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CALS Alumna Highlight: Dr. Valerie Sledd

University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences alumna Valerie (McKee) Sledd earned her undergraduate degree from the Agricultural Education and Communication (AEC) Department in 2014 and her Ph.D. from the Department in 2019. She is currently working as a Learning & Development Specialist for The Climate Corporation, Bayer’s global, subsidiary digital agriculture company.

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

Agricultural Education and Communication has a strong relationship with the Florida FFA Association, and I knew of so many past Florida FFA members who were successful because of their experiences in CALS and AEC.

Was there a particular CALS faculty/staff or mentor that was influential in your career path?

Drs. Hannah Carter, Ricky Telg, and Sebastian Galindo were by far the most influential faculty members for me during my time at UF.

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

As one of two Learning & Development leads for The Climate Corporation, I build the developmental capacities of Bayer Crop Science stakeholders located around the world. I provide global training for sales representatives, scientists and growers so that they can utilize the leading digital ag platform to make data-based decisions and find success.

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

Currently, I’m part of a strategic task force that is reinventing how the world’s largest agrochemical and pharmaceutical company provides intentionally-designed and individually-driven virtual training to our stakeholders. It’s a lot of “theory meets practice” talk with big plans to impact more than 10,000 learners next year!

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

Don’t be afraid to enter an industry you think you know nothing about. As a Florida-grown kid, I fell in love with and only knew of our state’s specialty crops and ways of agribusiness. Now working for an innovative digital agricultural company that primarily benefits the row crop production division of Bayer Crop Science, I find that every day I have to use my lack of knowledge about these sectors of agriculture to my advantage. The Climate Corporation and Bayer Crop Science offer numerous internships every year—including in the areas of marketing and communication. If you’re interested in stepping outside of your comfort zone, look them up!

“I often say my ignorance allows me to see obstacles and efficiencies more clearly as well as helps me lead our strategy development with more direct language. Your perceived weakness could become your most unique strength.” – Valerie Sledd

The Department of Agricultural Education and Communication develops leaders, educators and communicators to meet the challenges society is facing in the agricultural and natural resource industries. The department offers programs for both undergraduate and graduate degrees in agricultural education and communication, with specializations involving agricultural communication, agricultural education, extension education and leadership development. At the undergraduate level, AEC programs are offered both in Gainesville and Plant City, Florida. 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 Valerie Sledd about her experiences in the AEC Department should be directed to Valerie.sledd@climate.com.

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