Ranch roots instill a strong work ethic

Woman outside Cook Research building

By Rachel Flanders

When she was little, JoLynn Reyling would huff and puff with a hot, red face as she tugged on a five-gallon bucket of feed on her family’s cattle ranch in Glasgow, Montana. She pulled on the handle as hard as she could, but she couldn’t budge the heaping bucket that probably weighed almost as much as she did.

Reyling didn’t quit until she could carry that bucket. The experience, she said, taught her the value of hard work and of finding meaning in that work. These lessons that still guide her.

“It just made me so frustrated that I couldn’t carry that bucket,” said Reyling, a senior biochemistry major. “I wanted to partake and help out rather than just watch.”

Reyling applied her determined work ethic to her work at Cook Research Inc. in West Lafayette, Indiana. Reyling essentially took a year off from college to gain more hands-on experience that prepared her better for work in the professional world. So, her position at Cook was a full-time job. She gained work experience and college credit.

No stranger to hard work, Reyling said she had no trouble adapting to the 40- to 45-hour weeks at Cook.

“I feel like I get to do a lot of the same things start to finish that full-times do,” she said.

What made all that work worth it was that she was a real member of the team. She worked directly with other full-time employees and said she was treated as an equal. A lot of that had to do with the work environment. She worked with Cook a full year — not just over a summer.

“I presented myself in a manner that I was going to be contributing to this team for years – I wasn’t here to just take away from the experience, but I wanted to contribute to the company and make a difference,” Reyling said.

She also found meaning and value in the research work she did. Cook develops medical devices that help improve people’s lives and health. Reyling’s role on the bench testing team was to provide data through sound and accurate testing of medical devices.

The work was meticulous, but Reyling wasn’t content to just have a full-time job. During the Cook co-op, she also found time to take an online course, and even worked part-time at the Purdue Animal Sciences Research and Education Center in the Beef Unit. The extra work kept her connected to her working roots.

“You can be busy doing crafts or whatever else, but I just really enjoyed participating in something that was a little larger,” said Reyling.

Reyling said she was always working back home — even beyond her struggles with the feed bucket. Her father is a dentist and gave her a job around the office. Reyling and her siblings shoveled snow, took out the garbage, mowed the grass, tended flowers, and more. She also waited tables in high school and worked on her grandparents’ cattle ranch. She said the work was its own reward.

Woman with cow

Photo by Rachel Flanders
JoLynn Reyling’s strong work ethic started on her grandparents’ ranch in Glasgow, Montana. Working part-time at the Purdue Beef Unit takes Reyling back to her roots and constantly reminds her that she can accomplish she sets her mind to.

“I’ve always been really independent ever since I can remember,” she said. “That’s definitely where I got the drive to work. I’ve always been a busy bee.”

Of course, Reyling admitted it was hard to be a working college student. She said it required her to practice good time-management, be flexible, set priorities, and follow a schedule.

So where will all her hard work lead?

In a way, back to the family business. She said she wants to become a dentist like her father. And that surprises her as much as anyone. When she was growing up, she said people often asked her if she would follow in her father’s footsteps.

“No, I’m definitely not going to be a dentist,” she would say.

She chalks up that attitude to just being stubborn. But that stubbornness can help — it did keep her working at the heavy feed bucket as a kid. After earning her degree, Reyling said she plans to attend dental school to continue her pursuit of meaningful work.

In any case, Reyling shows no signs of slowing down and it’s clear that she will be as determined to be a good dentist just as she was determined to carry that heavy feed bucket. Her advice to others is the same rule she follows in her own working life.

“There are a lot of opportunities out there if you’re looking in the right place and asking the right people,” she said. “You can get experience in something you thought you wanted to do, and whether you end up loving it or not, it’s still an experience with so much you can take away.”

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