Scholarship Recipients Find Inspiration, Support at 2023 Women in Agribusiness Summit
In its 12th year, the 2023 Women in Agribusiness Summit (WIA) brought together more than 800 industry professionals from across the world in Nashville, Tennessee. This annual three-day conference aims to nurture the next generation of female leaders in the agriculture industry.
This year, ProAg was proud to sponsor two college students to attend the event, network and learn as they work toward graduation.
Meet Baylee and Taylor
Baylee Wulfkuhle grew up on a farm and ranching operation near Lawrence, Kansas. Currently a senior at Kansas State University, Baylee is studying agricultural economics with a finance specialty. She is also pursuing a secondary major in global food systems leadership and a minor in business. She is set to graduate in December 2023.
Taylor Criswell grew up east of Lubbock, Texas, where both sides of her family raise cattle and farm cotton. Currently a junior in agricultural business and economics at West Texas A&M, Criswell is set to graduate in May 2025.
One of the biggest pieces of advice I got from a ProAg employee was that you define your version of success and throughout your life, you can change your version of success.
Learning from summit speakers
While the conference offered countless learning opportunities via presenters at multiple breakout sessions, both Baylee and Taylor were tasked with selecting the breakout sessions that were most interesting and relevant to them.
With both students seeking careers in similar areas of agriculture and planning to return and run their family operations, the learning sessions below were most impactful:
- A protein commodity market update
- Leveraging the cooperative model in agriculture
- Trends impacting the edible oils market
- Growing financial acumen, career and business success
“I love a good economic update,” shared Baylee. “At my internship this summer, we talked a lot about what’s happening with cattle herd liquidation and Proposition 12 and how both can impact a livestock farmer’s bottom line. I was particularly interested to see if people were holding back heifers. I don’t think they really are. I think there’s just less cattle out there in general.”
Taylor was particularly interested in the edible oils session.
“I chose it because I didn’t know anything about the edible oils market where I grew up,” said Taylor. “We don’t grow a lot of corn, and the majority of what they talked about was the corn market. Most of the other students were from the Midwest so it was just cool to see a different sector of agriculture.”
The final breakout session on growing financial acumen was appealing to Baylee, whose degree will have a specialization in agricultural finance.
“I’ve taken a lot of finance classes through my finance specialty, and so I thought it was interesting to see how finance impacts all parts of the business and how it’s beneficial for everyone to have an understanding of the financials of the business because all parts play a role in it,” recalls Baylee.
Other breakout sessions interesting to the sponsored students included a session on deciphering the differences in the various generations working in agriculture, as well as a session on agricultural issues in Brazil from a native speaker.
It was a top-notch networking, social and educational experience. I’m just thankful that I could attend because of ProAg.
Inspiration from other women
Being at a conference with hundreds of other women in the industry in all parts of their career journeys was empowering for Baylee and Taylor, who spent ample time networking and connecting with ProAg employees.
The students reported a supportive atmosphere, saying the ProAg team and other women they connected with were eager to help them.
“One of the biggest pieces of advice I got from a ProAg employee was that you define your version of success and throughout your life, you can change your version of success,” reported Taylor. “She was really adamant about this, and I just thought that was really cool to learn from these professional women at ProAg. Whether they were 25 or 65 years old, they were all telling me the same thing: You do your own success.”
A key takeaway for Baylee came from the keynote speaker on the first night of the conference. The speaker shared that girls’ confidence tends to peak at age eight and declines every year after.
“She asked you to think back to when you were eight years old and think about if your younger self would be proud of the person you’ve become and the career you built,” said Baylee. “I thought that was really cool to reflect on where you’ve come from and where you’ve been. Then, if you like it, keep doing what you’re doing. If your eight-year-old self would be disappointed, you can change that because you have the ability to ‘control your controllables.’”
Both students were excited about the caliber of speakers and the chance to network with female executives from companies like Microsoft, Nationwide and other large brands. They learned about key topics in agriculture, including artificial intelligence, conservation and the global call to action to produce enough food for 10 billion people.
A path forward
While Baylee and Taylor are still deciding their next steps after graduation, they both know they will stay in agriculture. Baylee intends to work in a finance-related role that allows her to serve the farmers and ranchers of Kansas, and Taylor hopes to work in crop insurance or another finance-related sector of agriculture.
Another area both students agree upon? The impact of attending the WIA summit.
“It was a top-notch networking, social and educational experience,” said Baylee. “And I’m just thankful that I could attend because of ProAg.”
And Taylor said she knows she’ll lean on summit learnings as she begins her career.
“It was a great opportunity for me to take those steps into my future career and learn from not only the ProAg women, but the whole WIA association. It was a blessing and a wonderful opportunity,” she said.
ProAg will continue to support students like Baylee and Taylor. Additional scholarship opportunities will be available in 2024. Stay connected with ProAg to be made aware when the scholarship process opens.