​11 Industry Leaders Illuminate Possibilities

Jim Lambert (Ag Econ, ’90) of INTL FCStone Merchant Services.
​Jim Lambert (Ag Econ, ’90) of INTL FCStone Merchant Services was one of eleven speakers featured in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics’ new course—AREC 493: Executive Seminar Series—bringing successful leaders and alumni into the classroom.

Pursuing a degree can be likened to creating artwork: Each area of the canvas (or class) is important but stepping back to see the larger picture can be especially valuable. Last fall, students from across CASNR experienced a different kind of class. Offered through the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics’ (ARE) Executive Seminar Series, the course brought a broad array of agricultural professionals and industry leaders directly to the classroom to illuminate a larger scope of agriculture and a greater understanding of how these pieces fit together—the bigger picture.

“This class connects students with professionals and industry leaders, giving students a clearer picture of the end-goal of their college education,” says ARE associate professor Chris Boyer who co-led and developed the class with ARE assistant professor Karen DeLong.

UTIA Chancellor Tim Cross kicked off the series, with subsequent speakers addressing a variety of dimensions.
  • Colonel James (Rick) Riddle, president of the Appalachian Region Wine Producers Association—Value-added agriculture
  • Jennifer Houston (Animal Science, ’81), vice president of National Cattlemen’s Beef Association—Consumer and public education
  • Donnie Smith (Animal Science, ’80), former CEO of Tyson Foods—Public policy
  • Jim Lambert (Ag Econ, ’90), director of Sales for INTL FCStone Merchant Services—International trade
  • Carolina Naar (Food Science, ’08), PepsiCo supply chain field quality manager—Food quality and nutrition
  • Tom Gill, UTIA Smith Chair for International Sustainable Agriculture—International development
  • Ruthann Geib, vice president, American Sugarbeet Growers Association—Lobbying, Farm Bill update, and the changing environment of Washington, D.C.
  • Bill Johnson, CEO Farm Credit Mid-America—Leading and agricultural business
  • Colleen Cruze (ALEC, ’11), Cruze Farms—Farm-to-table marketing
  • Frank McCalla (Ag Econ, ’65), commodity futures broker—Possible changes ahead for agriculture

“In addition to hearing presentations on vital agricultural topics directly from industry leaders, students also benefitted from hands-on exercises, such as creating marketing plans for dairies and one-on-one discussion with the presenters who were largely alumni from our college,” says DeLong. “This class was designed to enable student interaction with successful alumni, which helps them recognize the real-world application of material they learn in our classes and understand how their education can be applied to a variety of careers in the agricultural and agribusiness fields.”

Students responded enthusiastically to the class, with requests such as extending class time to allow even more discussion with the speakers, a desire to hear more about the speakers’ paths to success, and adding a field trip to a nearby agribusiness.

“Each of the speeches gave me more insight into the agricultural world and made me more passionate and driven in my career aspirations,” says UTIA student Mary Ali Oliver (animal science).

The AREC 493: Executive Seminar Series will be offered again in fall 2018.