CASNR MILE Program graduates second 14-student cohort
By: Lindsay Kennedy
The 14 undergraduate student members of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources' Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement graduated from the program on Wednesday (May 5), during a ceremony held at Texas Tech University's newly renovated historic Dairy Barn facility.
The MILE Program is a three-semester leadership certificate program that seeks to develop participants' personal and professional skills through high-impact learning experiences in agriculture and policy.
“The goal of the MILE Program is to develop trained, young agricultural leaders who understand the key issues and challenges facing Texas agriculture and its rural communities,” said Lindsay Kennedy, MILE program director and assistant professor of practice. “Ultimately, we are creating problem solvers and critical thinkers who can make a difference in our industry.”
While the program normally utilizes agricultural tours and meetings with industry representatives to provide hands-on training for students, the second cohort's experience in the MILE Program during 2020-2021 took a different approach due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We may have been limited on where we could go and how we could meet during the last year and a half, but we were still able to provide valuable networking and leadership development opportunities for our students,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the program was still able to have a handful of in-person meetings and tours, especially at the local level, and the program made the most of the ability to meet virtually with industry professionals all over the state and in Washington, D.C.
“I cannot say enough about the resiliency, work ethic and overall great attitudes among this group of students,” she said. “This program has picked up a lot of momentum with its second cohort despite the challenges of the last year, and that is because of the quality of these students. The industry will gain a great set of leaders when these students enter the workforce.”
Taylin Antonick, an agricultural and applied economics major from Henderson, Texas, said the MILE Program gave her the opportunity to cultivate professional relationships while developing as a dynamic leader.
“The opportunity to see so many sides of our industry has opened my eyes to many career avenues,” Antonick said, “and I look forward to applying what I have learned from this program wherever I go next.”
Lindsay Dube, an agricultural communications major from Thrall, Texas, said she learned how to be an adaptive leader in the program, especially during the adversity faced during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of our trips that would have provided hands-on learning had to be moved to a virtual format,” Dube said. “While this change wasn't what anyone had planned on, it showed me that there's always a reason to stay positive and every opportunity is a chance to grow.”
During the graduation ceremony, Tanya Foerster, a founding member of the MILE Advisory Board, CASNR alumna, and director of advertising with Capital Farm Credit in Lubbock, was presented the MILE Excellence in Leadership Award for her volunteer work with the program.
AgTexas Farm Credit Services was also recognized with an industry partner plaque for its contributions to the MILE Program during the last year. In 2020, AgTexas committed to sponsoring the program's South Plains and Panhandle agriculture tours, contributing $90,000 over five years toward the MILE Program.
Because of the travel restrictions due to the pandemic, AgTexas hosted the group in its boardroom on many occasions as students met virtually and in-person with industry professionals and leaders. Tim McDonald, CEO, and CASNR alumna Kayla Robinson, COO, accepted the plaque on behalf of AgTexas.
During the three-semester program, MILE participants enrolled in three academic courses focused on the personal, service and community aspects of leadership and each completed a professional internship experience.
“MILE continues to be a premiere program in CASNR,” said CASNR Acting Dean Cindy Akers. “The program is a great representation of the quality of students we have in our college, and the industry support of MILE is evidence of the networking opportunities available to our students.”
The 14 students in the second cohort (2020-2021) represented the diverse academic departments within CASNR:
· Taylin Antonick, agricultural & applied economics, Henderson, Texas
· Samantha Barnett, agricultural communications, Florence, Texas
· Tyler Brimager, natural resources management, New Braunfels, Texas
· Lindsay Dube, agricultural communications, Thrall, Texas
· Mason Ewing, agricultural & applied economics, Van Alstyne, Texas
· Macey Gerhart, animal sciences, Winters, Texas
· Steven Iida, natural resources management, Spring, Texas
· Lacy Jackson, agricultural communications, Seminole, Texas
· Sydney Lundberg, agricultural & applied economics, Albuquerque, NM
· Martina Martin, interdisciplinary agriculture, Franklin, Texas
· Carson Read, animal sciences, Decatur, Texas
· Riley Reep, agricultural communications, Ropesville, Texas
· Kullen Sorrels, animal sciences - pre-vet, Dalhart, Texas
· Alondra Torres, agricultural & applied economics, Sanger, Texas
CONTACT: Lindsay Kennedy, MILE Program Director and Assistant Professor Of Practice, Department of Agricultural Education & Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-8240 or Lindsay.Kennedy@ttu.edu
Editor's Note: The recruitment and application process for the third cohort of the MILE Program will begin in September 2021. For more information about the CASNR MILE Program, visit here