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Land O'Lakes and UMN: A golden (Gopher) connection

Land O'Lakes' relationship with the University of Minnesota shines through current and former students

Minnesota, hats off to thee and hats off to three years. In 2014, Land O’Lakes contributed a $25 million gift to the University of Minnesota, one of the largest corporate pledges received by the University and the largest ever made collectively by Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the Land O’Lakes Foundation. And our relationship has only strengthened since.

“As a Minnesota company, our commitment with the University of Minnesota is closely aligned to what we valuegiving back to our community and building talent from the ground up,” says Pete Janzen, SVP, Chief Administration Officer. “Agriculture needs talent from all academic disciplines.”

And without further ado, let’s meet just a few talented Golden Gophers, who are each building bridges from the University of Minnesota to Land O’Lakes both on- and off-campus.

Building our brand (and talent)

Maddie Malone credits first learning about Land O’Lakes to her favorite lecturer at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

“I went to my professor, Corrie Fiedler, in the fall of 2015 when I was looking for internships,” says Maddie. “I told her that I wanted a company that was philanthropically involved, was in the food industry, had women in leadership positions, valued diversity and had a warm culture. And she thought about it for a minute and said ‘Oh, that sounds like Land O’Lakes.’”

With Maddie’s major in Management Information Systems (MIS) and a passion for food that started with baking in high school, it seemed that interning at a company like Land O’Lakes would be a great fit. She was able to combine her passions for business, technology and purpose.

“I had such an ideal image of the perfect company, and I wasn’t sure I was going to find anywhere that fit everything I was looking for,” she says. “But it fits here.”

After her internship with the IT team, she was hired as an IT TAP (Talent Acceleration Program) Associate and started in December of 2016. Right now, she’s in her development rotation with the Big Data team working on a project to optimize the Dairy Foods foodservice team’s targeting strategy. As she’s in Minnesota for right now, she gets to keep close ties her alma mater.

“Land O’Lakes did a breakfast this past year at the Carlson School of Management,” says Maddie. “When I talk with students, I’m helping them realize everything else we do outside of dairy. It’s so cool to talk about precision ag, Land O’Lakes SUSTAIN™ and how we’re leading the forefront in technology.”

Land O’Lakes continues to bridge the gap by hosting events with students from the Carlson School of Management to learn more about our company and the industry. Maddie plans to attend these recruiting events next year as well.

Raising ag's profile through business

Dylan Barth’s most fateful networking moment came at a birthday party hosted at a farm across the road from his parent’s house. As a senior, he was looking to head to the University of Minnesota and wanted to go into agriculture, but wasn’t sure in what capacity. At the party, he met someone working at WinField United who set him up with a meeting with a Master Agronomy Advisor. The rest is history.

After coming to the University of Minnesota in 2011, Dylan decided to pursue a dual degree in Agriculture and Food Business Management through the Carlson School of Management and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS).

“I had the best both of worlds with my dual degree; I had access to a longstanding land-grant university based in ag research, and then I also had access to Carlson, which is a highly renowned business school across the state and the nation,” says Dylan.

He went on to complete internships across three summers as a Crop Scout intern at a WinField United aligned coop, as a Master Agronomy Advisor Intern and as a Plant Nutrition Product intern.

And during the school year of his junior and senior year, he worked as a Campus Relations Intern for Land O’Lakes, combining his passionsagriculture, business and the University of Minnesota.

“I saw agriculture in 8 different states during my internships. I was having such a great experience with Land O’Lakes, and I was really passionate about the University of Minnesota so this gave me a chance to tell both stories to people in different disciplines,” he says.

Dylan now works as a retail agronomy advisor for WinField United and maintains a strong connection to the University of Minnesota. He is the Vice Chair of the CFANS Alumni Ambassadorshe attends events and college career fairs and also write notes to incoming students.

“I think having current employees talk to students is a great tool for the University of Minnesota and a way for local talent to be trained, developed and taught,” he says.

Supporting future scholars

Another way our gift to the university comes to life is through student scholarships. During the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, Megan Schossow was a recipient of the Multifunctional Agricultural and Food Systems Scholarships, which are awarded to transfer students in the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) where students engage with WinField United staff to gain hands-on experience during their studies.

Originally at the U to study biology with her eye on med school, Megan changed majors, pursuing plant science because she missed her daily exposure agriculturethe industry in which she grew up. The exposure to Land O’Lakes as an undergrad scholarship recipient led her to internships within the industry, including one with WinField United and eventually landed a full-time agronomist position at a Land O’Lakes member-cooperative, ProVision, in Central Wisconsin.

“I have first-hand experience with how important the relationship between Land O’Lakes and the University of Minnesota has been. I have received lots of networking opportunities, and the connection has empowered a lot of students,” says Megan.

But her ties to the University remain strong: She is an alumni ambassador and has been involved in the University of Minnesota Legislative Advocacy network, and this fall she will pursue a Master of Science in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

“There are so many niches in the agriculture industry,” she says. “Land O’Lakes shows this: it’s plant breeding; it’s horse nutrition; it’s finance. It’s everything.”

Providing a global experience

Land O’Lakes is also able to provide opportunities to students on an international scale.

Katie Enzenauer knew that she wanted to work in the food industry, but had many ideas about paths she might take. She heard about the Land O’Lakes Emerging Leaders Global Food Challenge program during her sophomore year at the University of Minnesota through a newsletter from the College of Food and Agriculture Natural Sciences (CFANS).

The opportunity with the Global Food Challenge gave her the chance to travel nationally and internationally to learn about issues that affect agriculture globally.

“I now have a greater understanding of the way our agricultural world works,” says Katie. “I think the Global Food Challenge really helped my knowledge of what is out there in food science and what I want to do. And I’m now able to educate others about many of the misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding agriculture.”

With the Global Food Challenge, Katie traveled with a group of students and professors to learn about the work the Land O’Lakes International Development nonprofit team is doing with dairy development in Rwanda. She also had the chance to learn about Land O’Lakes member cooperatives at MKC in Kansas, and when she visited Washington D.C., she learned more about agriculture policy. And this past summer, Katie headed to Hicksville, New York, to work as a supply chain intern at one of our plant facilities for Kozy Shack.

“It was great this last summer to get to see the manufacturing side of things,” says Katie. “That’s the exciting thing about agriculture I thinkthere are so many opportunities both nationally and internationally.”

But for right now, Katie is looking forward to heading back to the University of Minnesota to finish up her senior year and continue exploring opportunities in agriculture both on- and off- campus.

The future in our home state

The four students highlighted here have impressive stories, but we know there are many more Gophers who are passionate about feeding human progress.

In the past three years, Land O’Lakes, Inc. and the Land O’Lakes Foundation have supported 28 Land O’Lakes CFANS Scholars, welcomed 163 interns from the University of Minnesota, hired 46 full-time employees from the University and broke ground on the Land O’Lakes Center for Excellence, which is set to open in January 2018.

“This gift and our relationship with the University of Minnesota is about inspiring the next generation,” says Lydia Botham, vice president of Community Relations and the Land O’Lakes Foundation. “We want to give back as a company, and we want to build talent. And we’re doing just that, right here in Minnesota.”