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UW College of Agriculture Grads Find Growth Opportunities in Job Market

June 25, 2021
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Elizabeth Martinez

Recent spring graduates in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming have discovered job market opportunities during COVID-era restrictions.

First-generation college graduate Elizabeth Martinez, who graduated with an agricultural business degree with a concentration in farm and ranch management, recently started her position as a senior technician in canola management with Cargill’s Global Edible Oil Solutions in Fort Collins, Colo.

Martinez had graduated with an associate degree in agricultural business from Casper College before coming to UW.

“I do a lot of stuff with plants now. But the University of Wyoming had such a well-rounded program that I did take a lot of those plant classes such as range management that help,” says Martinez, a Worland native.

Her job requires heavy research but, during summers between semesters, she worked at three different research labs, which helped prepare her for this role.

Martinez navigated a lot of new territory being a first-generation graduate.

“I was the first to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and scholarship applications,” she says. “If your family members have never done that before, it can be a really difficult thing to do. It’s not easy.”

Martinez served as an ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and says the application process for that helped prepare her for the application process for Cargill. Similar to the ambassador program, she submitted a paper application for Cargill and did a phone interview, a one-on-one interview and a panel interview.

“It was very valuable that I did that through ambassadors, so I knew how to present myself and talk about myself,” she says.

When Cargill called back after all of her interviews, Martinez let her phone go to voicemail.

“I was terrified to hear because it was a senior position,” she says. “I thought, no way on my first try on my interview process was I going to get it.”

She had her roommate listen to the voicemail. She was shocked and excited to hear the job offer. Her offer included full benefits, 401(k) and stock options.

“I told (UW research economist) Tom Foulke about it and was asking him about it because I was in his applied equity and investing class, and he actually took the time after class to look over my offer and explain everything to me,” she says. “He was so helpful. Even after his class, he reached out to me and asked me if I had any more questions. That was really impactful to know someone would still be there to help even after I graduated.”

Straight into Management

Laramie native Michael Edwards has a long-standing family tradition with UW. His grandfather, mom and older brother all attended. He graduated this spring with a degree in agroecology and minors in soil science and plant protection. He now has a management position with Lamb Weston.

“Randa Jabbour’s intro to agroecology class was one of the first times I was able to interact with people in my major and showed me what I was going to be learning about over the next four years,” he says. “That was a moment that could have decided whether I stayed with the major or switched, but the class really laid a good foundation.”

“Elements of Leadership,” a course through the college, taught Edwards more about leadership and helps him in his position.

He recently started at Lamb Weston, one of the world’s largest producers and processors of frozen French fries and other frozen potato products.

COVID canceled an internship Edwards had accepted with the company last summer.

“I kept in touch with the person who was supposed to be my supervisor,” he says. “He suggested I apply to the position I have now, which is team leader production, an entry-level management position at one of their potato factories. It allows me to get management experience, understand what quality means to a manufacturer, and why we need to do the things we do out in the field.”

Edwards’ interview process was conducted via Zoom due to COVID.

“I was told one of the things that set me apart from other candidates was that I came prepared with a list of questions that were really interesting to me for the job to figure out what the company was about,” he says.

He was offered the job after his first interview but was hesitant to accept the position without having the opportunity to see the factory and meet those he would be working with.

“We lined out a way where I could fly out to Oregon to view the factory I would be working at and also meet all the people I would be working with,” he says. “That was a really beneficial experience. After all that, I could confidently say I really wanted the job.”

There are many opportunities for continuous development and travel around the world, Edwards says.

With his position in management, Edwards has seen many people apply who think they aren’t really qualified because they don’t have the right education or classes but also says those are the people for whom he’s seen the most promise.

“Apply to the positions you think you will never get,” Edwards says. “Apply to those jobs because your passion is worth more than your experience, by far. Your passion shows you are willing to learn in it and want to learn in it.”

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