You will find ABE alumni from all programs working in cities across the United States. Our graduates can be found in government, industry, consulting and academic careers in a wide variety of specializations. We asked several of the ABE Gator Nation to share their success stories with us.
Kelle McRae Boyer - AOM
Degree: BS - University of Florida, AOM 1999 (MS, UF-Geomatics)
Specialization: Production Management
Company: Farner Barley and Associates, Inc.
Growing up in an agricultural family, Kelle says she always liked the business side of agriculture, and she chose Agricultural Operations Management for its hands-on approach. A course in precision agriculture as an undergraduate sparked an interest in geomatics. Today she coordinates plats and writes legal descriptions for property. It's detail oriented work that she really enjoys.
Kelle says that her AOM curriculum prepared her well for the business world.
"The classes in human resources, international agriculture and marketing really helped. The public speaking and electronics courses built my confidence."
Kelle has fond memories of the ABE department and wishes she had come directly into AOM after transferring to UF from her community college.
"The department had small classes and a family atmosphere. It was friendly and less formal. I felt that the faculty really cared if students succeeded," she said. "There was great cameraderie...the students were down to earth. In the AOM club we had great activities and did a lot of networking with industry contacts."
Kelle urges students to consider AOM because it leads to so many options and the curriculum is tied to real-world careers.
"In AOM you're not pigeon-holed or locked in. There is a lot of flexibility in agriculture and in other business areas," she notes. "There are a lot of production opportunities in South Florida where they need good managers. I tried a lot of options before I found the job that was right for me."
Elizabeth Cromwell - ABE
Degree: BS - University of Florida, ABE 2003
Specialization: Biological Engineering
Title: ATO Engineer
Elizabeth Cromwell only graduated from the ABE program a few years ago, but she's already made history!
In over 40 years of existence, Elizabeth is only the second female engineer to be employed at the Dupont plant in Baton Rouge, Lousiana...and she is a proud Gator in the heart of Tiger country!
Elizabeth says she did not expect her career path to lead to a chemical manufacturing plant, where she is surrounded by chemical engineers, but feels she made a great decision as she was able to show them that all disciplines are the same and ABE engineers just offer a different perspective.
"I provide engineering and troubleshooting support to a sulfuric acid business to maintain and improve the operability, quality and cost effectiveness of the plant. I really like the challenges of manufacturing and the opportunities to try new areas," she explained..
Elizabeth says she recommends the ABE department for many reasons, but especially for the 'family' atmosphere that exists and the many career paths that students can choose. She feels that her ABE education laid that basic foundation of her practical engineering skills, which she has built on in her industry roles.
"This major gives a broad perspective to engineering, allowing students to explore many areas in and out of the major. The ABE department gives students the necessary tools to prepare for industry whether it is in the areas of agriculture, chemical and biological process, environmental, or food processing."said Elizabeth. "I would advise students considering this major that the ABE department is limitless to what one can learn. There are excellent professors in the ABE department that have an open door policy and industry experience which I particularly feel is an added plus."
"I enjoyed being apart of the ABE department because I was known by name since my freshman year. Having the same advisor see me through graduation I feel played a large role for my college experience," she said
Her one regret is not participating in an internship.
"I did not participate in an internship and I think I should have. If I could go back in time, I would participate in an internship and be as focused as I was my senior and final semester. What a student learns in school is only the beginning; the true learning can only be obtained with industry experience."
Heather Earl - AOM
Degree: BS (1992) and MS (1995)- University of Florida, AOM
Specialization: Production Management and Occupational Safety
Company: Walt Disney World Resorts, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Title: Senior Safety and Health Technical Manager
One of the biggest advantages of the Agricultural Operations Management program is the ability to tailor a course of study to match a student's interest and Heather Earl knows that first hand. Although she started in a pre-vet program, on the advice of an undergraduate advisor she switched to the AOM program and never looked back.
"As a fluke, I took the Safety in Agriculture course as an elective one summer because it was the only thing offered that I hadn’t already taken and fit into my schedule. My professor told us to “look to the left, and look to the right … one of you will be a safety manager.” I thought he was nuts - you know, one of those look to the left and right speeches!," she said. "After taking the course, I asked if there were internships available in safety because I was REALLY interested.".
Heather's interest in safety accelerated after interning for both the US Sugar Corporation and Energizer Battery Company and says "it was instrumental to my future success. I was light years ahead of my competition because of the experiences I gained as an intern".
"At that time I realized I wanted to pursue my Masters Degree, but there was/is no safety degree program offered at UF. I stayed in the ABE Department and tailored a course of study towards safety and health," she explained.
After graduation Heather worked for Tyson Foods for 11 years before joining the Disney Team in January 2007. She now serves as the Park Safety Manager, overseeing the safety and health program for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
"We are staffed 24/7 including entertainment, food/beverage, merchandise, attractions, custodial and animal programs operations," she notes."I partner with the leadership team and Cast Members, as well as external departments such as Health Services and Environmental to lead the safety and health program. This includes occupational safety and health issues such as OSHA compliance, training and education, auditing, accident investigation, emergency response, incentive programs, policy implementation, as well as Guest safety."
Heather notes that she wishes she had been better focused in her first year of college, but says that when she found the ABE department, she felt like she was in the right place.
"The ABE Department was very small and very family-like. The professors and the staff knew everyone by name and actually cared about each student as an individual. When I took classes in other colleges or departments I felt like a little fish in a huge pond and I was somewhat lost. I was always glad to come “home” to my ABE classes," she said.
Her advice to students considering a graduate degree is simple. "Do it now – don’t wait. Many of my friends are still waiting to go back to school and just can’t figure out how to fit it in now that they have jobs and families. I’m very thankful that I completed my MS immediately after my BS."
She encourages students to get involved in student clubs and organizations to gain leadership skills and network with industry leaders.She also feels that the job opportunities for AOM graduates are endless.
"There are hundreds of jobs – with every major ag and food company in the world. And I never would have thought that a company like Walt Disney World Resorts would be on the list – but look at me now!", she said.
There's no question that Heather loves her job.
"You can step out into the park and see smiles and happiness all around you, all the time. It isn’t really possible to have a bad day here! I work at the Happiest Place on Earth! My main focus is sending all of our guests and Cast Members home in as good or better shape then when they arrived. That’s a great job! I am forever grateful for the experiences I had with the Department of Ag and Bio Engineering. The people of the ABE Dept are a big part of why I am who I am today!"
Sam Hasan - AOM
Degree: BS - University of Florida, AOM 2003
Specialization: Production Management
Company: TSG Water Resources, Inc.
Title: Shop Manager
Although he's still based in Gainesville, Sam Hasan's job has taken him to some exotic places. TSG specializes in water and wastewater treatment services to resorts in the Caribbean. As TSG shop manager, he's responsible for overseeing all prefabrication, selecting the tools for projects and traveling for on-site construction. Sam says he's in job he was really hoping to find, but didn't know it until the opportunity presented itself.
According to Sam, AOM prepared him for the variety of challenging problems that he addresses on a daily basis.
"AOM expanded my practical knowledge while providing resources to better manage time, money and people. It really increased my versatility. The AOM program is a college education in being able to do anything!"
Sam stresses that students need to understand the conceptual classes, but know the practical classes, and that there are countless job opportunities for students.
"Just because 'Agricultural' is in the title doesn't mean it's a degree that holds to conventional agriculture careers. The program is a focus on us as a society best interacting with the environment to better not just our own well being, but that of the environment and future generations," he explained. "That why the Agriculture in AOM is so important."
Brian Hinton - AOM
Degree: BS - University of Florida, AOM 2001 (Currently pursuing MS in Forestry)
Specialization: Environmental Systems Management
Company: Florida Division of Forestry
Title: Forest Ranger
The excitement of firefighting and challenges of the job are what drew Brian Hinton to his job as a forest ranger. He serves on the wildfire mitigation team and determines ways to reduce fuel loads to prevent homes from being lost.
Classes in his AOM program provided him with important experience that he utilizes in his job.
"It gave me a lot of knowledge of agriculture, practices and equipment. My job involves working with equipment all the time. There are also a lot of environmental regulations to know, along with Best Management Practices."
Although Brian had originally planned to pursue a career in agriculture, during his AOM program he discovered an interest in forestry firefighting and decided to pursue that path.
There are many things he liked about the AOM program and the department in general, especially the access to professors, friendly atmosphere and helpful staff and faculty.
"I would recommend the department to students because of it's small size. You get a lot of individual attention. You really get to know your professors and have a good relationship with them," said Brian.
Brian's advice to students is to make sure you choose a path that reflects what you really want to do.
"Look into the job market, make sure jobs are out there. I would recommend AOM because there is such a diversity of things you can do when you graduate."
David Still - ABE
Degree: MS - University of Florida, ABE 1984
Company: Suwannee River Water Management District
Title: Deputy Executive Director
David has been at the SRWMD for 22 years, serving as Deputy Executive Director for the last five years. His responsibilities include serving as the District’s liaison with local and state elected officials. He also lobbies the Florida Legislature on behalf of the agency and serves as project manager on District initiatives.
David worked at several other agencies before joining the SRWMD and notes his career is different than what he envisioned it would be, but he enjoys the variety of tasks assigned.
"My main duties currently consist of lobbying the Florida Legislature for the agency. This position has enabled me to expand my personal and professional growth beyond what I expected of myself. I enjoy the challenge of being able to participate in setting water policy in a state with a diverse agriculture and 18 million residents, he said."
David says that his education in the ABE department provided a level of education appropriate with teamwork, skills and knowledge required to attain the basic entry level position and that he enjoyed the diverse study of the program.
"Graduates of the program are usually very diverse and can handle many different jobs. Students are taught flexibility and they don’t even know it. Within water management in Florida, there are no boundaries for students seeking jobs."
His advice for students is to "take a couple of law classes or political science because the best engineers need to be politically sharp on project implementation because of the impact on people."
Eva Valez - ABE
Degree: BS - University of Florida, ABE 1999
Specialization: Natural Resources Conservation
Company: LBFH, Inc. – A Boyle Corporation
Title: Team Leader, Water Resources & Agricultural Services
Eva has been working at LBFH, a consulting engineering firm, for the past six years. She was hired by the firm after graduating from her ABE program.
"The education I received at the ABE department helped me understand the relationships between the life sciences and engineering, meaning that we design and build systems that are living and complex. My specialization allowed me to take several classes in hydrology and hydraulics, which have proven invaluable to me in my years as an engineer in South Florida," she said.
Eva's responsibilities are varied and include serving as the supervisory leader of the technical project team, developing, implementing and monitoring processes that drive 100% client satisfaction and leading the technical aspects project teams that meet and exceed client expectation.
"I have the opportunity to have a significant role in the direction of the design of a project from the conceptual stage through construction. I also greatly enjoy building professional relationships with people of all aspects including scientists, administrators, attorneys, surveyors and other types of engineers," she said.
Eva notes that she gained valuable experience as an intern during her academic career.
"My experience as an intern with the Natural Resources Conservation Service was the second side to the academic coin, so to speak. I received invaluable information and guidance from the engineers at the NRCS. To this day, the lessons they taught me are helpful in the projects I work on as a PE."
Eva says there were many things she enjoyed about the ABE department and would definitely recommend it to prospective students.
"There were many aspects of the ABE department that I enjoyed while I attended UF. The professors truly cared whether you learned and if you felt you gained from the course. The administrative staff was helpful and provided a place to come for guidance on a regular basis and the undergraduate advisors were always up to date. We made great, life-long friendships."
Regarding a career in the area of land and water resources engineering, Eva says she continues to support the program as a PE.
"In water resources, there are a multitude of job opportunities for ABE students. I feel the students who graduate from this program are the best suited for the complex issues facing Florida. It is imperative that new engineers understand the relationships between the living sciences or the environment, economics and engineering. In my experience, most ABE new graduates are able to see and/or grasp new concepts more quickly than those of other disciplines. I believe this is because this program teaches not just theory, but also critical thinking skills."
Elizabeth Webb - ABE
BS - University of Florida, ABE 1994
(MS - USF, Engineering; Ph.D. - NC State, Bio/Ag Engineering)
Specialization: Food and Bioprocess Engineering
Company: Brown Citrus Systems Inc. LLC
Title:Technical Service Director
Elizabeth has been working at Brown Citrus for the past five years. Her responsibilities include engineering process flows, troubleshooting process systems, designing and managing pilot plant experiments, some R&D and primarily working with citrus processing for juice.
She enjoys both the people and the work and says her career path has taken her right where she expected.
"I thought that I would end up in food or bioprocess engineering. My ABE education prepared me for my current job by giving me both classroom and hands-on experience. Actually meshing engineering with the real world is a very important skill."
Elizabeth says she choose Food & Bioprocess Engineering because she liked the courses.
"It’s a good major for students who stop with this degree, and it’s also a great major for students who want to go on to graduate or professional schools. If you want to move out of state, then the job opportunities are good for a Food/Bioprocess degree."
In addition to enjoying her program, Elizabeth notes that the department had a lot to offer.
"I liked the people and the teamwork. I also liked the challenge and the ability to take electives," she said.
Her advice for students is to "check out what jobs are available, and where you’d like to live before choosing your major. Also, consider how much you will have to travel and move, if career advancement is what you are looking for and if you want to work for a bigger company."
Michele Wilde - PKG
Degree: BS - University of Florida, PKG 2005
Specialization: Packaging Science
Company: The Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
Title: Packaging Innovation Analyst, Packaging Innovations
Michele Wilde is exactly where she'd hoped to be...working in packaging for a cosmetics company, and she took the right road to get there.
Her path to Estee Lauder started with a major in Packaging Science, which she says provided her with a good basis to start her packaging career. While working toward her degree, Michele participated in the best real-world experience possible, an internship.
"I worked during the Fall 2004 semester for Pepperidge Farm, a Campbell's Soup company. It helped me gain insight into what a typical day is like for a Packaging Engineer," notes Michele.
Previous to this position, she worked for EL in their Package Testing Lab at their R&D facility in Melville, NY. Her position there consisted of testing various components/material types per EL’s quality standards. Now she works in the corporate packaging innovations group.
"I like knowing about all the latest innovations, whether it’s in packaging or other industries that we take inspiration from, like automotive or toys. I also enjoy interacting with people at various levels throughout all of EL’s brands," says Michele. "We aim to find new and innovative technologies and packaging options and present then to all of the EL brands. I also assist the design and marketing groups internally to provide existing stock and custom packaging options to suit ‘in development’ projects."
Michele encourages students to consider a career in packaging science, which leads to many employment options.
"Definitely give it a try – even if you just decide to do the minor, the world of packaging offers a lot of employment options and can be applicable to many different industries and areas of concentration - from package design to sales, development and more," she notes. "The classes can be a lot of fun – they involve a lot of group work, and you get to know your classmates pretty well! Plus everyone in the program is very friendly, with small class sizes, nice new facilities and a helpful advising staff."
Michele is also enthusiastic about the international opportunities in the field.
"There are so many opportunities all around the world. Since more and more companies are becoming globally present, the opportunities are endless. Someone could work as close as a small manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, or at a high-rise corporate office in Manhattan! After a small amount of work experience, the opportunity for taking internationally-based positions abounds, for those who wish to try something completely different."
Paulo Younse - ABE
Degree: ME - University of Florida, ABE 2005
Company: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Title: Mechanical Engineer, Robotic Hardware Systems Group
From sunny California to the steep volcanoes and glaciers near the Arctic Circle, Paulo Younse has ventured far since his graduation from UF to design, fabricate, and test new robotic technologies. His latest adventure took his JPL team to Svalbard, approximately 600 miles from the North Pole, to test the Cliffbot rover.
"We were brought here though AMASE (Arctic Mars Analog Svalbard Expedition), composed of 28 scientists, geologists, and engineers, set to investigate how life exists in harsh environments, study the mineralogy and chemistry of the rocks to look for evidence of life, and test instruments that we hope to someday send to Mars to search for life. Our system, Cliffbot, consists of a small rover that can traverse cliff faces to help scientists image, sample, and deploy instruments on interesting features of these otherwise unreachable places," explained Paulo.
Before joining JPL, Paulo worked with the Boeing Company on underwater mine-searching robots. He says his education helped prepare him for his career and he's now exactly where he wanted to be.
"Working with robots is challenging, requires the ability to work with mechanical, electrical, and software, and the things we get to make are also new and utilize cutting-edge technology. My education in the ABE department helped me learn how to perform research, develop experiments, carry tests, and present results through seminars. The curriculum I took developed my engineering skills in robotics."
Paulo's advice to students is to take advantage of the research opportunities in the department and figure out where your interests lie.
"ABE covers a broad spectrum of fields and opportunities from agriculture to sensing, to robotics. The department is very close and friendly, and there are plenty of research opportunities in a variety of topics," he said. "There are plenty of opportunities out there in all fields. You just need to search for where you want to go, and continue to pursue the job you want and be persistent."