​Ag Council Fall Leadership Retreat

Written by Kendell Combs, Junior, Agribusiness Management & Agricultural Communication

For the past four years, the Purdue Agricultural Council has held its Fall Leadership Retreat. Syngenta sponsored the retreat this past September and the speakers for the night were representatives from the company. The purpose of this event is to provide students in the College of Agriculture who hold leadership positions or are involved in clubs with practical information to apply to their respective positions. There is also valuable insight shared on how to approach recruiters at the career fair and maintain communication past the initial interaction.

This year’s retreat was based on “Understanding Your Why,” and the common theme of the speakers was that you have a valuable position in whatever you are doing and that you must understand that, so you can build upon it. Before the retreat began, students had the opportunity to interact with Syngenta representatives, many of whom were recent Purdue Agricultural Economics graduates. This allowed students to feel comfortable asking the tough questions, such as how they transitioned into their first full-time position and how did that look compared to what they were expecting. The evening started off with welcome and introductions after everyone was seated. Speakers for the evening included Mr. Vern Hawkins, president of Syngenta Crop Protection, and Mr. Gil Strader, head of field force excellence and training of Syngenta Crop Protection. Unfortunately, Vern was unable to be at the event in person due to Hurricane Florence shutting down the airport, but he was able to Skype in for the students. 

Jason Kikkert (Senior; Farm Management; Fair Oaks, IN) enjoys going to the Ag Council Fall Leadership Retreat every year because there is always something to learn. Jason said that many people, himself included, were looking forward to Purdue alumnus Vern Hawkins speaking, but Vern’s presentation via Skype was far from disappointing. During Gil’s presentation, Jason said that Gil hit a lot on things that show good leadership. “People follow leaders with strong character” was one thing that really stuck with him. Gil talked about humility, work ethic, and leadership styles as well. “It was really nice to learn more about being a good leader and also hearing that things we may be already doing are what someone in his position recommends.” Jason has always appreciated the openness of the speakers as they share real incite so it will better for the students attending. That is probably his most part of the retreat.

Another take-away from the event is that your drive for success and building others up is what makes a good leader compared to the actual numbers on a paper. Travis Koester (Junior; Agribusiness; Wadesville, IN) enjoyed hearing about a different perspective to leadership. “An interesting thing I learned during the presentations is that people buy why you do something, not what you do.” His favorite aspect of the retreat was the networking and opportunity to meet people who work at Syngenta. Through this, he learned a lot of helpful tips for interviewing at the career fair. 

Looking forward to next fall, College of Agriculture students can have the opportunity to attend if they are a part of one of Ag Council’s option clubs. You can find a list of option clubs at https://ag.purdue.edu/oap/agcouncil/Pages/clubs.aspx, where you can investigate the different clubs and see if one interests you to get more involved within the college. 

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