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UW college of agriculture grads find growth opportunities in job market

Recent spring graduates in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resource at the University of Wyoming have discovered job market opportunities during COVID-era restrictions.

First-generation college graduate Elizabeth Martinez, who graduated with an agricultural business degree with a concentration in farm and ranch management, recently started her position as a senior technician in canola management with Cargill’s Global Edible Oil Solutions in Fort Collins, Colo.

Martinez had graduated with an associate degree in agricultural business from Casper College prior to coming to UW.

Woman smiling
Elizabeth Martinez, recent spring graduate. Photo by: Kristy DeGering

“I do a lot of stuff with plants now. But the University of Wyoming had such a well-rounded program that I did take a lot of those plant classes like range management that help,” said Martinez, a Worland native.

Her job requires heavy research but during summers between semesters, she worked at three different research labs, which helped prepare her for this role.

Martinez navigated a lot of new territory being a first-generation graduate.

“I was the first to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and scholarship applications,” she said. “If your family members have never done that before, it can be a really difficult thing to do. It’s not easy.”

Martinez served as an Ag Ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and said the application process for that helped prepare her for the application process for Cargill. Similar to the ambassador program, she submitted a paper application for Cargill, did a phone interview, a one-on-one interview and a panel interview.

“It was very valuable I did that through ambassadors, so I knew how to present myself and talk about myself,” she said.

When Cargill called back after all her interviews, Martinez let her phone go to voicemail.

“I was terrified to hear because it was a senior position,” she said. “I thought, ‘No way on my first try on my interview process was I going to get it.’”

She had her roommate (and friend) listen to the voicemail. She was shocked and excited to hear the job offer. Her offer included full benefits, 401(k) and stock options.

“I told (CANR research economist) Tom Foulke about it and was asking him about it because I was in his applied equity and investing class and he actually took the time after class to look over my offer and explain everything to me,” she said. “He was so helpful. Even after his class, he reached out to me and asked me if I had any more questions. That was really impactful to know someone would still be there to help even after I graduated.”

Laramie native Michael Edwards has a long-standing family tradition with UW. His grandfather, mom and older brother all attended. He graduated this spring with a degree in agroecology and minors in soil science and plant protection. He now has a management position with Lamb Weston.

“Randa Jabbour’s intro to agroecology class was one of the first times I was able to interact with people in my major and showed me what I was going to be learning about over the next four years,” he said. “That was a moment that could have decided whether I stayed with the major or switched, but the class really laid a good foundation.”

Elements of leadership, a course through CANR, taught Edwards more about leadership and helps him in his position.

He recently started at Lamb Weston, one of the world’s largest producers and processors of frozen french fries and other frozen potato products.

COVID cancelled an internship Edwards had accepted with the company last summer.

“I kept in touch with the person who was supposed to be my supervisor,” he said. “He suggested I apply to the position I have now, which is team leader production, an entry-level management position at one of their potato factories. It allows me to get management experience, understand what quality means to a manufacturer and why we need to do the things we do out in the field.”

Edwards’ interview process was conducted via Zoom due to COVID.

“I was told one of the things that set me apart from other candidates was that I came prepared with a list of questions that were really interesting to me for the job to figure out what the company was about,” he said.

He was offered the job after his first interview but was hesitant to accept the position without having the opportunity to see the factory and meet those he would be working with.

“We lined out a way where I could fly out to Oregon to view the factory I would be working at and also meet all the people I would be working with,” he said. “That was a really beneficial experience. After all that, I could confidently say I really wanted the job.”

There are many opportunities for continuous development and travel around the world, shared Edwards.

With his position in management, Edwards has seen many people apply who think they aren’t really qualified because they don’t have the right education or classes but also shared those are the people he’s seen the most promise with.

“Apply to the positions you think you will never get,” said Edwards. “Apply to those jobs because your passion is worth more than your experience, by far. Your passion shows you are willing to learn in it and want to learn in it.”

Sydney Wiswell, a spring graduate in family and consumer sciences with a concentration in the dietetic program in nutrition and dietetics, was accepted into a Montana State University graduate program and started course work last month.

Wiswell, a Jackson native, came to UW undeclared but took an interest in health and wellness. She found the program fitting.

“All the classes I took specifically in nutrition and dietetics were all very exciting to me and made feel like I was on the right path,” she said. “It was always nice having those classes and being in classes with professors who were always really engaging.”

She took an environment and society class as a freshman through UW’s Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources that made a significant impact on how she chose her graduate program.

“That always stuck with me and made me interested in sustainability,” said Wiswell. “The concentration of the program I am in right now is sustainable food systems. I am hoping to combine all the nutrition and dietetic side of things with a sustainability lens.”

She will spend a year completing coursework for her graduate program and the following year completing a dietetic internship. The internship is broken into blocks that allow her to explore different areas within dietetics, starting with a look at sustainable food systems.

“The first six-week block is looking at sustainable food systems,” she said. “We will have the opportunity to work on sustainable farms in Bozeman and get experience in what people are doing in that area to make them more sustainable.”

College provided Wiswell the opportunity to try different areas and take time to figure out what she really wanted.

“The UW community provided a lot of opportunities that helped me feel prepared for the next step,” she said.

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