By Andrew Horvath, Agricultural Education and Communication master’s student
For Ellen Rankins, a love and appreciation for the agricultural industry started at a very young age. Growing up on a diversified farm in Alabama and being a member of the 4-H program gave Rankins a head start. As she has grown up, Rankins continues to become more active in the agricultural industry and has hopes of one day becoming a faculty member at a college or university.
Rankins, a student at the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is in the second year of her master’s degree studying animal sciences.
Throughout her years as a student, Rankins has had several women who have served as role models and mentors. At an early age, Rankins’ mother became her first mentor and continued to be a strong source of encouragement throughout her life. As she moved on to college, Dr. Betsy Wagner, Rankins’ mentor at Auburn University, and Dr. Carissa Wickens, Rankins’ advisor at UF, also encouraged her to find her passions and pursue them with dedication and enthusiasm.
“All three of these women have taught me to believe in myself and aim as high as I want to,” Rankins said. “[They] have encouraged me through their example to ask questions, work hard and not give up on my goals. I saw how much they enjoyed what they did, but also witnessed that this path was not without its hurdles. They were always there to guide me along my path and connect me with people who could help me succeed.”
While Rankins has been involved in the field of animal sciences for much of her life, her proudest accomplishments have perhaps come from some of the little, everyday moments life.
“Seeing a student’s face light up when they finally understand something or seeing a parent cry as their child who has never walked rides a horse for the first time are the moments when I can see the impact I have made,” Rankins said. “In these moments, I know that I have truly accomplished something.”
Rankins’ message to younger women interested in a career in animal sciences or even agriculture in general is simple.
“You never know where the path may lead until you take that first step,” Rankins said. “It is important to seek out mentors who will support you in your pursuit of [your] passion and challenge you to move outside of your comfort zone. I think at the end of the day, no matter what field you are in, you simply have to do your best. This means you have to work hard and go that extra mile. I have never felt that my gender held me back or changed the way in which I related to my colleagues.”
Note: In honor of Women’s History Month, CALS will be sharing stories of students throughout March.