Every year, the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) presents the CALS Alumni & Friends Horizon Award at the UF/IFAS Dinner of Distinction. This award recognizes an alumnus who has graduated in the last 10 years for his or her outstanding contributions and leadership in the agricultural, natural resource, life science and related industries. The 2023 recipient was John Walt Boatwright.
Boatwright graduated with his bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics (FRE) in 2013. He was attracted to this major due to the policy focus it offers through the agricultural and natural resource ethics and policy minor. Boatwright felt like it was the best option for him when his plan was to become a lawyer.
“I’m so glad I did [study FRE]. I was surprised by how much I fell in love with the content, the curriculum, the professors and the students that were in my classes. That’s what led me to reconsider and ultimately not go to law school. They gave me all the tools I needed in that two-year period,” said Boatwright.
Several FRE faculty members had an influence on Boatwright’s undergraduate experience. Mikael Sandberg, a previous FRE lecturer, was one of the most impactful faculty members, as Boatwright took at least one of his courses each semester.
“He had a teaching style that explained economic theory very well. He was fair, but really challenged you to apply that theory to agriculture and that’s what really helps a lot of us understand and apply it to real issues we see on the farm,” said Boatwright.
As an undergraduate, Boatwright was involved in two extracurricular activities, CALS Ambassadors and the Ag Economics Club. Serving as a CALS Ambassador was a highlight of Boatwright’s experience, as it pushed him to learn about other sectors of the agriculture industry.
“That got me outside of my shell in terms of meeting people within the college, but also broadened my understanding of what the college offered and how it reached a broad array people in different studies,” said Boatwright.
Boatwright serves as a director of government affairs at the American Farm Bureau Federation. In this role, he works to communicate the needs of Farm Bureau members to congressional leaders. To do this effectively, Boatwright’s daily routine varies from office work to traveling. Boatwright credits his success to his time in CALS.
“Without the CALS experience, I wouldn’t have the trajectory or the career that I’ve had. CALS gave me the opportunity to really explore what careers I could do to blend agriculture with policy. It also gave me the firm foundation I needed to move forward in this career,” said Boatwright.