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Missouri School of Journalism

The J-School Magazine

June 2012

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Two Interests, One Degree, Countless Opportunities

Sharon Wood-Turley with Students
Sharon Wood-Turley, chair of the science and agricultural journalism program, with help from Joe Vale, MU Extension editor, (right) works with students in the Web design class to prepare for end-of-semester presentations. Photo by Jessica England.

Alumnae of the Science and Agricultural Journalism Program Prove How Diverse Their Degrees Can Be

By Jessica England
Strategic Communication Student

When it came time for Julie Batliner to select a major at the University of Missouri, she didn't have to choose.

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"I've always wanted to be a communicator, teacher or educator in some way, and I've always loved food and the science behind it," says Batliner, BS, AgJ '96. "So I decided to combine journalism with the food science and human nutrition degree through the agricultural journalism bachelor's program and have the best of both worlds. Having a specialty proved to be a solid competitive strategy to find a great job."

The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources' Science and Agricultural Journalism program, under the direction of chair Sharon Wood-Turley, provides students with insights into the food systems industry with emphasis areas that include agricultural marketing, food and wine, and environmental science. The Missouri School of Journalism complements this curriculum by teaching students to be clear, concise and creative communicators. Assistant Professor Bill Allen, who holds a joint appointment in both CAFNR and journalism, teaches courses in science, environmental and medical reporting.

It's little wonder that the Science and Agricultural Journalism program, which is now in its 90th year, prides itself on its 100 percent graduate placement rate. The Agricultural Journalism Program, begun in 1922, was renamed in 2011 the Science and Agricultural Journalism Program.

With focused emphasis areas and diverse skill sets, the students graduate prepared for a wide variety of career opportunities.

Combining Science, Food and Nutrition: Julie Batliner

Julie Batliner
Julie Batliner, BS AgJ '96, oversees daily firm operations in Minneapolis and New York as managing director of Carmichael Lynch Spong. Photo courtesy of Carmichael Lynch Spong.

Today Batliner is the managing director of Carmichael Lynch Spong, ranked as one of the top 25 public relations firms in the nation, and headquartered in Minneapolis.

She has put her food science, agriculture and journalism roots to good use throughout her agency career. She and her teams have developed transformational public relations campaigns for some of the world's leading brands, such as Jack Link's Beef Jerky, Jennie-O Turkey Store, Ocean Spray Cranberries and the Wheat Foods Council.

Batliner's ability to be compelling and persuasive started with a solid J-School foundation. She still credits her ability to communicate effectively in writing, speaking and design to the J-School. Batliner still remembers learning grammar and editing from Professor Emeritus Don Ranly, because of his passion and how he translated the importance of the written word.

Julie Batliner Meets with Colleagues
Julie Batliner (far right) meets with colleagues in what the agency calls its "Greenhouse," a common meeting place where employees go to exchange ideas. Photo courtesy of Carmichael Lynch Spong.

In her professional career, Batliner's responsibilities extend beyond campaign development. She founded and implemented a client relationship management program at Carmichael Lynch Spong. The program creates processes and best practices, which increase client satisfaction levels and incremental revenue growth for the agency.

Batliner credits the school with helping her develop creative solutions to business challenges. While reporting for the Columbia Missourian newspaper, she relied on her critical thinking skills to look beyond the obvious, whether that meant asking tough questions or considering a marginal point of view.

By taking her skills from the journalism school into the professional world, she was able to use her diverse areas of interest whether she's leading her co-workers on ways to manage client relationships or creating powerful public relations campaigns.

Passion for Public Affairs: Erica Coble Shoe

For Erica Coble Shoe, BS, AgJ '05, agriculture and journalism have always been connected. Her interest in the two fields began at a young age, when she wrote articles about youth in agriculture for Ozarks Farm and Neighbor, a southwest Missouri regional newspaper.

When she enrolled in MU, Coble Shoe knew there was no better choice for her than the Science and Agricultural Journalism Program.

Erica Coble Shoe
Erica Coble Shoe, BS AgJ '05, is the program manager of public affairs for John Deere Worldwide. Photo courtesy of Erica Coble Shoe.

"The J-School and CAFNR opened my eyes that you can use skills in journalism and communication in whatever job you have," Coble Shoe says.

After graduation, Coble Shoe accepted a position with John Deere. She has served in a variety of capacities including marketing representative, sales promotion coordinator, product marketing manager and a process pro.

Now, as program manager of public affairs for John Deere, Coble Shoe manages the John Deere Political Action Committee. As part of this role, she plans campaigns to encourage employee engagement in the political process.

Erica Coble Shoe with Congressman Bobby Schilling
Erica Coble Shoe visits with Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) during one of his visits to a John Deere factory. Photo courtesy of Erica Coble Shoe.

Coble Shoe's career involves sensitive topics and multiple stakeholders, but she says her journalism school education prepared her to be objective. Tom Warhover, executive editor for innovation at the Missourian, and his staff taught her to ask good questions and to look for the most important parts of the message being told during her semester as a general assignment reporter at the Columbia Missourian.

"We (as journalists) were taught to seek out truth and get those facts to communicate them effectively and to have the ability to gather different information and opinions," Coble Shoe says. "The more you search for the truth, the better off you will be."

Coble Shoe's position at John Deere also requires her to be a state advocate or lobbyist for the company on key business issues important to the company, customers and dealers. She says her agricultural journalism degree taught her to walk into any situation, be adaptable and quickly learn in all aspects of her job.

"You need to be able to communicate in what industry you're in and what job you're in," Coble Shoe says. "And if you have that as a skill, you can be successful no matter what."

Deciding the Right Fit: Kristen Marshall

Since the day Kristen Marshall, BS, AgJ '00, won an orange Webster pocket dictionary in a sixth-grade writing contest, she knew she wanted to pursue writing.

Kristen Marshall
Kristen Marshall, account manager for AgCall Inc., says joining the Agricultural Journalism program was the best decision she has ever made. Photo courtesy of Kristen Marshall.

As an MU student, Marshall learned about the Science and Agricultural Journalism program from her undergraduate advisor, Mark Tucker. She still says joining was the best decision she has ever made.

At the J-School, Marshall took the introduction to advertising class as an elective. The material that professor Cyndi Frisby presented sparked a lifelong passion.

"I knew right away I had an interest in account management and dealing with clients, input and strategy," Marshall says. "I learned there was so much you could do within the advertising industry."

Marshall now works as an account manager for AgCall Inc., a leader in providing marketing, sales, service and education solutions to the North American agriculture and food industry. She and her team of associates concentrate on growing and developing customer relationships, increasing brand awareness and driving sales.

Kristen Marshall and AgCall 12th Man Team
Kristen Marshall (far right) and her AgCall 12th Man Team are responsible for developing and building relationships with agriculture retailers as a way of expanding clients' footprints. Photo courtesy of Kristen Marshall.

Marshall describes her job as developing strategies to help clients drive sales.

"Success breeds success," Marshall says. "Clients, retailers, growers and others don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. Once they see that commitment to their success, you can get a lot accomplished."

Marshall believes that being an objective reporter is important and says the most significant lesson she learned from the J-School is integrity.

Being an alumna of the Science and Agricultural Journalism program allows Marshall to be a part of the close-knit journalism and CAFNR communities.

"They know what the degree means, and they know we're a community," Marshall says. "It's like the whole small world thing; we take care of our own."

Connecting Animals and Communications: Tricia Burkhardt

Tricia Burkhardt
Tricia Burkhardt, counselor at Morgan & Myers, graduated with her agricultural journalism and animal sciences degree in 2002. Photo courtesy of Tricia Burkhardt.

It only took one class for Tricia Burkhardt, BS, Ag J and Animal Sciences '02, to decide her future. The agricultural journalism introduction course opened her eyes to communicating about agriculture to the general public. And she never looked back.

Burkhardt didn't choose a specific interest area; instead, she opted to take classes in magazine editing, advertising, public relations, photography and convergence to help her understand how different areas worked.

This diverse background prepared her for her job as counselor at Morgan & Myers. Within her position she works with clients on a day-to-day basis to develop and implement their marketing and advertising plans.

Burkhardt's clients include Pfizer Animal Health. When the company recently launched Fostera PRRS, a swine vaccine for Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, Burkhardt led the communications efforts to make customers aware of the new product. She was involved in all aspects of the campaign, including developing advertisments, an online presence, and an iPad application and Keynote presentation for sales representatives.

Tricia Burkhardt with Co-Workers at Morgan & Myers
Tricia Burkhardt (second from the left) and her co-workers at Morgan & Myers are responsible for developing and implementing their clients marketing and advertising plans. Photo courtesy of Tricia Burkhardt.

Burkhardt believes the quality of her journalism school background has been beneficial when communicating the scientific aspects of animal diseases and the importance of vaccines to her client's customers. Within the agency she works across integrated marketing communications to expose public relations, digital projects, planning and budgeting. The diversified training she received from her degree helps on the job.

"I'm involved in all aspects of communication from the ground up," Burkhardt says. "Getting that solid knowledge base and confidence from my schooling is still important to me today."

Plus, she says, having a degree from the best journalism school in the country makes her stand out.

The success stories of these alumnae make it easy to see the benefits of this highly focused degree and its diverse applications in the agriculture and communications industries.

"There is high demand in the industry for the science and agricultural journalism graduate," Wood-Turley says, "because employers know that our graduates have all those great journalism skills combined with knowledge of a subject."

Jessica England Jessica England, from Oquawka, Ill., is a 2012 graduate from the University of Missouri. While at MU, she majored in Science and Agricultural Journalism, with an emphasis in strategic communication and agricultural marketing. She interned at Osborn & Barr in St. Louis and MayeCreate Design in Columbia. England served as a general assignment reporter at the Columbia Missourian. She is currently the Advertising Coordinator for the American Hereford Association's Hereford World Magazine in Kansas City, Mo.

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The J-School Magazine  |  Copyright © June 2012  |  Contact the School
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Revised: June 1, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Curators of the University of Missouri  |  Contact the J-School