By Whitney Baxter
“Bring your shovel and make your own path.”
That’s what Mikayla McKenna encourages the agriculture communications freshman and transfer students she mentors to do – pave their own path. Don’t follow others.
“You may fall, but you have to get back up, go around that rock in the road, and keep going,” said McKenna, a fall 2021 graduating senior double majoring in agricultural and life sciences education – communication option, and international agriculture.
That mentality has helped McKenna navigate her way through college as a first-generation student. It is her passion for sharing with others about agriculture that led to her being named the recipient of the CALS Student Council Outstanding Ambassador of Agriculture and Life Sciences award.
Raised on family farm near Hudson, Iowa, McKenna knew she wanted to go to college to one day obtain a dream career in agriculture. When she arrived on Iowa State University’s campus, she wasted no time in acting on that goal. She quickly became involved in several student organizations including Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, Agriculture Business Club, CALS Student Council, CALS Dean’s Student Advisory Committee and Sigma Alpha.
Her summers were spent interning at the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the American Feed Industry Association and in U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst’s office. At each organization, she was responsible for tasks ranging from posting on social media to interviewing farmers to writing articles – one of which was published in a magazine.
“It has honestly shaped me into the person I want to be,” McKenna said of those experiences.
“Mikayla’s service to campus through her involvement, service as a peer mentor and much more has made a significant impact,” said Ben Chamberlain, academic advisor in agricultural education and studies. “Mikayla will be continuing her education at the graduate level and will continue to be a strong ambassador of agriculture.”
Following graduation, McKenna will move to Washington, D.C., where she’ll begin Oklahoma State University’s online graduate program in international agriculture, focusing on foreign trade. At the same time, she’ll begin a longer-term internship with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s policy team.
“I’m really excited,” she said about her next adventure. “I feel that’s where my mark is – helping farmers at home and in the U.S.”