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CALS Alumnus Highlight: Bernie LeFils

University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumnus Bernie LeFils is a 2011 graduate of the Food and Resource Economics (FRE) Department currently working as a Certified Public Accountant and a registered investment advisor. He is studying to become a Certified Financial Planner and also helps manage his family’s timber and cattle ranch.

LeFils has used his FRE degree and financial expertise to give back to the community serving as chairman of the Environmental and Private Lands Committee of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, the Volusia County IFAS Strategic Advisory Committee and the treasurer of the Alpha Gamma Educational Foundation of Alpha Gamma Rho at the University of Florida.

What are some exciting projects you have worked on in the course of your career?

Being in public practice, I have the unique opportunity to work with a large number of clients. I’ve had the pleasure to audit some nonprofit organizations that I was a member or beneficiary of as a youth. It has also been exciting to work with clients who have similar agricultural pursuits as my family. We get the opportunity to help them navigate some of the same challenges that we have been through. My family decided to pursue a conservation easement on a portion of our ranch, preserving the opportunity for my family and future descendants to continue our agricultural pursuits for generations to come without fear of being overrun with development pressure. The background in economics that I gained from FRE has given me a unique perspective as a financial advisor. I help my clients analyze investments with a strong understanding of fundamentals. Economics is what drives the system so it is vital if you want to grasp what is going on in the world financially.

What do you find to be the coolest/best part of your job/career?

The best part of my job is helping my clients achieve or protect their financial independence. It is also very rewarding to see years of planning work go into a financial plan that helps a client achieve their financial goals. The most challenging part is navigating the ever-changing tax law and managing our clients’ expectations of their tax liabilities.

What brought you to CALS and your department? What first sparked your interest in your major?

I was first introduced to CALS through my involvement in FFA in middle and high school. By the time came for me to apply to college, all I wanted to be was a gator and to major in something related to agriculture in CALS. I wanted to use college as an opportunity to expand my knowledge and understanding so I could be a better manager of my family’s timber and cattle ranch in Osteen, FL.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in the same major/career path as you?

Start by finding a job or career that you find interesting. Spend some time in that field through shadowing or internships to know for sure if it is something you can see yourself doing. Once you have a good idea of the type of career you would enjoy, find a major that is best suited for that profession. I knew that I wanted to become a CPA but also have a working knowledge of agriculture.

Dr. Olexa is most likely the most influential CALS faculty member from my time at UF, his lectures carried many different life lessons and advice. It was a great foundation of what legal items you need to understand as a business owner. Food and Resource Economics allowed me the opportunity to learn about business, economics and agriculture through the required classes and my electives.” – Bernie LeFils

Food and Resource Economics graduates solve real-world business problems using economic reasoning. Graduates pursue careers in management, marketing, sales, and finance in agribusiness, natural resource industries and beyond. Students develop the skills to analyze complex situations such as the allocation of natural resources to meet the needs of people in their local community, state, nation, and the world. Many FRE graduates pursue careers in public policy and law, as well as graduate degrees in economics, finance, business, and law. Find a CALS major that suits your interests by taking our majors quiz. You can also find information regarding our undergraduate and graduate programs on our website. Questions for Bernie LeFils about his experiences in the FRE Department should be directed to bernie@lefilscpa.com.

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