Editor's note: Find CALS and Iowa State spring 2021 graduation celebration livestream viewing information here.
By Whitney Baxter
Growing up on her family’s northeast Iowa dairy farm near Aurora, Cynthia Hamlett developed a passion for agriculture. After dipping her toes in a couple different majors during her freshman year at Iowa State University, Hamlett decided to double major in agriculture and society and dairy science.
She chose agriculture and society because she likes the policy side of things and could choose classes within the major that focused on agriculture. Paired with dairy science, she said her double majors have allowed her to become more knowledgeable about the science and sociological sides of the agriculture industry.
She quickly became involved on campus, joining both the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club and the Dairy Science Club, holding several positions within each organization. It was in the Dairy Science Club, however, where she found her “home.”
Having been elected Dairy Science Club president during the start of the spring 2020 semester, Hamlett was soon faced with making decisions that would keep club members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, including moving meetings to a virtual format. One of the biggest events the club hosts every summer is the “I Milked a Cow” (IMAC) booth at the Iowa State Fair. When the fair was canceled, the club created “A Very Dairy Experience” video to share on the Iowa State Fair’s Facebook page in place of IMAC. It showcased all things dairy, which allowed viewers to continue learning about all that dairy has to offer.
“The video reached over 9,000 people and was shared more than 65 times,” Hamlett said.
Hamlett is a testament to how internships can solidify your areas of interest in preparation for future careers. She took part in several internships throughout her college career, starting the summer after her freshman year.
Her internship at Associated Milk Producers, Inc., helped her learn where milk goes after it leaves the farm. In addition to participating in communication and consumer engagement events while interning at Midwest Dairy, she also attended trade association meetings and saw the impacts the Iowa State Dairy Association makes to the policy side of the dairy industry. She gained experience posting on social media and pulling analytics on how those posts performed while serving as a marketing and communications intern for Decision Innovation Solutions. Her final internship, at the Corn Refiners Association this past fall and early spring, had her doing work as a government relations intern.
“I highly recommend participating in internships,” Hamlett said. “I figured I had three summers to complete internships, and I’d figure out where I wanted to take my career from there.”
Those internships gave Hamlett the experience to land a post-graduation position, which she has already started on a part-time basis while wrapping up her final semester at Iowa State. She began her new role as a program technician with U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Elkader on April 12. In this position, she’ll be ensuring farmers’ eligibility and helping them get signed up for different programs.
Hamlett encourages current and future students to try new things and get involved with student clubs on campus.
“Get involved right away, go to events, try to meet new people and don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone,” she said. “Stay in touch with your adviser. They can be a really great reference and mentor for you in the long run.”