By Ann Y. Robinson
When Emma Parkins walks across the stage Dec. 16 during the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences graduation ceremony, she may be reflecting on the event as one of her “full circle” moments.
Parkins is the fall 2022 recipient of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council Outstanding Senior Award in recognition of her leadership and efforts to encourage professional advancement for women in agriculture. She is graduating with a major in agricultural and life sciences education - communication option, and a minor in events management.
During her college career, she has been active with several organizations, especially the agriculture sorority Sigma Alpha, serving as the local Delta Chapter president, vice president and in other roles since 2019. Twice, she was named the organization’s Most Valuable Professional.
A recipient of CALS’ Fred Foreman Scholarship in Leadership Participation, her activities have also included CALS Ambassadors, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) and involvement in St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Ames, where she has been a small group leader.
Parkins comes from rural Warren County, Illinois, near Monmouth. “Growing up, I was not directly involved in the farm operation, but I was always interested in agriculture and very involved in FFA in high school,” she said.
Her path to Iowa State was influenced by her grandfather, a 1966 alumnus with a bachelor’s in animal science, and visits to her high school by CALS Ambassadors.
“I have had a number of full-circle moments lately, for example, thinking about going back to my high school in late November, now as a CALS Ambassador myself,” she said.
Among her influences at Iowa State, she credits her advisor Virginia Hanson for “always being available and attentive, and encouraging me to explore internships.” That included an internship with Summit Agricultural Group, a company headquartered in Alden, Iowa, where Parkins plans to work in communications and human resources after graduation.
“Emma greets every challenge in front of her with grace, focus and a can-do attitude,” said Hanson, who also serves as an associate teaching professor in agricultural education and studies. “She has done meaningful agricultural communication work in writing, radio and public speaking. She doesn't doubt herself, and she makes things happen.”
Nominators for Parkins’ Outstanding Senior Award emphasized her caring, friendly attitude and efforts to foster inclusivity in the organizations she has helped lead.
Parkins said she has worked to expand the reach of groups she’s been involved with by encouraging transparency and openness. She has valued opportunities to build friendships and network at national events like a Sigma Alpha leadership seminar in Kansas City.
The oldest of eight siblings, Parkins said she visits home regularly to spend time with family, but she has also tried to make the most of her time in college. Her favorite memories of Iowa State include volunteering -- and getting engaged recently near the flagpole on central campus.
“I think it’s important to appreciate whatever stage of life you’re in,” Parkins said. “I have tried to really invest in the opportunities and people that have been part of a wonderful college experience.”