i'm an agronomist

Adam Willman

1. Where are you from?
I grew up in Marshalltown, Iowa.

2. What first started your interest in agronomy?
I became interested in agronomy through my participation in the North American Envirothon competition. I was a part of the team from my high school that competed on a regional, state, and national level. The competition is split up into five sections that include: forestry, wildlife, aquatics, soils, and a current issue. I became interested in the soils aspect early on. We would have to judge soil and propose solutions to erosion and nutrient deficiency problems. I loved learning about the physical and chemical interactions between soils and how they support plants.

I am currently interested in sustainable farming systems that are able to improve yields while preserving or improving the land and water resources. I am also interested in international farming and helping smallholder farmers utilize their land in a more efficient and productive manner.

3. What are some of the main issues for society that you are concerned about?
There is an endless list of problems facing our society today. I believe that I can help the most by focusing my energy on working with smallholder farmers in the Middle East and North African region. Currently, smallholder farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s food. It will be these smallholder producers, most of which are women, that will help us feed the United Nations projected global population of 9.6 billion people by the year 2050.

4. Do you have any advice for those thinking about continuing their education to address the issues you’ve mentioned?
The UN has outlined specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that I use as a guide in finding problems and potential solutions. Moreover, passion and determination are needed from a wide variety of disciplines and backgrounds if we are to tackle the many issues facing our world.

5. Why did you choose Iowa State University?
I learned about the agronomy program here at Iowa State from the World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute during my junior year of high school. I really enjoy the fact that Iowa State is a land-grant university. I like the research that is being conducted at ISU and the focus on education and cooperative extension. Moreover, I really like the campus climate and resources that are available.

6. What was your first year here like?
My first year at Iowa State was very busy. I immediately became involved in several clubs and my fraternity FarmHouse. I was able to find the right balance between class work and a social life while making new friends.

7. What has been your favorite class?
My favorite class so far has been Globe 201 with Dr. Gail Nonnecke. This class covers all of the resource systems from across the globe. My favorite part was when Dr. Burras came into our class and talked about the soils in Uganda. We did a case study that required us to examine African soils and provide solutions to soil degradation in the area.

8. What has been your favorite experience in the agronomy program?
I really enjoy the faculty in the agronomy program. I was preparing for an internship during the summer and needed some extra help understanding the science behind what I was going to be doing later on. I emailed some professors in the department and several were able to help me.

9. You have a faculty adviser, how has your expereience been with her?
Dr. Andrew Manu is my faculty advisor. I also had the pleasure of taking his soils class (agronomy 154). He has always been able to help me with scheduling classes and any issues that come up. I have really come to know him and he has gotten to know me. I can tell that he cares deeply about his students and advisees.

10. Have you been involved with a research project?
During my second semester of college I helped Dr. Richard Hall, a forestry professor, research cottonwood and aspen growth rates. I also helped analyze data from a similar experiment that was being conducted in Sweden.

11. Has the research project benefited your learning experience?
This research project taught me how to pay attention to small details. It also provided me with a grate look into how university research is conducted. I also started looking into the topic of agroforestry and using trees within a holistic farming operation in developing countries.

12. Do you see the research work you are doing as a benefit to society?
The research that Dr. Hall and I were doing provided information to forest producers with the hope of increasing the efficiency of their production. I was able to see how society would benefit from our work.

13. Do you participate in any student organizations?
I am involved in the International Agriculture club called IAAS. We are able to focus the group around the interests of the members with emphasis on issues facing global agriculture. Through IAAS and a scholarship from the Agronomy Department, I was able to attend a week-long conference in Madrid, Spain. We discussed international agriculture research and got to explore different farming operations from North America and Europe.

14. Any advice for those considering a major in agronomy?
Get involved with a group or club within the College of Agriculture and Life Science. Also, get to know your professors and teaching assistants. Ask them what they are interested in or researching. You may find a mentor who can guide you to your future career or studies.

15. Ten years from now, what do you want to be doing?
I hope to earn my master’s degree focusing on international agricultural development. I would like to work for a non-governmental organization or USAID. I want to use my agronomy degree by offering advice and assistance to smallholder farmers in developing regions of the world.
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