July 2019 Young Alumni of the Month
By: Savannah Keitzer (senior, agricultural education and studies, communications option)
As a college student you could find Lauren Houska (’15 ag and life sciences education) enjoying a cup of coffee at the Lagomarcino Café appreciating campus life around her. Whether it was watching people hammock on central campus, catching up with friends in Kildee Hall to study, or walking to her next class, Lauren appreciates the beauty of Iowa State’s campus.
Today, you can find Lauren enjoying life and a cup of coffee at her desk analyzing metrics and insights as a communications specialist at the Iowa Soybean Association. She enjoys finding effective and strategic ways to promote soybean production in Iowa.
Houska’s average week begins with a Monday morning meeting to discuss and collaborate with the communications team to set priorities and goals for the week ahead. Throughout the week she writes stories, designs a weekly newsletter and creates social media content for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. At the conclusion of the week, she brainstorms ideas to implement the following week, reflecting on which content performed the best and what can be improved.
Every week varies from the next, but one thing that is consistent is the root of her motivation. “The leadership from farmers impresses me every single time I interact with them, and it motivates me to provide them with resources and content to help them succeed,” says Houska.
Houska enjoys the days where she can get out of the office. “I love asking questions and learning what drives the farmer to farm, learning what they like and why they like it,” she says.
Houska understands the impactful role commodity associations play in the agriculture community. “I kind of always dreamed of working for a commodity association, and now that dream is a reality working for the Iowa Soybean Association,” says Houska.
Part of Houska’s job requires her to write stories about soybean production, research, agricultural policy and more. Some of the stories she enjoyed writing the most took her back to one of her favorite places. Her two favorite stories are:
- Soybeans Hit the Road which features Iowa State University researchers studying soy-based asphalt at the BioCentury Research Farm.
- Soy Solutions: Soybean was has Exponential Potential which features researchers at Iowa State finding ways use soybean wax.
“Iowa State is doing some incredible research, which leverages Iowa soybean farmers’ checkoff dollars. While visiting campus to cover these stories, I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the experiences and opportunities I had as a student,” says Houska.
Houska’s favorite class at Iowa State was with Jodi Sterle, an associate professor in the animal science department. The class focused on issues facing animal science and how to communicate agriculture’s message effectively. Houska liked the class so much she took it once as a student and helped teach it twice as a teaching assistant.
Another favorite was taught by Virginia Hansen, a lecturer in the agricultural education and studies department. This class focused on writing feature stories and various aspects of communication including video production, photo essays and strategic reports.
“The skills taught in those classes are very applicable to my career,” says Houska. “They gave me a real-world application to what a job in agricultural communication entails.”
From her time at Iowa State, to her time at Iowa Soybean Association, Houska has learned so much about agricultural communications. One important lesson she has learned is the important balance of work flow and creativity.
“It is important to get things done, but also important to set aside time to be creative and intentional to create valuable content,” says Houska.
With the start of a new semester on the horizon, Lauren offers this advice to students:
“Don’t pass up on any experiences, internships, field trips or opportunities. Each one will teach you something special and help you decide things you love and things you don’t. It will help give you direction when the time comes to embark on the journey after college,” says Houska.