WIA Summit 2022: A View Through the Eyes of an Attendee
By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Women in Agribusiness Media, and Jessica Carroll, HighQuest Partners (November 1, 2022)
By all measures, the 2022 Women in Agribusiness Summit, which was held in Dallas for the first time, was a great success. We had the most attendees (800+), most sponsorships (53+), most students (30+), and most compliments ever received! There also was plenty of learning and networking going on, and downright enjoyment as we did the two-step and line dancing at an off-site reception and got a view of the city from the Reunion Tower at the top of the hotel.
Our expert speaking faculty presented on the impact of the sector from the war in Ukraine, the 2023 Farm Bill, sustainability and carbon markets, food safety, price volatility, animal agriculture, immigration, and so much more.
We had 47 U.S. states represented and 15 countries, with 10 percent of attendees hailing from Texas. And for 62 percent of participants, this was their first time attending a WIA Summit. With that new influx and the biggest year yet for student scholarship attendees, WIA Today asked Jessica Carroll, who was a scholarship award recipient in 2020 and a volunteer this year, to give her impressions of WIA.
To note, Carroll graduated from Texas A&M University – Commerce in the Fall of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science double-majoring in Agribusiness and Equine Studies. She recently received her Master of Agribusiness from Texas A&M University, and secured a new job at the Summit, which we’ll let her tell you about.
1). What were your first impressions of the event (especially since when you attended in 2020, it was all virtual due to COVID)? Please give us your overview.
Although attending WIA virtually in 2020 was not ideal, the Summit was still an amazing experience! I gained so much valuable insight from the sessions and made numerous connections through the networking breaks. Coming to Dallas in 2022 as a volunteer, I was completely blown away, not only by the sheer number of sessions, workshops, tours, receptions, and exhibitors, but also by how much attention was given to every detail. Even the items in the care station and the photo ops were specially chosen to give the attendees the best experience possible!
As a new graduate just starting my career, I feel the most important takeaway was the advice and encouragement provided by the speakers. Hearing from women who have paved the way in agriculture and accomplished so much was truly invaluable. The Women in Agribusiness Summit is an experience like no other, and I am beyond grateful that I was able to attend in person this year.
2). Please name three favorite sessions at WIA Summit 2022 and tell us why.
That is an incredibly difficult question to answer because each session was beneficial in its own unique way! From the sessions I attended, the Ag Innovations Hour was really inspiring and one of my favorites. I loved hearing about each of the wonderful ideas that spurred the creation of such amazing companies. It set a fire in me to think outside of the box and see what challenges in ag I could take on.
I really appreciated all of the advice and encouraging words that Joy O’Shaughnessy gave in her welcome. All of her points were very helpful, but I especially liked the one about “If you weren’t ready, you wouldn’t have the opportunity.” Too often as women we let fear plant doubt in our minds that we are not capable. However, if we did not have the skills or the expertise to accomplish something, we would not have the job or task available before us. That piece of advice is going to be one that I hold onto throughout my future career endeavors.
For the first breakout session, April Hemmes, a farmer from Iowa, stepped in at the last minute as the guest speaker. The stories she shared about her experiences in agriculture were phenomenal! I, and I believe it is safe to say every other attendee in the session, were in awe of her ability to jump in and deliver an incredible presentation at the drop of a hat. This is a perfect example of the high caliber of women who are on the Women in Agribusiness Advisory Board. Hemmes is an inspiration to all, and I aspire to be even just a fraction of the woman that she is!
3). How did you hear about the Summit, and what compelled you to attend?
It is strongly encouraged in Texas A&M’s Master of Agribusiness Program to apply as a scholar to attend the Summit. Both Dr. Vicky Salin and Karen Lepley discussed the invaluable networking opportunities that the Summit offers students, as well as the wealth of knowledge that is shared by the speakers and attendees. Hearing such high praise made me want to attend WIA Summit when I started the program in the Fall of 2020, but I was worried that if I missed too many classes that early in my first semester, I would not get a strong foundation in my courses. However, it was destined for me to attend because another student scholarship spot became available after the application deadline and the MAB Program Manager, Karen Lepley, submitted my resume for consideration. Since the Summit was virtual that year, I was able to attend my classes as well as every session possible, so it worked out perfectly and benefitted me so much! I was truly blessed by PGIM to be sponsored to attend WIA Summit 2020.
4). How was the Summit instrumental in your career?
Through WIAS 2020, doors were opened for me to intern with Aimpoint Research for a year during my time in the MAB Program. Working with Aimpoint gave me valuable experience for which I am incredibly thankful. This May, I graduated from the MAB Program, but I was being very selective while searching for my dream job. I wanted a career in agriculture where I could put my business, problem solving, and people skills to use to truly make a difference.
During my job search, I completed an internship/volunteer position with Texas A&M University, marketing the 100th Anniversary for the Department of Agricultural Economics and the 25th Anniversary for the Master of Agribusiness. Texas A&M University was sponsoring a Reception at WIA Summit 2022, and since the Summit was in our great home state of Texas, the MAB Program wanted to warmly welcome the attendees by sending several TAMU students and former students to volunteer.
As a volunteer, I had several meetings where I reconnected with Carrie Vita, WIAS event director. Through those meetings, and a wonderful recommendation from Karen Lepley, who supervised my marketing internship, I had the opportunity to interview for the operations manager position with HighQuest Partners, and ultimately got the job! Volunteering at WIAS 2022 was a phenomenal experience, which led to this new opportunity. I was so excited to meet the team in person and get a preview of what working with them would be like. My new position is truly an ideal role for me because I get to utilize my planning and organizational skills to play a part in encouraging and uplifting the women who are transforming agriculture. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity with HighQuest and am excited for WIAS 2023 in Nashville!