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Best career fits require some effort, lots of luck
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Did you pick your career or did it pick you?
Long, hot days driving a tractor in a hay field and crack-of-dawn cattle roundups helped me decide that farming was not the life for me. Instead, I opted for an education that allowed me to get an 8-to-5 job in an air-conditioned office and earn a regular paycheck.
In college, I majored in communication with an emphasis in public relations, never intending to stay in my hometown of Starkville. I was going to a big city with all the excitement and money that I thought it would offer.
Before I graduated, one of my crazy cousins (and most of us have at least one) suggested I consider agricultural communications. He was sure my farm roots would make this a great direction for me. My cousin worked for an agricultural chemical company and had experience with ag communicators. He knew what they were like, and he knew me. To my young ears, that career path sounded much too narrow, so I did not give it a second thought until many years later.
After writing for my community newspaper for a couple of years, a job opportunity opened in what is now the Mississippi State University Office of Agricultural Communications. Twenty-five years later, I’m still here, and I love what I do.
Every week brings a different story that Mississippians need to hear. They need to know that our youth are responsible citizens, hard workers and future leaders. They are raising champion livestock and helping their communities through a variety of service projects. I remember one 4-H’er who donated his livestock earnings to a friend with huge medical expenses after a car accident. Others are exploring their own career paths as they do such things as programming robots. They are considering careers in natural resource management through a variety of camps and programs offered by MSU’s College of Forest Resources.
Mississippians need to know that MSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine does so much more than educate the veterinarians who will care for our future extended family members. The CVM is also conducting research that benefits the state’s valuable poultry, catfish and livestock industries, as well as human medicine.
Mississippians need to know that MSU Extension Service offices are located in all 82 counties, and each one has a finger on the pulse of its community. Programs to “turn the tide on poverty” or encourage medical professionals to locate in rural areas are part of the Extension effort.
Researchers with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and with the Forest and Wildlife Research Center are recognized far beyond our borders for their work that has worldwide implications. Did you know MSU hosts an internationally acclaimed insect-rearing workshop? Mississippians need to know all that, and I’m glad to be able to tell it.
My crazy cousin was right. I have loved being in agricultural communications, telling Mississippi’s agricultural story -- everything from the $2.4 billion forestry industry to a 25-acre Chickasaw County produce farm. I’m proud of MSU’s fish hatchery and its entomology museum.
Career paths fall on pavement, gravel, dirt and grass. They take people to big cities, small communities, wooded lands, open fields and even water surfaces. I hope today’s students find the best paths for them.