entitled Future of Agriculture: Young Farmers – Unlimited Opportunities; visiting the USDA Headquarters; attending the breakout session “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture;” networking with our sponsors and speakers; and building relationships with students from different universities. I am forever grateful for this experience and to those who made it possible.
Whatever your field of study may be, make it a point to reach out and connect with both your professors and advisors. When it comes to information regarding future career paths and available opportunities, their advice and guidance is invaluable. Also, remember to believe in yourself and embrace the challenges presented before you. When we overcome challenges, we discover what we are truly capable of – Texas State Bobcats are truly capable of anything. Go, Cats!