Haley Banwart Reflects on Her College Career

Haley Banwart (’15 ag and life sciences education) received the Leadership Excellence Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council in 2015. Upon her graduation Banwart offered a few thoughts on her student experiences in the college’s extracurricular activities and internship experiences. Banwart is working on her master’s degree in agriculture education and studies at Iowa State University.

Reflecting on My College Career

by Haley Banwart

Reflecting on my college career is kind of like leafing through a series of short stories. There’s not one moment that defines my experience, rather a compilation of memories I have made along my journey. There’s the time I helped my teammates win the university challenge at a rodeo by Indian leg wrestling, the day I landed my first internship and the year I served as a mentor for incoming students. There are countless chapters to my story at Iowa State University.   

For the past three years, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has been my home. I have dedicated countless hours as a student, peer mentor and intern in Curtiss Hall. Although at times I was tempted to hide a cot somewhere in the building, the remarkable individuals I have met and the relationships I have made within the walls of the ag “headquarters” continue to be instrumental to my success.

Beyond Curtiss Hall, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was responsible for stirring the wind beneath my wings. I have always had an interest in agriculture thanks to my farm background in northwest Iowa, but my passion for it took flight when I stepped on to campus as an official Cyclone. 

I share this same passion with many other CALS students, and to me this devotion is what establishes a warm, friendly atmosphere among college faculty, staff, students and alumni. As a senior in agricultural communications and journalism, I have played my role in the CALS community by both learning to lead and leaving a legacy.

Learning to Lead

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences taught me the value of leadership in many ways. Two excellent examples include internships and extracurricular activities.

I’ve always amused myself in thinking if the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was a religious organization, the importance of earning an internship would be a topic preached during the Sunday sermon. All jokes aside, my internship experiences have been vital in strengthening my skill set, narrowing my career goals and learning from top notch industry professionals.

What many people don’t know about me is my very first real job was as a student intern for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service. I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with the talented communicators in 304 Curtiss over the past three years. 

From helping coordinate college wide events, writing for STORIES magazine, and all the projects in between, I am grateful to the staff that has helped me grow as a communicator. The behind-the-scenes experiences allowed me to gain a sincere appreciation for all efforts done on behalf of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Aside from my work experiences, there are several other ways I have been involved in the CALS community. One of my more recent roles has been as a member of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council.

When I was a freshman, I had the false impression CALS Council was just another stuffy meeting to throw on the calendar twice a month. After serving as a member, I can honestly say it has been one of my favorite forms of involvement on campus.

Participating in CALS Council events has provided a unique bonding experience with my peers. Not only have I had the chance to work side by side with some of the best student leaders of the college, but I am also building relationships I know will be valuable as we enter our professional careers.

A perfect example is the night we tore down the flooring and stage following the CALS Week concert. Everyone was exhausted as we labored until two in the morning, but a group of us made the best of it and celebrated afterwards with a trip to Perkins and five dollar all-you-can-eat pancakes.   

What is my leadership advice to incoming students? Don’t be afraid to take on new leadership positions and fill your schedule with activities that add meaning to your college career. It is very rewarding to spend time with your peers outside of the classroom, even if it means going to a few extra meetings rather than slaving away on homework. Some of my favorite college memories stem from these experiences.

Leaving a Legacy

Over the course of my freshman year I found it odd there was no existing publication specifically targeted at CALS students. As an ambitious agricultural communicator, I made it my mission to fill this void.

Two years later, what seemed like “mission impossible” became a reality thanks to the support of many CALS students, faculty and even several alumni. In the fall of 2014, the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club launched the first issue of CALS Connections, a publication created entirely by, for and about students of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. 

In the spirit of the Iowa Agriculturalist, a former student publication, I led the charge with the inception and creation of the new student newsletter. CALS Connections aims to unify students and serve as a way to collectively celebrate the pride and success shared in the diverse areas of agriculture.

The stress from numerous hours of planning and editing could not match the satisfaction I felt as I watched students skim through the pages of the first issue. Receiving positive feedback was reassuring, but knowing CALS Connections has the potential to live on beyond my years as a student at Iowa State was the most rewarding realization of all.

If I have learned anything throughout my college experience, it is that my future career should reflect on the gifts I have been given as an individual. For me, this means fusing my passion for agriculture with my passion for writing. 

Serving as a peer mentor for the Agricultural Education and Studies program had a major impact on my decision to further investigate how to apply my talents. Through this role, I discovered my passion for working with students at the university level. In the fall, I hope to explore my career possibilities as a graduate student in the Agricultural Education program.

Whether I am destined for academia or a position within the agriculture industry, I am confident I will be prepared to take on whatever career field I enter. I am thankful to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences for providing me with the tools I need to be successful.

Part one of my story is coming to a close as I look forward to graduation. I am excited to see where part two takes me.