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Fall 2008 - Web Story 2

Destination Purdue > Fall 2008 - Web Story 2

The kind of president you'd like to play euchre with

By Elizabeth Fritz

On any given weeknight or weekend you can find Purdue Agriculture students playing euchre, talking about their farm at home or cheering on the Boilermakers. Eric Miller is no different. But when the junior crop and soil science major from Star City, Ind., isn't shooting the breeze with his friends, he's hard at work in the lab, working the fields at the research farm or serving as national president of a student organization.

"When I first met Eric at Agronomy Club and listened to him talk to other members I quickly assumed he had years of experience and was older then me - but I am actually a year older than him," said Bill Huffmeyer, an agricultural systems management senior from Napoleon, Ind. "I was interested by his knowledge and experience and I began to hang out with him and I then soon found out that he is just another normal fun-loving farm boy just like me," said Huffmeyer.

Miller's knowledge, experience and skills have impressed more than just his friends at Purdue. Recently he became national president of the American Society of Agronomy/Soil Science Society of America/Crop Science of America. The Purdue chapter is simply known as the Agronomy Club. His success on the national level stems from his passions for leadership and his work - passions he discovered at Purdue.

He pursued leadership and work by joining student clubs, selecting groups based on personal preferences and career ambitions. Two of those groups, Agronomy Club and Agronomy Ambassadors, stand out. "I joined Agronomy Ambassadors, who are students who represent the department to future students and alumni," said Miller. "Between the two organizations I've expanded my knowledge of the career path I am hoping to pursue and had the opportunity to meet several people that I could not meet in the classroom." "They are organizations that I like, they are my interests," said Miller. "I can relate with all of the people in the organizations."

Last summer he started working in the USDA-Agricultural Research Service laboratory for Doug Smith, adjunct associate professor for agronomy. "Eric has been involved in many different aspects of our research in the lab," said Smith. "This includes everything from equipment repair and maintenance, to sieving soils and sediments, to working on logistics of projects." Miller also assists with planting, harvesting and maintaining the field trials at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education.

"The work in the lab can be tied back into what I learn in the classroom and the practical lessons that I have learned on the farm growing up," said Miller.

The job at the laboratory had him working closely with Smith. "Eric is enthusiastic, a self-starter, extremely reliable, and very personable", said Smith. "Needless to say, when Eric graduates his replacement will have some very large shoes to fill." The admiration is not one-sided. "Doug Smith has had a huge influence on me since I began working in the lab," said Miller. "Working with him made me think out of the box. On the farm, when the soil tests said to put on fertilizer, I just did it. Now, working in a research lab, I have begun to connect the dots about why that amount of fertilizer is needed."

Once he learned the ropes in the lab, Smith gave him chores, which he needed to get done, and an operating procedure, said Miller. By setting these tasks, Smith helped Miller learn hands-on about his studies and career. Smith also helped Miller prepare for a national contest. "With a lot of help from him and many hours of labor I was able to produce a very nice presentation," said Miller.

What's the most important thing Miller has learned from his mentor? "Ask questions," Miller said.

"I have always been a do-it-myself kind of guy, but now working in an environment that is sometimes well over my head, I have found that asking questions has been a very valuable tool."

He has applied this lesson to the rest of his class work and leadership positions, said Miller. And that led to becoming national president of the student organization. "Working in the lab, being in several different organizations and balancing my curriculum, I have realized my true potential," said Miller. "With the guidance of my mentor and (more importantly) friend, Smith, I've completed tasks that I thought were supposed to be done by someone else into my accomplishments."

So next time when you are sitting around playing euchre, look around. You may have a national president among you.