Doing Us Proud:
These Graduates are Something Else
Kathy Reding isn't your ordinary ag school graduate; neither is Adam Edelin. Both are graduates of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, but they've pursued their dreams far differently than most of their fellow graduates. Reding chose to follow her ambitions in arguably the most powerful city in the world, Washington, D.C. Edelin stayed a bit closer to home— Lexington. Each is working in agriculture, but neither is in farming nor agribusiness.
Reding and Edelin are among the growing number of UK College of Agriculture graduates who are writing their life's scripts after springboarding from a B.S. degree in Agricultural Education, Communications, and Leadership at the University of Kentucky.
Reding, a 1997 graduate in agricultural communications, serves as press secretary for Representative Ron Lewis in Washington. Edelin is vice president of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce.
Reding, whose hometown is tiny Howardstown in Nelson County, Kentucky, left the Commonwealth after a short stint as a reporter for the Ashland Daily Independent to work as legislative assistant for agriculture and natural resources for Representative Lewis. Although her Washington job may not be located in Kentucky, Reding nonetheless works in some measure in Kentucky agriculture; Lewis' Second Congressional District is largely rural, being made up of 22 rural counties that stretch from Bardstown westward to Owensboro. Earlier this year, Reding was appointed press secretary for the representative. She still serves as legislative assistant for agricultural and natural resource issues.
Reding wasn't the first— nor the last— agricultural communications major from UK to seek her dreams on Capitol Hill. Preceding Reding was
Brooke Robinson, a 1997 ag communications graduate from Union County, who served as legislative correspondent with Senator Mitch McConnell prior to becoming the federal affairs manager for the Burley and Dark Leaf Tobacco Association. She recently became director of legislative affairs for the American Horse Council, also in Washington.
And Laura Haney, also an agricultural communications graduate (1999), currently serves as legislative aide for Senator Mitch McConnell's office, working specifically on agriculture and forestry issues. These ag communications graduates are joined by Tim Brockhoff (1995), who is using his ag communications skills as an editor with the National Wildlife Federation in Washington.
As press secretary, Reding is responsible for communicating with the Second District's constituents, including helping draft press releases to the “hometown” press, as well as arranging radio and television appearances for Lewis. To do her job, Reding must keep tabs on bills that affect constituent groups— especially legislation that could affect agricultural and natural resources in Kentucky.
She credits her education at the University of Kentucky with her success in Washington.
“I learned about agricultural issues and the agricultural community while I was a student in agricultural communications. I also learned communication skills that I apply every day as press secretary,” Reding said.
She added that the two faculty members teaching in the program “were really helpful and took a genuine interest in my progress and education. In fact, we're still in touch.”
Adam Edelin, a December 1998 graduate of the College's public service and leadership major, chose to stay a bit closer to home to find his career. As vice president of operations of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, Edelin is responsible for a project called New Century Lexington; he also coordinates the High Tech Roundtable, a discussion group of Lexington leaders who want to increase electronic commerce. Both groups are involved in maintaining farms and green space around the city.
Edelin, a native of the Louisville area, found public service and leadership to be a perfect program to help him on his quest for public service. Its flexibility allowed him to serve as an aide to Governor Paul Patton and also to complete his degree.
His plans are “to enter public and community service more directly,” a euphemism for “politics.”
|Like Reding and Edelin, Michael Odell Walker is doing it his way, too. A May 2000 public service and leadership graduate who knocked ‘em dead on the LSAT (Law School Admissions Test), he applied to a number of law schools. In turn a number of schools offered him a seat, including the prestigious Vanderbilt Law School. He turned the vaunted Vanderbilt down flat. Thanks, but no thanks, was his reply. Instead, Walker opted to continue to pursue his ambitions at the University of Kentucky, as a double professional school major— law school at UK and a master's in public administration. Currently, he's enrolled in the master's program with a deferment to law school. The native of Kuttawa in western Kentucky enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky largely because of his intense involvement in
4-H. (He served as the state president of the 225,000-member youth organization.) He found his niche in the public service and leadership program, under the tutelage of Dr. Lori Garkovich, advisor and cheerleader to the 20-some students in the program.
“PSL is a phenomenal program for students interested in careers in non-profit organizations, in government programs, and for those, like me, who want to go to law school. It lets you take the whole panoply of courses. The program doesn't just give you theory; it gives you the reality of public service as well,” Walker said.
His goals: finish his master's degree in public administration, then begin law school in the Fall of 2001. Finish his law degree and then pursue a second master's degree, this time in law, prior to clerking for a federal or district court judge. Then— the boy does have dreams— he is considering a law practice in the area of Internet taxation and copyright. Eventually, he would like to sit on the state or federal judiciary.
Robert Stewart isn't in the same league as Tiger Woods when it comes to golf; then again, who is? But he is pretty good at the sport— and he entered UK as a freshman on a golf scholarship. His interest in golf led him to major in plant and soil sciences. But by the end of his sophomore year, he discovered that agricultural education was a better fit for his career goal: turf management representation.
A native of all over the country— his father is a member of the armed services— Stewart has been able to find his dream career with Dow AgriSciences as a field representative. That means that he represents Dow AgriSciences at golf tournaments and trade shows, and works with distributors of Dow products to increase sales of company products.
“The ag education major gave me the opportunity to learn ‘people' skills at the same time I was enrolled in turf management courses. I also was able to minor in agricultural economics. I thought that combination would enhance my employability,” he said.
And it did.
Dow AgriSciences looks at a candidate's grade point average and leadership skills. Stewart had both a high GPA and impeccable leadership skills, having been a charter member of the UK Chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).
Just after graduating with his degree in May 1999, Stewart served as an intern with Dow AgriSciences in Florida. As a result of his work there, he was awarded a $10,000 Dow AgriSciences scholarship that allowed him to attend graduate school. He finished his master's in agricultural education in May.
Stewart's role at Dow AgriSciences has expanded to now include human resources work; he represented Dow at the College's Career Day in October.
As David Ingordo puts it, “I was raised in California, but I grew up in Kentucky.” The son of a retired jockey and sports agent and a racing manager, Ingordo came to the University of Kentucky bright faced and 18. After a short stint as an animal sciences major, Ingordo found that agricultural communications would better prepare him for his ideal career as a Thoroughbred industry consultant.
A December 1999 graduate of the College, Ingordo started work as a consultant— Ingordo describes his role as that of an “equine stock broker”— employed by Walmac International the day after he finished his last course in the College. Walmac International is a premier full- service Thoroughbred operation, offering a wide range of services to the Thoroughbred industry at its two locations in Lexington and Ocala, Florida.
On a day-to-day basis, he said, his job involves working with owners of mares who need help in finding a suitable stud to sire the mare's next foal. Ingordo researches the mare's pedigree, checks to see what stud seasons are available and at what price, and gives clients several options from which to choose. Recently he has started to purchase horses, both breeding and racing animals, for clients.
Although Ingordo was raised in the Thoroughbred industry— having been licensed to work at California tracks at the age of 14— he said agricultural communications was instrumental in his being able to parlay his knowledge of the industry into a successful career.
“The agricultural communications program taught me to think outside the box, to develop critical thinking skills. I use those skills every day as I put deals and contracts together between buyers and sellers of horses and in purchasing breeding shares for owners of mares,” Ingordo said.
D.J. Matherly, who holds both B.S. (1996) and M.S. (1998) degrees in vocational education, pursues his career at Meade County High School, where he teaches vocational agriculture courses. Since joining the faculty there in 1997, Matherly has proved himself many times over as an inspired teacher.
Since 1998, his students have won four state FFA judging contests and student enrollment in vocational agricultural classes continues to increase. In fact, since Matherly became the vocational agriculture teacher enrollment has increased so much that the district is hiring a second vo ag teacher.
Matherly credits Drs. Rod Tulloch and Charles Byers with much of his success.
“I needed to know how to plan lessons, manage a classroom, and be a quality FFA advisor— and these are only some of the vital skills I developed at UK,” he said.
Not only are Matherly's students hotshots when it comes to contests, they are also active in the community, performing service activities such as raking leaves for the elderly and working with elementary school students.
“It's through FFA activities that students develop responsibility and a feeling of pride in their accomplishments,” Matherly said.
About the Major
The Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership major was born officially in 1994, when three separate majors were folded into one. The agricultural education faculty, previously a part of the College of Education, moved to the College of Agriculture in 1993. The agricultural communications major had grown from an individualized major with a handful of students in the mid-1970s to a full-fledged degree program with more than 20 majors. The public service and leadership major was part of the rural sociology program.
Collectively, the major now has about 135 students. (Agricultural education also has a master's program with about 80 students.) Faculty members teaching in the Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership program include:
Charles Byers, agricultural education Lori Garkovich, public service and leadership
Rod Tulloch, agricultural education
Randy Weckman, agricultural communications
Deborah Witham, agricultural communications