[ACEL]: Hi Melanie! Why did you select agricultural communication as your major?
[Wilt]: My high school biology teacher assigned a paper to write about a career in science and interview a professional in the field. My dad suggested I speak with his former fraternity brother (Tim Reeves, then editor of Ohio’s Country Journal). After an hour on the phone, I hung up and said “People really get paid to talk about farming?” My first agricultural communication class was awesome and I went back to the dorm every day chattering about what I learned to my roomies. It turned out to be exactly the right path for me!
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
My parents are Ohio State alums, and all four of the kids in my immediate family are now alums. I
didn’t even apply anywhere else!
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
Ohio State provided a ton of opportunities and a network I couldn’t have imagined being a kid from a high school graduating class of 57. It provided me a global perspective and built on a passion for agriculture that was there from a young age. The connections that I still have from OSU are now colleagues, clients, mentors and friends.
How were you involved on campus as a student?
The extracurricular activities I gleaned the most from were internships and work experiences, especially at the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Science’s (CFAES) Department of Communications and Technology, where part of my job was to manage media for Farm Science Review. In addition, I was involved in Ag Communicators of Tomorrow and developed a national network in my industry, including a lifelong friend who was an ag comm major at Michigan State. I was a member of honoraries, such as Phalanx and Chimes.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
My favorite classes were of course the agricultural communication major classes, but I also learned a great deal from animal nutrition and a comparative politics class on central campus. That began the groundwork for my political career many years later! And, of course I’ve used the skills I learned in my food science wines class – both when I worked as chief of markets at ODA and as a hobby!
What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education?
Dr. Ann Hollifield was my freshman advisor and was only at Ohio State for a short time, but she had a tremendous impact on my excitement for the field of agricultural communication. She encouraged me to learn about broadcast journalism and to take a couple political science classes. While I didn’t pursue broadcasting beyond college, it certainly prepared me for a career in public relations.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
I was Media Relations Manager for the Ohio Florists’ Association, which is now AmericanHort.
What different positions have you had throughout your career?
AmericanHort (formerly OFA), Ohio Department of Agriculture (in several different roles), Avetec, Shift•ology Communication (formerly Wilt PR), and Clark County as an elected commissioner.
During your career, have you received any awards or honors?
Small Business of the Year from the Greater Springfield Chamber, 40 Under 40 from the Dayton Business Journal, Young Alumni Achievement Award from CFAES, many NAMA and PRSA awards, and earned my APR (Accreditation in Public Relations)
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
Starting my own business took a lot of guts and some sleepless nights, but I’m so glad I took the risk. It has paid off and then some!
What advice would you give to a current student?
It’s not about the money! Choose a career path that you love and are qualified for, and the rest will come together as you gain experience. You’ll be amazed what you can achieve in just a few short years in the “real world.” Oh, and do a volunteer internship – it could lead to your first paid internship.
What did ACEL cultivate in you?
An appreciation for different perspectives and a means to channel my intense passion for agriculture into something productive and enjoyable.