Alumni of AgNext Secure Positions in Cattle Industry and ESG Communications

By: Rebecca Crook, Media Intern  

The AgNext team is composed of a variety of employees, including researchers, graduate students, and undergraduates. Our students that are part of a Master’s Degree Program study under Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of AgNext, and focus their research on sustainability in livestock systems. Our undergraduate team consists of research and communication interns.  One of our goals at AgNext is to continue to help bring industry and academia together and we are working to create a pipeline of workforce-ready students who can bring what they’ve learned at AgNext directly into the industry. Recently, two of our students, Grace Sanburg and Lauren Besser, completed their degree programs and have started their careers with reputable organizations.   

Headshot of Grace Sanburg
Grace Sanburg

Grace Sanburg, a recent CSU undergraduate, served as a Media Intern during her time with the AgNext team. She began working during the Spring of 2021, which coincided with the timing in which AgNext finished rebranding its name and reputation. Grace’s contributions to AgNext helped to establish our communication strategy and she played a key role in establishing our brand, social media channels, and website.   

“When I first found the opportunity, I was not aware of the program, but after doing some research, I was very excited for the chance to work with Dr. Stackhouse-Lawson,” Sanburg said. “She is very accomplished, and her goals for the program and the agriculture industry aligned well with my own.” 

When asked to reflect on the skills that she acquired during her time here, Sanburg highlighted how she was able to build her skillset in the industries of both communications and agriculture.  

“I learned so much about the industry and what the future of the industry may look like, thanks to AgNext and other similar programs that focus on sustainability,” she said. “I was able to grow and build my own portfolio in terms of building a brand, writing blogs and press releases, as well as working on strategic communication pieces like donor communications, including planning and executing webinars and other events.” 

After graduating in December 2021 from CSU, Sanburg decided to continue utilizing in December 2021 from CSU, Sanburg decided to remain in the industry and utilize the skills she gained at AgNext. She will In March 2022 Grace accepted a position at the American Angus Association as a Project Coordinator and Graphic Artist, where she will be working directly with cattle producers as part of her day-to-day responsibilities.  

Sanburg emphasized her gratitude for her position at AgNext, in part due to the extraordinary business connections that she created.  

“I was able to work with Colorado Cattlemen’s Association for six months after working with the current Executive Vice President, Terry Fankhauser,” she said. “I was able to work with others like Steve Wooten and Robbie LeValley who are both amazing producers and leaders for our industry. Those are just a few people to name, but I was able to collaborate with many others. Ultimately, my time with AgNext and CCA allowed me to learn and grow and find a full-time position that I am so excited to get started at.” 

Sanburg looked back on her experiences at AgNext and described the ways in which she felt that AgNext maximized her time as a CSU student. “I had the opportunity to learn from the scientists that are on the team, and I learned more about methane than I ever knew was possible. I can’t wait to see how the program continues to grow and build on the momentum that it has started,” Sanburg said.  

Headshot of Lauren Besser
Lauren Besser

Recent graduate student Lauren Besser finished her Impact MBA as a Sustainability fellow with Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson in the Fall Semester of 2021. Her work at AgNext entailed the incorporation of both business and sustainability. “I joined the AgNext collaborative because it was offered as one of the fellowship program placements through the CSU Impact MBA Program Corporate Sustainability track,” Besser said. “The Impact MBA combines the business skills learned through an MBA with climate change, sustainability, and social equity teachings.” 

Many of the employees at AgNext have been involved in agriculture since their childhoods, but this was not the case for Besser. “I did not come from an agricultural background, so I learned a great deal about agriculture and the livestock industry while at AgNext,” Besser said.  

Besser focused her learning on the ESG sector of business, which stands for Environmental, Social, and Governance. “I was able to refine my skills in ESG reporting analysis, especially for companies in the livestock industry,” Besser said. “Additionally, I was able to help companies that partnered with AgNext with establishing their ESG business strategies and help report the information to other sources.”  

Part of AgNext’s mission is to elevate the importance of our work and convene critical conversations.  We partner with BCW (Burson Cohn & Wolfe), which is a communications firm that partners with companies that invoke creativity and innovation.  

Now that she has completed her degree, Besser has transitioned to developing her after-college career. Besser was hired at BCW, which specializes in ESG business strategy consulting in addition to their communication services.  

Sanburg also worked directly with team members at BCW in order to build the AgNext website and establish a social presence on the internet.  

“I felt that I clicked very naturally with Kim and the BCW team, right off the bat. I was excited for the unique opportunity to work with BCW, an amazing communications firm, to also get in on the ground floor at SLSC as it was growing up, and to eventually help establish what is now AgNext,” Sanburg said. 

Besser attributes her hiring success to the connections that she made during her time at AgNext. “I was introduced to the company I work for now through AgNext. I was also connected with some great people who are excellent resources in the livestock industry.” 

We are thrilled that our student employees have succeeded in their career endeavors after learning critical industry-ready skills at AgNext. We take pride in our ability to offer these opportunities to our student employees that want to pursue careers in sustainability, communications, or agriculture and hope to continue to build a pipeline directly from AgNext into the industry.