Cara Lawson is a two-time graduate of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education in 2006, Lawson returned to ACEL to complete a master’s degree in agricultual communication in 2014. She now resides in Lubbock, Texas is now a student at Texas Tech University, working toward a doctoral degree in agricultural communication.
[ACEL]: Hi Cara! Why did you chose to major in agriscience education for your undergraduate degree and agricultural communication for your graduate program?
I chose to study agricultural education for my undergraduate degree because I loved doing FFA activities and wanted to be an ag teacher. When I was ready to begin my master’s degree, I knew I wanted to study agricultural communication because I wanted to expand my disciplinary knowledge and give myself a leg-up for my next career move after working in the industry for a few years.
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
Ohio State was well-promoted to me! As an aspiring ag-teacher, it was impressed upon me that Ohio State was the place I needed to go. I attended Sigma Alpha’s Young Women’s Conference and enjoyed getting to talk with the students and faculty. Coming from little Ripley, Ohio, it felt like I was off to the big leagues.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
One of the best things about Ohio State is the variety of experiences provided to students. Experiences at Ohio State come in terms of learning, meeting new people, being exposed to different ideas and opportunities, and being encouraged to try things. Ohio State also has given me great mentors who have always been helpful as I sought to navigate my career path. Having great professors at Ohio State has been a major driving factor in my decision to become a professor someday.
What were you involved in as an Ohio State student?
As an undergraduate I was involved in Agricultural Education Society, Buckeye Dairy Club (all of my roommates were dairy farmers, so I figured I would join the fun), Alpha Sigma Upsilon, Towers Agricultural Honorary, Undergraduate Student Government, CFAES Ambassador Team, and the CFAES Banquet.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
My favorite class as an undergraduate was teaching methods. It was fun to practice our teaching methods and lessons with our classmates, who were often assigned student roles with varying behavioral issues to exhibit as we tried to get through our lessons. Even though I did not become an agricultural education instructor, I found teaching methods had provided me with applicable content and strategies that were relevant to a variety of teaching situations, not just in a high school setting. I also liked soil science, except for the chemistry part.
When I was working on my master’s degree, I really enjoyed research methods because I learned I had basically been consuming data and designing surveys all wrong – what a eureka moment. My eyes were opened to reviewing data, statistics, and research from a more critical angle. This class taught me that if I really wanted to know the answer to a question, there was a proper way of asking and interpreting the results.
Did you have a faculty member or professor who had an impact on your educational experience?
The professors, faculty, and staff at Ohio State had and continue to have profound impacts on my education and career. Dr. Whittington brought a great level of energy and enthusiasm for agricultural education, and challenged us to create engaging content and lessons for our students. After her class, I believed that any topic could be made interesting if the appropriate teaching methods were used.
When it was time for me to begin graduate school, Dr. Buck helped me to bridge the connection between academia and industry, and gave me opportunities to discover and learn like I hadn’t before. Dr. Cano provided me with good feedback in his research methods class and gave me confidence in my scholarly abilities. Of extreme importance, Dr. Straquadine shared the best jokes that I use on the regular. In addition, he was a very encouraging member of my thesis committee and great teacher who used very interesting methods and stories to explain concepts.
All of these individuals, and more, helped me to see things I didn’t see in myself and I’ll always appreciate their feedback and encouragement.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
It is difficult to pick a favorite memory related to my time at Ohio State. All of my favorite memories come down to the people. One special highlight includes co-chairing the college banquet, as there was such a great group of fellow students, staff, and faculty working to make it great. I didn’t really know what I signed up for when I was elected co-chair, but it was such a rewarding experience. I also had so much fun in Ag Ed Society, and in the Block. And of course, football Saturdays provided classic memories with my roommates and neighbors along Neil Avenue.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
Following my education at Ohio State, I worked for Ohio Farm Bureau as a promotions specialist.
For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career?
I started at Ohio Farm Bureau and then returned to Ohio State for my master’s degree as a graduate research assistant. From there, I worked for Farm Credit Mid-America and now I’m working for Texas Tech University and pursuing my Ph.D.
How are you involved in your community outside of your career?
In Texas, most of what I do is related to my education or career in some way. Before I moved to Texas, I was most recently involved in state and local Extension committee efforts. I was also involved with the Junior Leagues of Columbus and Cincinnati.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
My favorite career highlight so far was my work with college interns to create Ohio Farm Bureau’s exhibit at the Ohio State Fair. It was so much fun to get to know the students each summer, and every summer provided different adventures.
What advice would you give to a current student?
I didn’t study abroad, and totally should have. So, current students, don’t make my mistake and go abroad during your time at Ohio State.
What did ACEL cultivate in you?
ACEL cultivated the spirit of giving and helpfulness in me. The department helped me in so many ways to become a better student, professional, and person. ACEL gave me some of the greatest gifts – friends, mentors, learning opportunities, and experiences I would not otherwise have had. When I was in high school, I never really thought of my education going beyond a bachelor’s degree. I am so thankful that the people in ACEL saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself, and helped me to place myself on a path to an exciting and meaningful career that I would have never imagined for myself before Ohio State. Sometimes people just need a nudge to accel. As a future educator, I hope I can help and give to my students in the ways ACEL helped and gave to me.