Jane Hillstrom: Planting the seeds of communication
Madison — When she faced the challenge of helping scientists explain their research while she studied and worked at UW–Madison, Jane Hillstrom had a point of reference: her grandfather’s work on the farm.
Her grandfather — a man who considered a conversation a tip of the hat after church on Sunday — poured everything he had into what he did, sure that it was useful — and he put little effort into talking about it.
“His work ethic reminded me of the scientists,” she says. “A farmer working in the barn isn’t so different from a scientist working in the lab. They often work independently and it’s a labor of love.”
Jane spent all four summers on campus working in the research labs for limnology, agronomy and animal science. The breakthroughs that Jane saw inspired her. She observed new advances in preserving fish populations, plant health, animal nutrition, and other areas. She wanted to have the world share the excitement she experienced from the art of discovery.
“At UW-Madison, it was constant discovery and examination,” she said. “It’s impossible to not be influenced by the spirit of questioning what is. It opened my eyes, it showed me possibility, and it made me analyze everything. I’m constantly examining the why?”
While double-majoring in meat and animal science and agricultural education, Hillstrom launched herself into journalism and English courses at UW–Madison, as well. It led to a career telling stories, explaining science, and promoting the advances in Wisconsin agriculture.
After serving in public affairs and communications positions for large agricultural organizations, Hillstrom founded her own company, Hillstrom PR, which she based in Door County. The Sturgeon Bay office looks out over the water allowing her a peaceful view to deliberate how to increase the public’s understanding of modern farming practices.
“The experiences I had at the University of Wisconsin–Madison stayed with me and guided my life. I’ve been working to give back,” Hillstrom says. “And it wasn’t all about the lab; it was also learning true friendships.”