First, Greatest, Best: Talking Ag-Business With Samantha Cooley

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First, Greatest, Best: Talking Ag-Business With Samantha Cooley

By Carla Morris

Making history wasn’t on Samantha Cooley’s mind when she decided to major in agribusiness, but employability was.

For Samantha, life after college meant working in the farm-rich heart of Illinois. Adding agribusiness to her management major at Greenville University only increased her understanding and expanded her skills. In the process, she made history by becoming the first graduate of the University’s new agribusiness program. (Photo below: Samantha with Mark Jenner, her agribusiness advisor)

Cooley-JennerAgri-Growth = Employability

To a Central Illinois native like Samantha who planned to stay in the region after college, agribusiness as a second major just made sense.

Major employers like Monsanto, Purina Mills and Bunge North America are headquartered within five hours of G.U.’s campus. Top U.S. pork powerhouse The Maschoffs is about 30 minutes south of campus, and global agricultural processors Tate & Lyle and Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) are just 90 minutes north.

Upon graduation, she accepted a position with Rural King Farm and Home, whose corporate office and distribution center operate out of Mattoon, Illinois. Today, she assists with purchasing and distributing select sporting goods to the retailer’s 115 stores over a 12-state region.   

Agribusiness Studies: Market Relevance

“Rural King’s primary consumers are the farmers and those in rural America who depend on them,” says Samantha.

Her undergraduate work deepened her understanding of Rural King as a player in the marketplace; it also helped her see the business both from the store operations side and from the office/supply chain side.

Greatest, Biggest, Best

As a recent graduate and champion of G.U.’s agribusiness program, Samantha was happy to share these observations about her college-to-career transition:

  • Greatest challenge – “Getting to know the products!”
  • Biggest surprise – “How the little things I learned in my classes actually made a big difference in how I adjusted to this job. I used to be terrified by Excel and now everything I do is in Excel. I couldn’t have made that transition without Dr. Jenner and his love of census data!”
  • Best reward – “[Knowing] that I can make a difference in my coworkers’ and customers’ lives by doing my job well.”
  • Most satisfying accomplishment  – “That I was able to pull it off! For two out of my three years, I worked two jobs [totaling] more than 40 hours per week, and was doing a double major.”
  • Most impactful undergraduate experience – A mission trip to New Orleans to help repair flood-damaged homes. “Listening to the stories that the homeowners and neighbors told really hit me. One woman we worked with came to dinner with us, and her words have become my life’s mission . . . she said she ‘really appreciated how we personified serving with a joyful heart.’” 
  • Hidden benefits – “G.U. helped me to grow as a person. Many of the people that knew me in high school say it is night and day how much I have changed.”

Learn More

Erin and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Job
Students Exceed Expectations Putting Experience First
Crash Course in Confidence Brought to You By Experience First
Homegrown Greenville Graduate Gives Back to Local Economy

Samantha is the grateful recipient of G.U.’s donor-funded Dean’s Scholarship. Your gift makes all the difference to students like Samantha. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on January 04, 2019

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