Poised for life's 40 chances

Matt Olson Special Contributor
Now Media Group


People have around 40 productive years during adulthood to make a positive impact on the world, according to Howard G. Buffett in his book, '40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.'

It's a concept that Kate Griswold, a senior majoring in life sciences communication, is keenly aware of.

Griswold, who is graduating this spring, is among a special cohort of 40 college students from around the nation selected in 2012 to participate in Agriculture Future of America's 40 Chances Fellows program.

The goal of the program, which was funded by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation's 40 Chances awareness campaign, was to give this group of promising young leaders an edge, equipping them to help address global agriculture- and food-related challenges.

'I'm passionate about international food security and transparency in the American agricultural system, and thanks to my experiences I feel excited and ready to go out into the workforce and help contribute to the conversations — and solutions — related to these important topics,' says Griswold.

Through the 40 Chances Fellows program, Griswold and her cohort participated in four years of programming consisting of leadership conferences; agricultural institutes; career mentoring sessions; and professional development workshops. The program culminated in a two-and-a-half-week international experience — which, for Griswold and eight other students, meant going to Bolivia.

Guided by native Bolivians, the students visited processing plants and production facilities as well as farmers in various regions. Two of the country's main crops are soybeans and quinoa, a small, gluten-free grain that is considered very healthy and is growing in popularity worldwide. But according to Griswold, 'Bolivia, which is one of the biggest producers of quinoa, is still one of the poorest countries in South America.'

A key takeaway from her experience, Griswold says, is that education alone is not enough to change the standard of living and way of life in other cultures.

'It's not as easy as saying, 'We need to educate everyone,'' Griswold says. 'I now have a much better understanding of the time it takes to implement change and the trust that needs to be built with the local people in order to do so. The fact that there isn't an easy fix to get people out of poverty is something I've learned to appreciate a lot more.'

Griswold will use the first of her 40 chances after graduating in May, when she joins John Deere as a marketing representative.

It's going to be exciting to watch Griswold's career and see where her path will lead, says Sarah Botham, a faculty associate in the Department of Life Sciences Communication, who has interacted with Griswold as advisor of the UW's National Agri-Marketing Association student group.

'Kate has set a course for her life that involves very high expectations,' says Botham, 'and her approach is always to rise up and meet them.'

Olson is a UW-Madison CALS senior majoring in Life Sciences Communication