The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Caroline

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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 I have so been looking forward to sharing this feature with you ever since I heard back from the guest! Caroline is shaking the series up a bit by sharing her story via YouTube! I always tell my guests that I want this feature to reflect their story in the best way possible, so I was excited when she suggested a video. Personally for me, video is something I have yet to venture into on my blog, but I am definitely curious!

I met Caroline early on in college through our participation in Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference, and then got to know her a bit better overtime as we both eventually served on the organization’s national student advisory team (not the same year). Caroline’s journey is inspiring. A few months after I moved to DC in 2015, Caroline called me up because she was a crossroads with what the next step was in her life and career. I was honored that she reached out to me for that kind of advice. I vividly remember her sharing so passionately about these ideas and goals she had, about her values and faith and the challenges she was facing. Fast forward to 2017, and I am so excited to see her living out (and crushing) those ideas and goals, and more importantly, so happy and positive about the road she’s on. It’s contagious.

What has always stood out to me since I first met Caroline, was how friendly she is and how gracefully she wears her confidence, and I think you’ll see that in her video. Caroline is also a regular blogger, so if you read or hear something in her story that interests you, I would encourage you to check out her blog at https://strongsweetcaroline.com/. 

-Amanda 

Basics

Name: Caroline Weihl
Age: 25 YEARS YOUNG!
Hometown: Perrysburg, Ohio
College: The Ohio State University
Degree(s): May 2014 Agricultural Communication, minor Agribusiness
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Job: Entrepreneur – starting a meal prep company

College

How did you choose your college and your major?
I grew up on a row crop and beef cattle farm and always enjoyed sharing an agriculture story. I was a good writer so it made sense to study agricultural communication. I was fortune to receive a scholarship from The Ohio State University and made the decision simple. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity in front of me.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
AFA, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Alpha Xi Delta Fraternity and many other student orgs through college. I interned with Trupointe Cooperative (now Sunrise Cooperative), Ohio State Livestock Judging Team, Bader Rutter, and freelanced for the Ohio FFA Association.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college?
Anything you would change? Learning to say “no” to the unimportant and make time for priorities.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Make the most to explore new things you want to learn, people you want to build relationships and network with and discover as much about yourself as possible.

Post Grad

Tell us about your career so far?
I worked three years with Syngenta in corporate seed sales. I left in August 2017 to start a meal prep company in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch video for more details.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Helped me identify my deeper purpose and talents.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Focusing on small steps, one day at a time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Evernote and podcasts!

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths: confidence, vision, drive, compassion. Weaknesses: impatience and multi-tasking.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
YouTube, gratitude, self reflection, vision board.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
It’s not work-life balance. It’s lifestyle.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
Having the courage to do something most won’t: stepping out of a “comfort zone” to pursue new challenges.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
Very busy but towards things I want!

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Start my company and continue to build it from there.

Just for Fun

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Meditation and 16oz of water right when waking up.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Music.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This one, but with other businesses started and going in the travel and clothing industries.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Close friends and networks.

*****

Caroline, I know you are hustling at life right now, so I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to share your story on my blog! 

Want to follow Caroline more? You can find her on Instagram: @strongsweetcaroline and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongsweetcaroline/

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Nicole

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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I definitely had a different blog post planned for today, but when Nicole sent me her profile back, I knew I needed to get it posted as quickly as possible. It definitely made me laugh, and even made me tear up a little. This gal has such a GREAT story to share, and I hope after you read it you will understand why I basically want to be her when I grow up. Nicole and I often joke that we practically have the same life story, and while we do have quite a few similarities, it would not be fair to leave it at that. Nicole is talented beyond her age and experience, is a social media guru, puts 110% into everything she does and is often my go-to when I need a creative boost. What I love about Nicole is she really GETS people and the VALUE of relationships. She has a great laugh and I can always count on my conversations with her to be real and fulfilling, whether we are talking about communications strategy or our mutual infatuation and homesick longing for Tillamook Cheese. 

This is a good read folks, through and through.

-Amanda 

Name: Nicole Lane Erceg
Age: 24
Hometown: John Day, Oregon
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): Agricultural Communications & Journalism
Current Location: Wooster, Ohio
Current Job: Producer Communications Specialist

Background Story:

I was raised in the Strawberry Mountains of Eastern Oregon where I fell in love with rural life, agriculture and the stories of the people who produce our food. Growing up 2.5 hour drive from the nearest Walmart wasn’t easy, but it did build character. My desire to share the stories of agriculture led me to Kansas State University where I earned my degree in agricultural communications and journalism with a focus in animal science. Why would a girl who loves mountains move to a state rumored to be flatter than a pancake? It turns out, I’ll go just about anywhere with the promise of a great story, adventure and learning more about ag.

When I left my tiny hometown in Oregon bound for Kansas, I was riding shotgun in a little red car next to a boy I’d convinced to come with me. When he agreed to switch colleges and come along for the ride he made me promise he could pick next. His choice? North Carolina. We’ve lived in Raleigh for the past couple of years while he finished a Masters in Swine Nutrition and coached the livestock judging team. Meanwhile I worked from home as the Social Media Director for a livestock marketing and advertising agency.

We planned to stay in Raleigh for the next few years while he finished a Ph.D. program but… I’m writing this from Wooster, Ohio. We didn’t plan to move around the nation so much, but our shared love of agriculture has taken us from one end of this country to the other — from small rural towns to an apartment in the city and back to rural life again. I am one of the few people who understands the pain of living somewhere too remote to get high speed internet and pleasure of living somewhere so urban, I can get Taco Bell delivered to my door.

Currently, I’m learning to call Ohio home while working for the Certified Angus Beef Brand and running my own communications and consulting business on the side.

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve told this story…

I had my heart SET on Purdue University. I knew I wanted to do Agricultural Communications and Oregon State didn’t have the major so even though I’d been raised to be a beaver, I knew I was going out of state. I applied to several of the big ag schools like Texas A&M and Oklahoma State but really wanted to go to Purdue. I honestly can’t tell you why, I just really wanted to be a Boilermaker. Kansas State wasn’t even on my radar until we took one of those college tests in class. You know, the kind that is supposed to tell you the PERFECT school for you after answering a million questions? All my friends got pages of lists of hundreds schools for them. Want to know how many showed up on my list? One. Kansas State.

My senior year of high school, I was elected to serve as an Oregon FFA State Officer which required me to defer college plans for a year. I contacted Purdue to let them know I wasn’t coming and asked to defer my admission and if they could hold my scholarships. All I got back was a cold email saying they couldn’t help, wouldn’t defer anything and that I could reapply next year.

Then I let K-State know I couldn’t make it in the fall and asked the same thing. Could they hold my scholarships and defer my admission for a year? Not only were they happy to do so, I got a HANDWRITTEN NOTE from a past Kansas FFA Officer congratulating me and letting me know they couldn’t wait for me to come to Kansas when my year of service was through. I had never been to the state of Kansas but I knew I would be going to school there.

When I attended National FFA Convention that Fall as a state officer, I knew I had to seek out the K-State booth. Amanda and I had barely crossed paths as FFA members from Eastern Oregon and I recognized her. So I walked up to her at the booth and said “You don’t know me, but I know you and I’m from Eastern Oregon and want to go to K-State and study Ag Comm like you do.”

And that’s how I became a Wildcat and friends with Amanda. 🙂

(Amanda here: I TOTALLY remember that vividly!)

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was involved in everything, which I don’t necessarily recommend. I’m not saying that to sound cool, I really did go overboard. I was president of my sorority (Sigma Alpha), president of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Chapter (loved it), was an Ag Ambassador, involved in a program called Student Foundation and helped plan the K-State Proud Campaign. I got to help teach an agricultural advocacy class, I started my freelance business, I served as editor of our college of agriculture magazine, I travelled abroad twice, I did six different internships. I packed a lot into the 3.5 years I was at K-State and loved it, but I wish I’d had the ability to make hard choices about what to invest my time in and when to say no. Saying no is sooooooooooooo hard. Sitting down with leadership of organizations to say “I quit” is not easy but it’s so worth it. It also would have prevented me from disappointing people when things conflicted or I really just couldn’t do it all. Pick 2-3 things and do those things well. But always do the study abroad trips. #worthit.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
I don’t think there’s a lot that I would change, other than narrowing down what to be involved in earlier. I would have liked to stay the full four years instead of rushing into the professional world, but I don’t regret saving a semester of out of state tuition. I think if I was to tell my Freshman self anything it would be to be NICE. These people around you aren’t competition. In four years they’ll be your coworkers. Become friends now. It’s better that way. And I know a lot of college kids aren’t this way, but I would tell myself to not take everything so seriously, to go to Aggieville more, take ALL of the human development classes (they are so cool, don’t wait until your last semester) and start making student loan payments now.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
Go to Aggieville. Hug your friends. Wear a lot of purple. Buy football tickets. Use the rec center. It’s free. That’s amazing. If your career is in agriculture take more ag econ courses. Do it. Do it now. Understand the markets and what influences them. I don’t care if you are studying herbology, want to work for an ad agency or be in beef genomics. If you want to be in ag, take MORE ag econ. Stop reading this right now and go sign up for more ag econ courses.

Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
I was really fortunate to land a job right out of college that allowed me to work remote from home. This let me live in Raleigh where my husband was attending school and continue the freelance business I started in college. I absolutely loved getting to work in the digital media space helping farmers, ranchers and western lifestyle brands harness the power of social media.

When I was in college, I interned for Certified Angus Beef and to say I loved it wouldn’t be the right choice of words. I feltat home, like I had found my fit. Telling the stories of the beef community for such an incredible brand was like my puzzle piece had found it’s place. When a position came open on the team I had interned and freelanced for, I knew I had to apply. Ohio was never in the plans for us, but I am so fulfilled getting to help teach ranchers about high quality beef production both in the digital and print space. Bonus, is that I continue to freelance and consult, always keeping things interesting and it allows me to live out some other passions like my love for wheat farmers.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
I know it’s so cliche but it’s really all about who you know. The relationships I built in college through friends, my department, being involved in organizations, internships and attending conferences have been the biggest factor in setting me up for success. Honestly, I paid a pretty penny for my degree (#outofstateprobs) but the PEOPLE I met through my degree program are more valuable than any classroom experience and totally worth the college debt I’m paying off right now.

These people have become my coworkers, my freelance clients, and all around rockstars to have in my life. They are cheerleaders and problem solvers and world changers. I’m really lucky that I actually work for one of the company’s I interned with in college and I get to freelance and work with many other people I met or worked for in college.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
Losing your people is tough. In college you go from a life surrounded by friends who have become family and a support system of mentors and teachers and life coaches and then you move away. It’s hard. It gets lonely sometimes. Also, when someone figures out the whole making good friends as an adult thing, I’ll pay to take that class. Notice how both of these answers are about people? People are the best part of college and the hardest part to lose. They are also the most challenging thing about work and the only way you’re going to get through it. People matter. More than skills, more than resumes, more than experience, more than anything.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
I’m one of those people that thinks I’m a hot mess and other people think is crazy hyper-organized. I’m a big fan of Asana for task management and am now a firm believer in living that #inboxzero life. I’d be lost in this world without sticky notes, podcasts, the GPS on my phone and the app TapeACall. Also, Freshbooks. Cloud accounting software made for creatives. If you freelance and you are creating your own invoices, stop that nonsense immediately and pay for accounting software.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
Ooo deep question.

Strengths:

  • Knowing my stuff. I spend a lot of time staying up to date with what’s going on in the world of digital communications, media, the world and my craft. I’m good at what I do, knowing the cutting edge stuff and I’m always working to get better.
  • Asking tough questions.
  • Storytelling across all platforms from a 2,500 word print story to a 140 character tweet.

Weaknesses:

  • Being comfortable in my own skin. I really wish I didn’t have to say that at this age. I wish I could say I confidently slay all the time, but I don’t. Often I need affirmation from others to go forth and do the bold thing I want to do but am far too afraid to do. Sometimes that “bold” thing really is something out of the box and innovative and some days it’s talking to a coworker instead of sending an email.
  • Man I REALLY wish I didn’t have to say that one. I overestimate what I can accomplish in a day. I need deadlines and I need help with deadlines. I’m not saying I can’t meet them, but I struggle being realistic when setting them for myself.
  • Expecting perfection. From myself. From others. I’m working on this big time right now. Give grace. We all could use some.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
Oh I’m the last person you should ask about work/life balance. I LOVE what I do. It’s part of my identity and who I am. I was created to be a workaholic. I haven’t worked just one job since I was a freshman in college. However, I’ve learned the hard way that my type A, over achieving, do it all personality is at a high risk for burnout. HIGH RISK y’all. This means when I burn out, it’s not like I just fizzle out of energy, I crash and burn. There’s flames. Big ones. And I’m not the only one that gets torched in the fire. Coworkers, friends, clients, my poor husband — they all have to deal with the repercussions and that’s just not something I’m okay with anymore.

Right now this is a major focus area of my life. I seriously had to set goals and hard boundaries for myself. I have goals around when I will leave work and when I can bring my work laptop home and when I can answer work emails. My supervisor knows this and knows if I break my own rules. Does this sound overboard? Maybe. But I can tell you I am a completely different human now that I’m working from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. five days a week. I have time for things like working out and cooking dinner and I’m even thinking about starting to watch Game of Thrones. Nicole a year ago had to be dragged away from her computer at 11:50 p.m. every night. I worked weekends. I answered work email as soon as it came through. I never shut off.

Don’t be that person. It’s not healthy and it’s not getting you ahead. I’m not saying don’t go the extra mile. Just be the person that does more in their 8 hour workday instead of the person that works 17 hours a day.

Hannah O’Leary Photography

Just For Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
My freelance work. This might sound crazy but it’s the first thing I do when I get out of bed. I go straight to my home office and crank out the first chore of the day. It also makes me feel amazing that by the time I head off to my “day job” I’ve already put in a couple hours of work while everyone else was sleeping. Also, then when I get home in the evening, I don’t have to continue working and can just relax.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
Um… caffeine. In the past it’s been Diet Pepsi. I’m really trying to cut that out or at least reduce my intake but I used to basically drink it like a fish breathes water. So right now it’s Crystal light with caffeine. I can give up the soda, but not the caffeine.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
This is tough because I truly believe I’m doing what I was made to do. I was born to be a writer. I was made to tell stories. I’m passionate about digital media and how we can use it to build common ground. I love agriculture and believe there is not another industry whose stories need so desperately to be communicated and that if they are communicated effectively have the ability to create immense positive change for our nation and our world.

If the ag thing didn’t work out, all limitations aside, I might have gone into journalism for one of the major news organizations or I’d be in D.C. telling the stories of politics. I love D.C. and politics and my husband refuses to live there. He also could care less about policy. However, either way I’d be living out my truth that stories have this insane power to create change and I want to be one of the lucky ones wielding the wand.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
Brooke Harshaw. The color purple. Limestone. K-State Football and Bill Snyder folklore. Raspberry Black Bean Chipotle Dip. Rent being only $375. The Thurston House. The Claflin House. The way people celebrate Kansas Day like it’s a national holiday. The people. Feeling at home.

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Nicole, I am so, so, so very thankful for our friendship and that I always have someone to chat with that totally gets it. Thank you for sharing your story on my blog. I know that others will appreciate it as much as I did. #westcoastbestcoast

Cheers!

The Road I Traveled Series

The Road I Traveled: Meet Logan

“Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

This series highlights young professionals and their stories, because no matter our path we all have a little to share and a lot to learn. Read and learn from past feature posts HERE.

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First off, welcome back to this series! It has been long overdue! If you missed my post about bringing the series back, you can read that here.

I am so excited to welcome the series back with one of my favorites! I can’t exactly remember when I first met Logan, but it was sometime my sophomore year of college, when he was an incoming freshman. He was in the same department as me (ag communications), eventually became a fellow ambassador for the College of Ag and worked for a while with me as a student at the IGP Institute on campus. I struggled a bit with how I was going to introduce Logan because he is such an all-around great guy. I’m not sure I know anyone that works harder than Logan, or that is as committed to the things that he is passionate about. But what will always stand out to me is how great of friend he is to others and how much he invests in those around him. I’m so grateful that I can always rely on him for a serious chat and an honest reply in return, but also for the perfect sarcastic reply when we are talking about basically anything else. He also loves K-State sports, good Mexican food and doesn’t believe in the Oxford comma… so really, there shouldn’t be any question why I’m excited to share his story.

He just finished up a year-long fellowship here in DC and it was so much fun having him around! But I believe Logan is one of those people that was meant to teach and share the love the learning and agriculture with others, so I am so excited to see him to continue working towards his goals as a Ph.D. student.

-Amanda

Name: Logan Britton
Age: 25
Hometown: Bartlett, Kansas
College: Kansas State University
Degree(s): B.S. in Agriculture, Agricultural Communications and Journalism and Agricultural Economics; M.S., Agricultural Economics
Current Location: Stillwater, Oklahoma
Current Job: Ph.D. student and graduate research and teaching associate, Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics

Background Story:

I hail from a small town of 80 people in the southeast corner of Kansas, which owes its existence to an agricultural cooperative. It wasn’t until I took agricultural education classes and engaged in FFA programs during high school that I realized the importance and reach of agriculture. Throughout my childhood, I aspired to be a math teacher and doctor, but FFA allowed me to explore career possibilities within the agriculture industry.

One of our high school’s agricultural education instructors and FFA advisors is a family friend and recommend I enroll in an agriculture course during my freshman year. He exclaimed it would help me immensely – how right he was. My mom called my guidance counselor to take me out of my agriculture class once she got my schedule in the mail. In her mind, I had no future in the agriculture industry. She later recanted after observing how much I grew from the experience. I was blessed with four FFA advisors during my time at Labette County High School. Each of these men taught me various aspects of agriculture and how to be a leader. Through their encouragement and coaching, I transformed from a soft spoken and timid freshman to a strong, confident person ready for the challenges of college.

During my time at K-State, I worked in the College of Agriculture and one of its departments. Seeing the other side of higher education through academic programs, I soon discovered a passion for academia. As a college sophomore, I decided I would become a professor.

Fast forward six years later, I’m currently a graduate research and teaching associate and Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State

College:

How did you choose your college and your major?
Through FFA, I participated in the agricultural communications career development event as a sophomore in which I completed the design practicum. I enjoyed learning the material, and it was there my love for agricultural communications began. While practicing for the CDE, I turned to one of my advisors and asked if I could do this for a living. He introduced me to material about Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture and the agricultural communications and journalism major. During high school, I gained experience in this field by running the FFA chapter’s website and designing printed materials as part of my supervised agricultural experience program.

I’ve always had a fascination with numbers, so while in FFA, I competed in the farm business management CDE. To enhance my education at K-State as well as learn more about agricultural markets, I decided to declare a dual major in agricultural economics.

What were you involved with outside of class? Organizations? Internships?
I was engaged at all levels while at K-State – I actively participated in College of Agriculture Ambassadors, College of Agriculture Student Council, Alpha Gamma Rho and Student Governing Association. I also participated in Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow, Student National Agri-Marketing Association, Alpha Zeta Honor Society in addition to Agriculture Future of America.

As an undergraduate student at K-State, I held part-time jobs with the IGP Institute (where I first met Amanda!), the College of Agriculture Academic Programs and the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education. In my tenure, I completed internships with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas Junior Livestock Show and the National FFA Organization.

What were your biggest challenges or obstacles in college? Anything you would change?
One of my challenges was saying no. During the first couple years, I was definitely a “yes man.” I wanted to make the most of my college experience by learning and doing anything I had interests in. Eventually, I got to the point where I was stretched a little too thin. I wasn’t getting enough sleep and wasn’t always in the best of moods. Once I started lightening my plate, my attitude changed.

One struggle I had to conquer in college was depression. I think this topic is taboo, especially in our culture and among guys. As mentioned earlier, I let stress overwhelm me. It got to the point where I’d get anxiety attacks, wanted to sleep constantly and couldn’t think straight. If I were to go back, I would have sought help sooner or found a healthful avenue to release my stress. I let my pride get in the way because I didn’t want my family, friends or people I admire see me struggle. Yet, I learned a great deal about myself through the experience.

What one piece of advice would you give a student during their senior year?
In college, we spend a substantial time learning course materials and objectives, but some of the best teachers are the people around you. Spend time getting to know more about them and how they developed their skillsets. Be in the moment, especially around your friends, mentors and professors. Time in college will fly by. As humans, we tend to remember negative experiences more than positive ones. Take pictures to capture these memories or write in a journal about the positive times you have.


Post Grad:

Tell us about your career so far?
After I finished my bachelor’s degree in May 2015, I stuck around for another year in Manhattan to finish my master’s degree through the concurrent B.S./M.S. program in agricultural economics.

Once I finished my master’s degree, I received a yearlong graduate fellowship with the U.S. Grains Council which was partially fund by the Kansas Corn Commission. While with USGC in Washington, D.C., I analyzed U.S. coarse grain trade and the benefits of U.S. free trade agreements as well as developed a long-term demand model to determine future growth of U.S. feed grains. I utilized both of my disciplines – communications and economics – every single day either writing an economic article for the weekly newsletter, editing content on the website or calculating feed grains in terms of value-added equivalents.

Currently, I’m at Oklahoma State where I hope to conduct research in the areas of consumer and food economics as well price analysis and forecasting.

How have your experiences and involvement in college set you up for success in your career and life post grad?
Being involved in several things across K-State and in the agriculture industry, I learned a significant amount about the expectations of others and how to work more efficiently. For example, if my boss wanted me to complete a task by the end of the week, I would attempt to get a first draft done a few days before so that I could receive feedback and make enhancements before the final deadline. Being in two somewhat different disciplines in college helped with approaching a problem from different perspectives, so I’m able to think from an economic lens and then from a communications’ one.

On the flip side, what are the biggest challenges or differences you’ve experienced post grad that you didn’t expect or didn’t feel prepared for?
I’m a Type-A personality right down to the letter. At K-State, I feel as if we were prepared to take on several responsibilities through coursework and extracurricular activities. I have always worked at a fast pace, so I hit a brick wall in the real world. I realized other people may not work on the same rate. This has helped prepare me for an academic setting, where decisions about programs and journal articles may take a rather long time.

What apps, technology and resources do you use regularly to stay organized and do your job?
Google Calendar is a blessing for my Type-A personality. I’m able access it on my phone or through a browser as well as color-coordinate different events and create to-do lists. Google Calendar also has a feature called goals, in which it will continually analyze your schedule and find the best fit for the activity you want to complete, such as working out or reading.

At this stage, what are a few of your strengths and weaknesses?
When I set forth goals, I’m adamant to accomplish them with all my effort. So, my drive and work ethic are important assets. Through my experiences and academic disciplines, I have developed well-rounded skills and can use both sides of my brain. My top theme in StrenghtsFinder is harmony, which means I enjoy bringing people together and steering people clear of conflict. I also am observant of others, so I attempt to understand them and learn about their preferences. On the other hand, I am quite the introvert. This may shock some of my friends, but it takes a great deal of my energy to talk with others. So, I usually don’t make the best first impression nor would I ever cut it in a sales role. It takes me a handful of interactions to warm up and truly trust others.

How do you stay motivated when work gets really busy or difficult?
My faith is an important piece of who I am. When I get down or need to re-focus, I think of the saints and other holy people who got through difficult times by God’s will and grace. I also think of people who have great expectations for me, either now, such as my family or role models, or those in the future, such as my wife and kids.

Work-life balance? How do you stay afloat and refreshed?
As a graduate student, this is a must. I try to either incorporate workouts or times to read into my schedule or participate in social events through the department or the Newman Center at OSU.

What in your #PostGradLife are you most proud of so far?
It’s difficult to pin down to one thing. I have accomplished many feats in my life with some daunting constraints and obstacles. My education has been important to me as a first-generation college student. Thus far, I have financed my degrees on my own with relatively low debt.

What does life look like right now? Hobbies and interests? What outside of work are you passionate about?
I’m currently single and have no prospects in sight (school has been my main squeeze for a long time), so my hobbies and interests are mainly those any mid-20-year-old male would have. I’ve been a skinny kid most of my life with some athletic ability. Recently, I’ve been working out regularly and eating a more balance diet to gain muscle. I’m by no means an Olympic weightlifter or fitness model, but I feel like I’m making progress toward my fitness goals.

I used to loathe reading thanks to Accelerated Reading in grade schools. Yet, with more free time and being more interested in learning, I’ve started to read again. Nothing too serious, but I mainly stick to books under the genres of theology, education and leadership.

I love sports, especially watching K-State play (Go ‘Cats), and spending time with friends and family.

What path are you looking to take next? Any long-term goals?
Hopefully I survive one more stint of school and obtain my Ph.D. in the next three to four years. The next segment in my journey through life will be trying to be hired as a faculty member at a land-grant university. Ideally, I would like to return to K-State; however, I understand that going elsewhere will only diversify my experience and make me a better teacher and researcher.

Just for Fun:

What is essential to your morning routine to start the day off right?
Either by eating a bowl of cereal or drinking a glass of orange juice.

Do you have a must-have vice like caffeine or item you can’t live without in your workspace?
I need white noise to work. If I’m at home, I’ll watch TV or binge watch a Netflix series (Friends or How I Met Your Mother). If I’m in an office setting and it gets too quiet, I’ll put my headphones on and listen to my Spotify playlists.

If you were to have another career, all limitations aside, what would it be?
If I could have muster enough courage and gained a stone-cold stomach, I would have been a medical doctor. I’ve always wanted to help people, so I’d either be in neurology, oncology or diagnostic medicine.

Moment of truth, what do you really miss about college?
I miss the proximity of friends. I know several colleges throw the word family around to describe the atmosphere. K-State is unique in which that mentality is engrained into students, especially in the College of Agriculture. It’s amazing to see what my friends are doing in this world and where they are currently. This also reinforces how well K-State programs train our students for the workforce.  … Also, I really miss Call Hall ice cream though.

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Logan, thanks for helping kick off relaunching this series. We miss you here in DC but are excited for your new adventure at Oklahoma State!

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 23

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my not-so-glam 20-something life. See past posts HERE}

New Blog Look

If you haven’t noticed, things are looking a bit different around here. Recently I have been wanting to freshen up my blog with a white-based background and decided to follow that with a bit of a simpler overall look. I am making a few other updates here and there… but I tend to be a bit indecisive so those are happening as I go.

While I love blogging, it often takes the back burner when life gets a bit busy, which makes habit building a bit of a challenge. But I am doing some planning for some posts and series that are not just focused on my “So There’s That” series or my travel (which is all I’ve blogged about for most of 2017) so stay tuned!

Promotion

I’m not shy about sharing that I love my job working for U.S. wheat farmers, so it was nice to receive a promotion!

You can read about it here… unless you are my Mom and in case, I’m pretty sure I’ve already made the fridge 🙂

 4th of July Holiday Weekend

Independence Day is my favorite holiday and this year my (4-day!!!) holiday weekend did not disappoint.


On Friday, I headed out to Mt. Vernon with some Kansas friends. This ticketed event had all sorts of colonial demonstrations, including dancing, which we all somehow got sucked into trying. There was also foods and drinks to purchase, a live band and of course fireworks!

I’m pretty sure there are few things more American than watching fireworks on the back lawn of George Washington’s crib. I would highly recommend this to people next year. Tickets were $30 dollars, which is actually pretty reasonable for events in this area.

Saturday morning was spent at brunch at SEI in Chinatown, where I failed to take any group photos, partially because I was drooling over these quinoa french toast that I ordered. Don’t worry, they still were made with wheat, but the quinoa added a great crunch! Brunch may have turned into a mini-wheat lesson for the group after I asked the manager about the french toast… #sorrynotsorry #wheatie

Saturday night was spent back with the Kansan’s at Red, White and Brew, a drinking festival down by the waterfront.

This guy had to work all weekend so Monday was spent relaxing.


I wrapped up the weekend on Tuesday with BBQ with friends and sparklers.

Annapolis

This past weekend I had to travel to my work summer board meeting, but instead of hoping on a plane, I just had to make a short drive to Annapolis. Visiting here has been toward the top of my to-do list since moving to the area so I head over early to check things out, and I may have had a tag along 🙂


Not that I thought it was going to be anything otherwise, but the main downtown area near the harbor is adorable!

We explored, walked down by the harbor and the U.S. Naval Academy (I need to visit again so I can go on a tour) and tried out a few stops.



The Maryland State House was just a block or two over from where we were so we swung by. There is SO MUCH U.S. history associated with this little building and it’s so pretty!



We rounded out the day with crabs #wheninmaryland! This guy grew up on “picking” crabs (taking them a part), so he (patiently I would add) taught me how to do it myself.

Summer Board Meeting

It’s rare that our staff stops and takes a picture like this. Although our team is MUCH bigger than this (and stretches around the globe), I am thankful to work alongside these people.

This gentleman below represents everything that makes me passionate about agriculture and the reason why I never want to work for anyone but farmers. Leonard has actively served on the USW Board of Directors for 21 years and this summer board meeting marked the end. I remember before my first board meeting 2.5 years ago, my boss was chatting about some of the farmer board members I would be meeting, and finally he said, “and then there is Uncle Leonard.”

Leonard has a one of kind personality that makes you feel like you’ve known him your whole life. In just two words I would describe him as funny and kind, two of the things that I respect most in people. But what has stuck out to me about Leonard, is his ability really listen and take in the discussions around him, while so many others are only focused on what they are going to say next. When Leonard does respond, it tends to be with more patience and thought.

At the end of the meeting, Leonard reflected on his year’s on the farm and on the board. I considered sharing the whole thing (I take the meeting minutes so I do have it!) but here is the bit of it that stood out to me:

“In our world of farming, we take over some land or lose some land, but our main goal whenever we take over new land is to make it better than when we got it. That’s how we gauge ourselves on whether or not we are successful … I have said yes to four different governors to sit on this board, and it has allowed me to discover this passion I have for wheat. It has helped me define who I am back at home to my neighbors, because I am Mr. Wheat back home. I think it is very rare how other people’s choices allow you to discover your passion.”

Thanks Leonard, we sure are going to miss you!

Big 12 Schools as Harry Potter Characters

I’d say most of these are pretty darn accurate and the descriptions are pretty funny.

https://www.cowboysrideforfree.com/2017/6/28/15883470/big-12-schools-as-harry-potter-characters

My People

This little note speaks to me in leaps and bounds, and after sharing it on social media and receiving quite a few comments, apparently it does for a lot of people. I think I have learned many times over that you just can’t be everything for everyone and on the flip side, some people are only in your life a “season” and that’s completely OK. But that makes it so much more important to INVEST in those core people around you who just really “get it” and let your crazy fly, whether they are near, or in my case for most, are far away.

Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.


Why does it all of a sudden look like baby Wes is NOT a baby anymore?!

My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.


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So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Agriculture, Kansas, Photography

{2017} Kansas Wheat Harvest

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” -Thomas Jefferson

I have heard this quote many times before, but since I came across it again a few weeks ago, it has really stuck with me.

Happiness, yes. Tom was certainly right about that one.

No matter what is going on during my day, month or season, so much of who I am is rooted in agriculture and the happiness that it brings me is an anchor that I can rely on. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but I strongly believe that a job and your life’s work shouldn’t just be an 8 to 5 that pays the bills.

Over the past couple of days I have been back in Kansas to attend the National Festival of Breads (more on that in a future blogpost), and I had the chance to accompany the Kansas Wheat Commission and their baking contest finalists on a farm tour during the start of wheat harvest.

Everyone knows my happy place is in the Blue Mountains, but I think a Kansas farm with dirt beneath me and blue skies above comes in close second.

In my mind there are few things more beautiful than amber waves of grain, and that afternoon was just the medicine that I didn’t know I needed.

Thanks to the Kejr family for hosting us.

Enjoy!

Cheers!

Career/Professional, Photography, Travel Journal

Travel Journal: USW South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines

Sawasdee Ka!

(Hello!)

If you know me personally or follow along on social media, you know that I just returned from three weeks in Thailand and the Philippines!

The initial reason for the trip was for work, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tack on a vacation to the end.

Every year, U.S. Wheat Associates (my employer) invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. I served as the staff team leader for three great farmers: Denise from Montana, Clint from South Dakota and Dustin from North Dakota. Once we were over there we were joined by various members of our overseas staff as we visited multiple flour mills and end-product manufacturers, as well as a baking school and bakery fair.

Overall, I am incredibly thankful and excited that it was (FINALLY) my turn to lead a team. The wheat industry is complex and fascinating, and in the almost two years that I have been in this job, it has become an industry that I am proud to represent. And while I am continually learning new things everyday, nothing beats getting out of the office and learning by seeing and experiencing the industry from the perspective of the customers who buy and use U.S. wheat.

I am also thankful for the time I had getting to know my team of farmers. I have said many times (especially here on the blog) that I firmly believe that farming is one of the most honorable professions there is and that I consider it a privilege to have a career in agriculture and use my words on their behalf. When the day-to-day of my job gets stressful or I get discouraged, it is the farmers that I get to know and their stories that help bring things back into perspective for me. Denise, Clint and Dustin were wonderful representatives for their fellow U.S. wheat farmers and I enjoyed getting to share this experience with them.

To read the full story on my work trip visit HERE —> “U.S. Wheat Farmers Get the Chance to See How Overseas Customers Value Their Crop.”

AND if you want to see more pictures than what I’ve included here on my blog, you can find those on the USW Facebook page HERE.

I took A LOT of pictures that I want to share from the entire trip, so today I am featuring the time I spent with the board team and then over the course of the next week I am going to share posts on my vacation with my grandparents and great aunt.

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Before heading over to Asia, the team met for a briefing that USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, where they also visited the Wheat Marking Center and  the United Grains terminal.

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We arrived in Bangkok late on Saturday night and had most of the day Sunday to adjust to the time change a bit and be tourists.

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We visited two temples, Wat Pho, which is home to the “Reclining Buddha”, and Wat Arun. I did take a lot of photos around the temples but since I also visited the temples again with my family, I am going to share those in a separate upcoming blog post.

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On Monday, we visited the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking School. USW has had a collaborative relationship with the school since 1982, where we host preeminent bakery training courses every year. I have heard so much about the work that happens there so I was excited to be visiting.

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UFM also has grocery stores, so after visiting the baking school we swung by. For the most part it was your typical grocery store, with the exception of a few things that I didn’t recognize, but I was amazed by the produce! There was quite a bit more packaging, versus fruit and veggies being just out in the open air and it was all amazing quality. And these were hands down the most beautiful strawberries I have ever seen!

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Japanese noodles… which I loved so much that I took my family back to the  same spot a week later and ordered the same thing.

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On the second day, the team visited a cookie and cracker manufacturer. I was excited to learn a little more about the marketing side of the business and about consumer trends. This visit was also a great example of the technical service that USW does. One of our baking consultants actually worked with the company on developing two of the products above that got to try.

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We also had a tour through their plant. All of the different assembly lines and processes were so cool!

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We were visiting on Valentine’s Day, so one of the companies gave us these small cakes. And I ate the whole thing for dinner. #noshame

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Before we had to leave for the airport in Bangkok we made a impromptu side visit to this world market grocery store which is touted as “one of the 25 grocery stores you should visit before you die.” Tally for the bucket list that I didn’t even know I needed. It was a pretty cool.

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We then traveled to Manila in the Republic of the Philippines. Our first day we traveled two hours down to Botangas to visit the country’s #1 flour mill and were privy to this amazing view. The drive there and back was obviously long, but it gave us a great opportunity to really see the countryside.

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The final day in Philippines and on the trip was spent at the 9th International Exhibition of Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment, known as “Bakery Fair 2017.”

Bottomline: It was seriously cool.

And the party started early in the morning before I had a cup of coffee.

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USW’s booth got a lot of great attention. This piece was amazing!

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As was all of the “cakes” on display. You know there are times when I think of myself as artistic… this was not one of those moments.

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These are my co-workers, Matt, Joe and Roy that work overseas in South Asia. I was so thankful to get to know them a bit better. They are my colleagues but they are also mentors, friends and examples of hard work. Most importantly they LOVE their jobs and it shows in a every way.
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In the afternoon we had just a little bit of time to play tourist so Joe took us to Intramuros or the “Walled City” in the heart of Manila.

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Sometimes I struggle to explain all that my organization does (because sometimes I don’t see the entire scope of it) so hopefully this shares a bit of insight into wheat export market promotion.

Stay tuned throughout the next week for temples, elephants and postcard worthy beach scenes…. the picture sharing has just begun.

Cheers!

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 17

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

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1. Summer 2016

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Earlier this week I finished blogging about my trip home for my uncle’s wedding at the beginning of July. Below are the links for those posts. WARNING, I had a LOT of pictures to share.

View Part 1 about “Home and Wedding Prep” HERE
View Part 2 about our “Girl’s Day at the Salon” HERE
View Part 3 about the “Wedding Rehearsal” HERE
View Part 4 about the “Wedding Day” HERE

2. Fargo, ND

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Aside from my trip to Oregon, the rest of my July was pretty busy too. A few days after I returned to DC I left again for a board meeting in Fargo, ND. My time there was pretty short and work focused, but I was still excited to scratch another state off of my list. Most of the time I am the one behind the camera so here is a rare photo of me interviewing our new incoming chairman Jason.

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3. Ag Media Summit

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After returning to DC from Fargo, I turned around and left again a few days later to go to St. Louis for the annual Ag Media Summit. I love this event because it allows me to meet and reconnect with people in the ag communications sector, and attend multiple different training workshops. The biggest personal highlight is that it allows me to hang with K-State alum friends and other friends that I have made through things like AFA in college.

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A couple of years worth of K-State ag comm girls.

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Lauren and I met in college through AFA, but I really wouldn’t say we became friends until we reconnected at Ag Media Summit in 2015.

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The list of all the ways we know each other and how our lives keep crossing paths has gotten pretty long, but I am so happy to have Nicole as a friend and to be navigating our careers together.

4. Kayaking

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My first time kayaking! I was so excited that my friend Allyson invited me out for a morning on the Potomac. It is pretty hot here in DC right now so we did not stay out too long.

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5. Escape Room

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I had a blast last weekend with the girls from my church small group. We did not do all that great of a job in the Escape Room, but it was so much fun. Definitely put one of those on your bucket list.

6. Family Chats

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Ridiculous conversations like this are a common occurrence in my family. Someday we really should get our own sitcom.

7. What if Animals Were Round?

You are all so very welcome for this.

8. Plantar Fasciitis

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So over the summer I’ve been having quite a bit of pain in my foot, that has only gotten worse with time. I have a pretty high pain tolerance and grew up playing sports, so it took me a little longer than it should have to accept that something was actually wrong and that I needed to get it checked out.

Unfortunately, my assumptions were right and I have plantar fasciitis. I have always been pretty bad about wearing crappy shoes when I’m walking to work or doing anything that I don’t consider full on exercise. So on top of having a tedious recovery process, the compression sleeve I’m supposed to wear all of the time is neon…. not black or nude, but highlighter neon yellow.

Not quite sure which punishment is worse, the pain or this color.

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9. Best Friends

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My best friend Megan sent me the perfect “just because” card for our friendship last week.

10. Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

I have never been more excited for anything book/tv/movie related to happen… EVER.

Gilmore Girls is my all-time favorite show. I own every season, and have watched the whole series through multiple times. As soon as I am done with the show below, I am going to watch GG start-to-finish again before the Thanksgiving premiere of the revival.

11. Grey’s Anatomy

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My friend Brandi FINALLY convinced me that I needed to watch Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning (she’s basically a professional super fan), so I have been working my way through it this summer.

This meme she sent me essentially describes my life right now. How have you people followed this story week by week for 12 YEARS!?!

12. On This Episode of “What Not to Wear”…

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My Dad is on the left and my cousin Britton is on the right.
Apparently they BOTH were headed out to golf…
It’s a good thing my Dad is lovable in so many other ways…
And its probably a good thing I live across the country, because there is a chance he will not be happy about me posting this picture.

14. Keep Farmers Farming

I shared this on Facebook a while back and stole my boss’s comment from his own post for this video….

“You can disagree or agree with his party affiliation, but this is one of the most articulate positions on why we should appreciate farmers…and why we should not stand against one form of agriculture or another.”

15. Sign at the Cabin

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My Grammy and Dad made this post originally with words related to the wedding on it, but then changed it out to feature all of the places where our family is currently from. There are a few on the other side that you can’t see, like my hometown, Hermiston. But I almost cried when I saw that they included Washington DC. I definitely live the furthest away by a long stretch.

16. Fake Friends Are the Worst

17. My Life in Memes

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beauty meme

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This last one above might as well have a picture of my sister and I together included with it.

18. My Favorite Kiddos

And really a post like this is not complete without new pictures of my favorite two babes. They are growing too fast, and are so adorable and happy!

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Wesley Ray
5 months old on August 4

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Robin Michele
4 months old on August 4

So, There’s That.

Cheers!