The Agricultural Communications program is very proud of our alumni. We would like to thank them for all they do to continually benefit our program.
Rod Stoll is a 1989 graduate of the University of Illinois. He currently holds the position of Vice President of Public Relations for Farm Credit Services of Illinois. Rod’s role at Farm Credit includes serving as the Association’s Illinois agriculture industry representative. He also coordinates the Association’s legislative affairs, provides leadership for outreach initiatives targeting young farmers and agricultural youth, as well as facilitating other Association programs such as the Stockholder Advisory Councils, farm business services information, educational initiatives, and summer internship programs.
Although Rod earned a degree in dairy science, he says, “Some of the highest impact and most practical classes in my collegiate career were in agricultural communications. I continue to regularly draw on my classroom experiences in Ag Broadcasting class and an agricultural communications introductory class in my career today.” Rod also says that his experiences in registered student organizations such as the Illini Dairy Club and the Student Advancement Committee helped him to build a network of contacts beyond the classroom.
Rod’s best advice to young agriculture communicators is, “Make it a priority to master the skills of asking great questions and listening. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously and enroll yourself as a lifelong learner.”
Lyle Orwig, a 1973 graduate from the University of Illinois says, “My degree in Ag Communications helped lay the foundation for me to be able to build communications programs for clients, first, with the ability to write, followed by the ability to plan and strategize for client’s goals and objectives.”
Lyle is the CEO of Charleston|Orwig, Inc. where he leads and directs a 62 person marketing communications agency that specializes in integrated marketing for agricultural accounts and corporate social responsibility of corporate reputation management programs for Fortune 500 companies.
Roger Sanders is a 1972 graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communications with a news-editorial emphasis. In 2002 he earned his Master’s degree in Business Leadership from Upper Iowa University. Roger started his career as an active journalist but spent much of his career in district sales or sales management for machinery and seed companies. However, most of his career was spent working in Ag publishing with the Successful Farming magazine and other publications.
He states that a degree from the University of Illinois immediately places you into a network of contacts that will assist in the development of your career in numerous ways. His Agricultural Communications degree allowed him to hone in on reporting, writing, and presentation skills that are essential to sales and marketing success. Roger credits his degree from the University of Illinois and Dr. James Evans for much of his success.
Colleen Callahan, a 1973 graduate of the University of Illinois states that, “[Her] Agricultural Communications degree has been the foundation for her career. Times change… but the need to communicate never will.” Colleen’s career in Ag Communications is with The USDA Rural Development as the Illinois Director. She oversees the agency’s 13 offices and its $3 billion loan portfolio with investments in housing, business and community development in rural Illinois. “USDA Rural Development is a tireless advocate for rural communities, helping them capitalize on federal resources to develop economic opportunities and improve their quality of life,” states Colleen.
Colleen is pictured on August 31, 2010 at the announcement of a $25 million Broadband project for Eastern Illinois. USDA Rural Development provided a $6.1 million grant and a $6.1 million loan. Cellular Properties will bring $11.2 million to the project and the State of Illinois will contribute $1 million.
Above all Colleen believes that, “No matter how sophisticated our communication systems become, NONE will over replace the effectiveness of looking someone in the eye.”
Tami Craig Schilling graduated from the University of Illinois with a major in Agricultural Communications in 1990. She is now the Director of Technology Communications for Monsanto. Throughout her career she says she has, “Focused on agriculture’s role in conservation, biotechnology and sustainability efforts and participated on several product launch teams and seed growth efforts.” Starting with Monsanto in 1990, Tami was a sales representative in Michigan, served as a conservation tillage specialist across Illinois and Missouri, served as Customer Operations Manager, Sales Manager and managed Corporate, State and Local Communications.
However, most recently she leads a team of talented individuals who share the company’s crop science and technology research pipeline efforts to address societal needs with farmers, scientists, industry leaders, employees and others. Currently Tami serves on the University of Illinois College of ACES Advisory Council as well as the National Association of Farm Broadcasting Foundation Board. Tami stated, “During the first fifteen years of my Monsanto career I had the pleasure of working with farmers, seed and chemical dealers, county extension and soil conservation districts. The ability to understand agriculture from field to fork, while at the same time, communicate effectively made a huge difference in my ability to integrate into the Ag industry. Over the past five years I have worked in public affairs/communications, and constantly draw on my Ag Communications education to create clear communications that apply my agriculture knowledge to the many communication and media venues in play today.”
Amelia Martens is a 2013 graduate of Agricultural Communications at the University of Illinois. She was hired on for a full time position as a Marketing Representative for John Deere's Construction and Forestry Division following her graduation from the College of ACES.
She interned with Corporate Communications at John Deere in the summer of 2012 and said it opened up the door to a full time position with Marketing after graduation. She's currently on her second of three, four-month rotations through John Deere's training/development program learning about various parts of the John Deere business. Amelia also spends time supporting John Deere products at various machinery and industry shows.
Amelia says about her position, "There is a lot of on-the-job training. Making mistakes is common and expected. As a new employee, you can and will make mistakes. People expect that, as long as you learn from what you did and make improvements."
Her advice to current students is, "Work hard and take advantage of every learning opportunity you have. Network and get to know people, too. Keep an open mind and never say never!"