Michelle Sullivan

Photo by K.C. Jaehnig Download Photo Here

August 18, 2009

Recruiter stresses agriculture college’s diverse offerings

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- When it comes to picking a major, ag college recruiter Michelle Sullivan wants folks to think outside the row crop.

“The man on the tractor, the traditional crops -- they’re important, and we don’t want to minimize them, but we have seven majors and 26 specializations representing all aspects of the global food, agriculture and natural resource industries,” said Sullivan, who joined the Southern Illinois University Carbondale College of Agricultural Sciences June 1.

“For example, we have human nutrition and dietetics, a growing field with a lot of opportunity, that focuses on some of the country’s big issues, such as childhood obesity and diabetes. We have hospitality and tourism, where you find your hotel and restaurant management. This could also lead to the growing opportunities in agritourism, which could help farm families learn to diversify or prepare people for second careers on small farms. We have a pre-law specialization that would be good for those who want to go on to shape agriculture policy.

“For the next year, my main focus will be to take that message to community colleges and high schools -- and not just to the agriculture programs and teachers. I want to include the science and business teachers, because a lot of our programs have strong science and business components. There’s not a discipline we don’t touch. I want to articulate that message everywhere I go.”

While Sullivan grew up in suburban Chicago and spent much of her professional life in banking, finance and project management there, her roots run back to a farm in Creal Springs, a farm without electricity or running water.

“There was poverty money-wise, but we were so rich in values, and my grandpa’s goal was for us to always appreciate where we came from,” Sullivan said. “Agriculture is still the core of my life.

“Because I have lived in the suburbs of one of the biggest cities in the country but have a family history with one of the state’s smallest areas, I can relate to all the students who come in. One of the things I love about this college is that we get students from the city, from the country and everywhere in between.”

In addition to recruiting students, Sullivan will work hard to place them.

“That’s where I want to put some real energy, because the ultimate goal of someone coming to college is getting a job,” she said.

Sullivan hopes to expand internship opportunities, placing students as early as their freshman year.

“With three summers of internships, they will have a pretty good idea of what employment in a given field looks like without being locked into anything,” she said. “We want to make sure that when they go out looking for a job, they really know what they’re looking for.”

Sullivan will oversee her first career fair Sept. 23-24. Company representatives will meet students at an evening business casual reception on the 23rd, then staff tables and displays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. the following day.

“We have a good base because the college has built and nurtured relationships with a broad range of industry leaders,” she said. “My goal is to take what we have and find ways to widen that circle.”

She also hopes to strengthen relationships with both companies and alumni.

“The best way to sell our college is through happily employed graduates,” Sullivan said.

To contact Sullivan, call her at 618/453-3080 or e-mail her at sully@siu.edu. Visit the college online at coas.siu.edu.