By Whitney Baxter
If something piques your interest, don’t be afraid to pursue it.
That’s the advice Amber Friedrichsen offers to fellow Iowa State University students. A graduating senior double majoring in agricultural education and studies – communication option, and agronomy, Friedrichsen will receive this semester’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Student Council Academic Achievement Award. The award recognizes her “outstanding academic record through grades, scholarships and honors received while at Iowa State.”
A native of Clinton, Iowa, Friedrichsen’s family raises beef and row crops. Growing up, she was involved in 4-H and FFA. When it came time to decide what to study in college, Friedrichsen said it was either going to be business at the University of Northern Iowa or agriculture at Iowa State. She chose the latter.
A visit by an Iowa State Daily employee to her introduction to journalism class piqued Friedrichsen’s interest in writing for the student newspaper. Soon after, she became the publication’s agriculture beat reporter.
“I feel like that was my entrance into the world of agricultural communications,” Friedrichsen said.
From there, Friedrichsen joined the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences communications team as its student writer, a position she has held since January 2020. There, she has written about everything from student achievements to research projects and special events.
She also joined the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club and started writing for and editing CALS Connections, the agricultural magazine the club publishes each semester. When the club’s president stepped down, Friedrichsen took on that role, then ran for and was elected president again the following year.
“Amber defies our culture's stereotype of how a leader should act,” said Virginia Hanson, advisor of the ACT Club and associate teaching professor of agricultural education and studies. “She's quiet, thoughtful, a listener, a student often reading or typing away on her laptop. Her singular focus and enviable equanimity not only ushered the ACT club through the pandemic but empowered those around her to do great work, growing the club and winning two national awards. In a noisy world, thank goodness we have people like Amber to lead the way, her eye always on what she wants to achieve and her gentle spirit always encouraging those around her to do the same.”
Internships at Hay and Forage Grower magazine the summers after her sophomore and junior years inspired Friedrichsen to take on agronomy as a second major. With the magazine’s focus on forage-related topics – everything from pest management to harvesting to pasture management – Friedrichsen felt it would be beneficial to expand her knowledge in agronomy.
“The more I learned about agronomics, the better I felt about writing about it,” Friedrichsen said.
She further expanded her knowledge about agronomy and agriculture by taking two study abroad trips – one to the United Arab Emirates and one to Costa Rica. She especially enjoyed seeing how pineapples, coffee and various spices are grown in Costa Rica and learning about the country’s sustainability efforts.
Lee Burras, Morrill Professor of Agronomy, led the Costa Rica trip. Friedrichsen has taken several classes with Burras and appreciates the analogies and real-life examples he shares to help students learn.
“Amber is a wonderful, wonderful human being. She is quietly attentive in class and asks insightful and impactful questions,” Burras said. “In all tasks she is thoroughly competent. Her outlook is always positive. In other words, Amber epitomizes who each of us wishes we were. She is the ideal student.”
Reflecting on all she has done at Iowa State and why she became involved in those activities and organizations, Friedrichsen said it was because something about each of those things caught her interest.
“If something pops out at you, give it a try because you never know where it might lead,” Friedrichsen said. “Even if you’re just the slightest bit interested in something, it could lead to something bigger.”
Friedrichsen will return to Hay and Forage Grower following graduation, where she has accepted a full-time position as an associate editor.