Started in Engineering at Purdue; through experiences found enthusiasm for international ag development

Name: Katriel Marks

Hometown: Carmel, IN

High school: Carmel High School 

Major & Concentration: Applied Agricultural Economics

Why did you come to Purdue: I originally came to Purdue because of the College of Engineering. I wanted to be a biological engineer and there's nowhere better to study that than Purdue! However, the Ag Econ department has been incredible as well.

Favorite Purdue tradition: Purdue Half Marathon & 5K

Top three influences at Purdue:

  1. Amy Jones: she welcomed me to Purdue Ag even though I was a "city kid". Without her, I probably wouldn't be in the College of Ag at all! 
  2. Global Food Challenge: We visited Malawi and talked about the country's agricultural development goals with government officials. After seeing that most of their goals were economic rather than agronomic, I changed majors from Plant Genetics to Agricultural Economics. 
  3. Listening to myself: Before starting college, I took a lot of advice about my life direction from others in my life and it got me to some places that weren't bad but also weren't what I wanted. I've gotten a lot better about trusting that I can make my own decisions, especially when it comes to choosing a major and deciding what opportunities to pursue. 

Five words to describe Purdue: 

  1. Connected
  2. Vast
  3. Hardworking
  4. Bold
  5. Progressive

Top five highlights of your career

  1. Going on a safari in Africa with Global Food Challenge
  2. Attending a Congressional Hunger Gala in Washington, DC
  3. Eating gluten free McDonalds cheeseburgers while studying abroad in Europe
  4. Taking a road trip to Zhangjiajie, the Chinese national park that inspired Avatar, with my mentors during my Borlaug-Ruan Internship
  5. Speaking with Rep. Collin Peterson (House Agriculture Committee chair) about issues facing farmers

Something you wish you would have done at Purdue: I wish I would've started as an Ag Econ major. I spent so much time in chemistry and biology classes that I'd love to get back so I could take more economics. 

Places you have been as a Purdue student: 

  • I did hybrid rice research in China for a summer
  • I went with Land O'Lakes to Malawi and South Africa
  • I studied abroad for a semester in the Netherlands
  • I've interned with Land O'Lakes in Minneapolis, MN, and Washington, DC.

Have to redo college in a major not in Ag: Economics or Political Science

Favorite club/organization: World Food Prize

Favorite Student-led event/initiative: International Development Coalition – a new organization led by yours truly that intends to help those interested in development learn a little bit about the sectors of development they might not have an opportunity to study in classes

Favorite Purdue event: Farmer's Market!

Favorite place to study: Union Basement

Over your career where were you most likely to be found on campus: the Union

Favorite spot on campus: the Sun sculpture – VOSS Model on campus

Favorite thing about CoA: It's very personal – the staff know me well and help me find opportunities that they know will be good for me.

Favorite thing about AGEC: It's diverse and relevant to so many present-day issues – from Development Economics (my favorite) to Environmental Economics, it uses the theories of economics to speak into very real issues the world is facing today. 

Favorite thing about your major: It allows me to specialize in what I'm interested in. Because of extra credit-hour space, I've been able to add a Political Science minor and I've taken classes about development outside of the College of Ag (like an anthropology class on Global Health).

Favorite class: AGEC 340 – Development Economics

Favorite professor: Dr. Rhonda Phillips 

Coolest project: While studying abroad, I wrote a paper about how we might model the extra costs landlocked countries experience in trade as negative externalities and how we might compensate for that. It might not be an actually plausible idea, but it was a fun thought-experiment!

Three biggest accomplishments

  1. Surviving a semester abroad: Study abroad was incredible in a lot of ways, but also very trying socially. 
  2. World Food Prize Borlaug-Ruan Internship: this one summer experience really helped me grow and get a lot of future opportunities.
  3. Global Food Challenge: Land O'Lakes has been a great corporate experience for me. I've learned a lot about what impact companies can have on development, and I was also able to spend a second summer in DC working with their Government Relations team. 

Things on your resume not listed above: I was a finalist for the Truman Scholarship this past year. Of 3 finalists from Indiana, I wasn't selected - and that's okay! The process taught me so much about myself and my interests and made me a better writer, and I'm thankful to have gone through it. 

Three words to describe you:

  • Passionate
  • Driven
  • Genuine

What are you passionate for: Improving wellbeing of those all over the world through access to healthy food and economic development. 

What intrigues you about the Ag industry: Ag is so unique to every other sector. Politically, it's pretty bipartisan because everyone wants everyone to eat. Financially, it experiences huge cash flows. Economically, it's a challenge for producers to stay in business. Practically (and morally), it's crucial that we keep the world's food supply (and prices) stable to keep the world running as we know it. 

What motivates you: I had undiagnosed Celiac disease for quite a while in high school, and as a result I learned what it feels like to be malnourished personally. You can't stay awake, you can't study, you can't hardly do anything. If we can find ways to make enough nutritious, safe food available for all, we can empower billions of people to pursue their own dreams, whatever those may be. At the end of the day, that potential for empowerment is what motivates me. 

Favorite quote: "The world exists only in your eyes. You can make is as big or as small as you want to." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Personal Motto: This probably sounds weird, but when I get nervous or anxious about things that seem trivial, I tell myself, "you're literally fine". I think the "literally" helps add a little informality to my typically rather formal mental state. 

Accepted employment? I'll plan to go to grad school; I'm applying right now! 

Where do you want to end up: I'd love to work for the World Bank or IMF or UN on crafting public financing mechanisms that help countries of all sizes and economic structures make the investments in public goods (like infrastructure, health, and education) that are necessary for increasing trade. 

Advice for underclassman: Let yourself go on your own journey – I started in FYE thinking I would do biological engineering. That was definitely not for me. I was scared to leave what I thought of as STEM, but I soon realized that you can find opportunities in any field if you position yourself well for them. For a pretty logical person, "following my heart" was hard, but absolutely the right decision.

Biggest takeaway from Purdue: I've always had a hard time believing that my ideas mattered. During my time here, I've slowly come to realize that I bring important perspectives and experiences to the table. I hope to continue earning that right, so to speak, by continuing to "do my homework" and seeking out experiences that will help me expand my knowledge base and worldview. 

Agricultural Economics, 403 West State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907 USA, (765) 494-4191

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