USU Leading Ladies: Kelsey Hall
One of the newest programs in Utah State University’s array of majors offered to students is Agricultural Communication – a degree offered by the College of Agricultural and Applied Sciences. There is one woman behind it all and her name is Kelsey Hall.
Hall’s passion for agriculture dates back to her days as a standard-bred horse trainer and racer as a teenage girl in Ohio.
“It was something my father and his family did,” Hall said. “So in middle and high school I worked with one of our trainers and owners with six horses. I trained them and raced them at about 80 county fairs every year. I have a real passion for horses.”
But her passion for the arts and communication is no less important, due to the fact that her mother was part of that world.
“She taught me to appreciate writing, art, music and instruments and playing in the band,” Hall said. “I had a really diverse opportunity, I also got to play varsity tennis and swim in high school. They let me have a really well-rounded childhood with my agricultural background, my academics and my activities.”
Hall calls herself a “constant learner” and remembered bringing books out to their family barn to read to the cows and horses. “I was always trying to learn,” said Hall of her childhood.
Her unique upbringing brought her to Utah State as the sole person behind one of the university’s newest programs. But she said the people who mentored her and the opportunities she has had from that time up until now have played a huge role in what she does an assistant professor at Utah State.
Before college, Hall attended a camp with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and learned that there was an Agricultural Communications major at Ohio State.
“I discovered that I could learn to do journalism about agriculture, science and the environment,” Hall said. “I figured that was a perfect combination of my love for photojournalism and writing and my agricultural background.”
Hall graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communication from Ohio State University in 2004 and worked for the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association as a communications intern.
In the midst of all the things Hall juggled at different jobs and educational decisions before coming to Utah State, she said there was one moment that caused her to reflect back on her past and realize just how amazing her opportunities had been.
“I worked for my faculty advisor at Ohio State as an honors student doing undergraduate research,” Hall said. “I remember one of my professors, Larry Whiting, told me that I needed to graduate and go work for a while because he needed a replacement when he retired and that I needed to get my master’s eventually.”
Two years into her job after she graduated, the department head at Ohio State offered her a full research teaching, research assistantship. She left her job and decided then to get her doctorate and be a professor.
“That was the moment that it really hit me,” Hall said. “And I laugh now because I think ‘oh, man, Larry was right!’”
Hall has had chances to reconnect with such mentors through different committees she now serves on and said she makes a point to always turn to them for advice and thank them for the help along the way.
It was mentors like these that led Hall to develop her own mentoring philosophy for her undergraduate research assistants here at Utah State.
“Over the last five years that I’ve been here I’ve mentored about 16 undergrad assistants,”
“I have this mentoring process where I want them to be a colleague, I want my undergrads that work with me to be able to bring their perspectives and their fresh ideas and be able to work through projects together.”
Hall makes a special effort to include her students in decision making and treats them as any other coworker.
“I think it’s important for them to be able to try, fail, learn and try again,” Hall said. “I’m all about hands-on learning and trying to get my students to get the most out of their educational experience.”
Through activities in her classrooms, advising the AgComm club, and planning a few trips each semester for her students, Hall gives those she mentors a chance to network within the industry, find more opportunities, and learn from professionals already in the field.
Hall said it’s important to her that her students are able to interact with people who understand what it’s like to balance personal and professional opportunities so that they see what is available to them in their futures.
On top of hands-on learning experiences for her students, Hall tries to use her own achievements – like being chosen as an academic expert to testify in the Utah State Senate for the passing of bill H.B. 121 (Local Food Advisory Council) this past year – to show her students the empowerment and opportunity that a woman in her industry can experience.
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