2018 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Leadership Conference Pre-Conference Highlights

The second annual Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Leadership Conference was held in Ames, Iowa on November 26 and 27. The conference was packed full of networking events, awesome workshops, and panel discussions. The pre-conference activities on day one, included an opportunity to visit the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University and participate in an intensive two-hour workshop on branding yourself. 

Iowa State University Campus Tour – By Cora Carpenter, ISU Student, Agriculture and Life Sciences Education, Communications Option

To kick the conference off, attendees had the opportunity to tour Elings and Sukup Halls on the ISU campus. The complex is a $74.5-million-dollar building that was finished in 2014. The building had a $300,000 art budget that was spent on three main pieces of artwork depicting history, agriculture, and technology. On the floor though the atrium of the building, the artwork showed the scale of things the people in the building work with from atoms to the whole universe. The second piece of artwork everyone had the opportunity to view was the Davidson’s Dream painting which honors the founder of the Agricultural Engineering program at Iowa State, J. Brownlee Davidson. The wall mural showed different aspects of the Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering program. The final and most recognized piece of artwork in the building is a gorgeous hanging in the atrium that depicts a timeline of agricultural technology and innovations in Iowa. There were several tiers to the piece of art work, and it even showed all the rivers that run thought the state of Iowa.  

Conference attendees enjoyed meeting with women professors, extension professionals, and others within the biosystems engineering department. Amy Kaleita-Forbes is a professor and has been at ISU for 15 years. Her research focuses on information technology for precision conservation. Michelle Soupir is a professor with 10 years of experience at ISU. Her research focuses on soil and water quality, nonpoint source pollution control, watershed management, and water quality monitoring. These department leaders explained there are more women faculty members and students now and its great to be a part of these changes.  There are four undergraduate degree programs within the department with 785 undergraduate students, 95 graduate students and 42 faculty members this year. The Agricultural and Biosystems Undergraduate Engineering Degree Programs are ranked third in the nation and graduate programs are ranked second in the Nation (US News and World Report).

The Women in Ag Leadership Conference attendees asked great questions about how research is being done and how the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems is working with Iowa State Extension to share information and opportunities with farmers. They also heard from Liz Juchems who is the Conservation Outreach Specialist for Iowa Learning Farms. She works with 80 farmer partners throughout the state and the ISU Research Farms on a variety of different research projects, with the most recent focus on cover crops.  Iowa Learning Farms host 25-30 field days each year, and Liz touched on that program as well. The other speaker during the event was Ann Staudt who is a director for the Water Rocks Program. She shared with the attendees about how their program tries to reach the next generation of conservationists by teaching in 180 Iowa schools each year, reaching around 34,000 students.

The kickoff event to the conference ended with a tour of the Iowa State University Campus where Madeline Schultz, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Women in Ag Program Manager, highlighted campus buildings, the rich history of the university, student spaces and the beautiful artwork.


Building and Marketing Brand YOU Workshop – By Callie Greiner, ISU Student and Women in Ag Intern, Agriculture and Life Sciences Education, Communications Option

Following the campus tour, conference attendees had the opportunity to participate in a two-hour workshop on Building and Marketing Brand YOU. Two Latham Hi-Tech Seed marketing experts, Laura Cunningham and Kilah Hemesath, led the workshop on how individuals can market themselves. They wanted women to think about their role in the agriculture industry and how they can share their story with others.  Laura and Kilah inspired the audience to action by leading them though a workbook and guiding next steps.  

The presentation opened with a discussion of a book Laura and Kilah read titled Start with Why by Simon Sinek. The book highlights the idea that each person has a golden circle within their life. This golden circle is composed of three rings inside one another with the first being what, the second being how, and the third being why.

The purpose of discussing this book and the idea of the golden circle with conference attendees was to get them to think about their own golden circle. What are their daily roles, how do they perform these roles, and finally why do they do what they do in each of these roles. Before diving into group discussion, Kilah and Laura played a video asking, “Why did you get out of bed today?” which showed how individuals and companies can use the idea of the golden circle to truly learn who they are and why they do what they do.

Following the video clip, the workshop leaders provided women with workbooks so each person could write down their thoughts. Kilah and Laura asked women to write down what their roles were in their different life settings such as work, home, friends, and community.  Women have many different roles including mother, wife, friend, mentor, volunteer, business owner and employee. Next, Kilah and Laura asked women to write down how they perform  each of these roles. Women provided answers such as listen to others, provide support to family, complete job tasks, or lead a community event.  

After identifying their roles and duties, Kilah and Laura challenged women to think about their “why”. They wanted women to dig deep and really think about why they do what they do each day. This was harder for women to identify. They were not looking for answers such as to provide for one’s family, but rather to dig deeper and consider our underlying values and the purpose each woman had for each of their different roles.

During the last part of the workshop, women created mission statements. Kilah and Laura shared ideas on branding yourself like including your mission statement in your email signature.  It is important to take time to cultivate an accurate online identity for ourselves. Kilah and Laura challenged the group to work in their online spaces to make people believe in what you do and believe in you, make your goals visual, allow others to really see what you want to do, and build relationships with others.

Dinner was enjoyed by everyone after the workshop and fun networking activities rounded out the pre-conference. Morgan Hibbs, Education and Outreach Coordinator for Linn County Farm Bureau, and Jade Hargrafen, County Program Director for ISU Extension and Outreach in Delaware County led the group in learning about each other. One of the fun and interactive networking activities was creating our own ag web together and looking for connections. Another was an ice-breaker where women rotated an inner and outer circle to introduce themselves through mini speed meetings.