Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Michigan State Connection

I'll never forget the early morning phone call I got one Friday morning in the fall of 2000. While laying in bed after a late night on the town (Thursday nights in college), my land line rang about 7:00 a.m. in my trailer house bedroom in College Station, TX.

As I sleepily reached over and found my phone, I answered "hello" in the scratchiest, sleepiest voice you could possibly imagine. The voice on the other line said, "Good morning Rachel, this is Harlan Ritchie calling from Michigan State University."

Now seriously, what would YOU do if someone like Harlan Ritchie was calling your house at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. You can imagine how I reacted. I quickly tried to wake up, clear my throat, and maintain some level of professionalism without appearing too overly-awestruck for someone of this caliber to be calling ME, a lowly college student from Texas!!!!  Dr. Ritchie was calling to let me know that they had received my application to grad school at Michigan State, and that I was invited to come up to campus and visit/interview for an assistantship as soon as possible.

After doing my best to appear poised and collected, I graciously thanked him and then immediately called my college best friend, Cassie Abney, who had also applied to MSU. As she picked up her land line, she said, "Dr. Ritchie just called you didn't he?" Because he had just called her too. That weekend, we scheduled a flight to Lansing, interviewed, and made our decision to attend Michigan State University.

After arriving to our sight-unseen apartment at 5001 Oakbrook, I quickly fell in love with everything and anything to do with Michigan State, and made some of the best friends I could have ever hoped for. People like Mark and Katie Hoge, Brett Barber, Andrew McPeake, Sarah Rust, Nick Berry, Brandon Ogle, Bryan Metzgar, Cody Lowderman, Nicole Barber, Jason and Kara Rowntree, B.J. and Melissa McFarlane, Abby Rubley, Courtney Stewart, and Ashley Roseberry are just a few of the special people that made my two years at MSU some of the best years of my life. I also met so many wonderful people from the state of Michigan, namely people like Kathleen Hawkins, Steve and Julie French, and Robin Millsap, who are still close friends today. And, not to mention, I got to directly work with legends in the agriculture industry like Dr. Ritchie, Dr. Dave Hawkins, Dr. Kirk Heinze, and many more.

After I finished up my master's at MSU, I discovered this huge group of fellow Spartans who are leaders in animal science. It seems like every ag event I go to, I find someone who is a MSU alumni. Michigan State has a great presence at stock shows, whether it be through students working at the MSU Purebred Beef Barn stalls or through alumni at the shows. Probably one of the most famous MSU alumni that comes to mind, especially during this time of year, is Bill Angell, who is the livestock director and "king of the yards" at Denver Stock Show.

So, this year, it has been 7 years since I graduated with my M.S. from Michigan State. (With a 4.0 by the way!!!) As my professional career has been so richly blessed, I was able to create two scholarships in the Department of Animal Science at MSU to help give other students these same great opportunities that others gave me.

This year at Denver, I got the opportunity to meet this year's recipients while they were both working at the MSU Beef Barn display in Denver. Our first scholarship winner was Nicole Starr of Manawa, Wisconsin. Nichole is the young lady in the black sweater in this photo. She is a super go-getter who is destined for success. She is a junior animal science major and has worked for 3 years at the MSU Beef Barn. Last year, she interned with the American Hereford Association, and she and her family operate Starr Polled Herefords.

Our second scholarship winner was Lance Schoenbine of Auburn, Michigan, another outstanding young person who works at the MSU Beef Barn. Lance is standing right next to me in the photo. Lance is a Limousin showman who plans on making a career in the production side of the business, either seedstock or commercial.

It was such an honor for me to be able to meet these fine young people at Denver this year. Pictured here in our photo is l-r, Cody Sankey, manager of the MSU Beef Barn. I work with Cody on MSU Fall Fest ads, and have a tremendous amount of respet for this young leader in the beef industry. Next is Ken Geuns, coordinator of the MSU Beef Barn and another MSU faculty member who helped me so much during my two years at MSU through advice, mentoring and friendship. Next is the two scholarship winners - Nicole and Lance, pictured with me and Dad.

And, on the funny side, right after we took this photo Dad made sure to take the opportunity to inform Nicole and Lance how important it is to say "Yes Sir and No Sir" and have manners, since "sometimes folks from up north don't think it's important to say these things." Good reminder, Dad.
Oh, and by the way, at the same time I applied to MSU, Cassie, and another best friend Kim McCuistion, and I all also applied to K State. Kim got accepted instantly, and started getting like daily phone calls from all these professors at K State saying how much they loved her and couldn't wait for her to come. Cassie and I didn't even get a consolation rejection letter, a phone call, an e-mail response or a swift kick in the butt. I was pretty bummed out. So, for all you blog readers out there still in college, don't ever be discouraged. Sometimes rejection can be the best thing in the world!

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