Concepts Re-learned

Today, we end our senior blog series with this fun post from Sarah Hann.  Enjoy her fun stories and creative writing.

In four years of college, I’ve had four different roommates. I’m not a horrible roommate, honest, it just happened to work out that way. This year, roommate #4 is different from the previous three; she is an international transfer student from China. Since this is her first time in America, I’ve been presented with many challenges and also moments of learning about communication. Here are a few things I’ve learned or re-learned about communicating and thought were worth sharing.

  • Sometimes you don’t need words The first Sunday as roommates, we went to breakfast here on campus. My roomie had fruit and was trying to explain that it was sour, but she didn’t know the word ‘sour’. However, sometimes facial expressions take over and I knew the message was, “wow, this is really sour!” This also has been true in other instances where she didn’t know the word, but the fact she was laughing or other facial expressions and body language told me what she was saying.
  • Write it clearly My roommate seems better at reading English, so I leave her a lot of notes, from introducing things I think we should talk about later to saying I will be at a football game most of the night, don’t worry about me. Whenever I leave her a note, I always put it in my best handwriting because I never know how nice or sloppy of English she’s grown used to reading. I figure it’s the least I can do to be nice and make sure my message gets across.
  • Think before you talk With my friends, I can be a sarcastic, quick talking person who uses the occasional crazy vocabulary word (supernumerary, anyone?). With someone who is still learning the language, that’s not the best kind of speaker to be unless you want to explain every other word and repeat yourself often. I do try to throw in appropriate slang or terms Americans use so she gets the sense of what is appropriate and common “American-isms” if you will. But, I think with anyone you should always think before you talk to keep it audience-appropriate and easy to follow among other things.

While I won’t be receiving any international communication credit for this living arrangement, I think so far this experience has taught and re-taught me some of the basic concepts of communication that we tend to overlook when communicating amongst our friends or co-workers. I think these are simple things we should all keep in mind when we communicate with others. Body language is a key part of communication, while good handwriting and thinking before speaking is common courtesy and just plain smart. Sometimes, the communication concepts we should remember to practice are the little ones.

Sarah is a senior studying agricultural communication with a minor in history. She isn’t quite sure what she would like to do after graduation, but ideally the job is located in Ohio or Indiana and she gets along with more than half of her co-workers. 🙂


It’s a simple case of greed

Many professional athletes can easily be overcome by greed. This greed ultimately affects the sport and the industry as a whole. Over the past year, greed has been widespread across many industries. Starting with the NFL, players and owners couldn’t come to an agreement on salaries. This standoff almost postponed the season, and now the same situation is taking place with the NBA.

Agriculture-related industries and professionals are not immune to greed. In the equine industry, greed is ruining some of the industry’s greatest athletes. Recently, I attended the All-American Quarter Horse Congress, in Columbus, Ohio and had the opportunity to watch the Masters class as well as many of the 2- and 3-year-old futurity/stakes classes. These classes are the youngest horses being shown, they are being pushed the hardest to perform, and the winners are taking home more money than any of the other classes. The Equine Chronicle Congress Masters Western Pleasure winner receives $100,000 in cash along with many other prizes, and the Equine Chronicle Congress Masters Hunter Under Saddle winner receives $50,000 in cash as well as other prizes. On the other hand, the winner of the Markel Senior Western Pleasure Maturity won approximately $4,300.

Ultimately, this disparity is ruining the young horses and preventing them from showing past their futurity ages. Pushing the young horses to work too hard pushes many of them beyond their limits both mentally and physically. The end result is broken-down horses that have lifelong injuries or are mentally so burned out that they won’t perform. If you follow the horses that have won as 2- and 3-year-olds, many of them are turned to the breeding shed at the age of 4 or 5.

In the equine industry, I believe the problem lies within the system that is promoting these animals. It is not one organization but all organizations as a whole. Whether you are at a Quarter Horse show, a Paint Horse show or a thoroughbred race, you see the same thing. The classes that are geared toward the 2- and 3-year-old horses have the most money added for the winners.

The people who compete in these classes often push the horses too hard and too fast, just for a chance to win the title and awards that come with a first prize. It’s a simple case of greed. Instead of putting the animals first, many trainers and owners are consumed by the glory.

In too many cases, greed can take away from the original purpose of the sport, it is important to keep perspective and not to get caught up in greed.

Mallory Martin (left) will graduate this weekend with a degree in agricultural communication.

Two many students incorrectly using they’re words!

I know I’m not the only one bothered by this not-so-infrequent occurrence.  In case I didn’t make it obvious enough already, I’m specifically talking about the incorrect usage of the words to/two/too and their/there/they’re.

If I recall correctly, I was first educated in the differences between these apparently “perplexing” trios in elementary school, though I don’t quite remember exactly what year.  Ever since, I have never once failed to recall how to distinguish the differences between these threesomes.  All writing experience aside, knowing when to use which has always been second nature to me.

This brings me to my main point: How do college-educated Purdue students STILL not know how to use basic English?  I have encountered more instances of the misuse of these words than I care to count.  And I’m left wondering how these kids are still making these easily avoidable mistakes.

First, how do students get away with this, especially at such a prominent university?  Second, has no one told them any different by now?  And finally, how is it they can’t seem to remember the differences between these six simple words?  Haven’t we all written enough by now to understand these variances?  Heck, even MICROSOFT WORD lets you know when you’re wrong!

I cringe when I see the improper use of these trios and it puzzles me that most professors I’ve encountered never seem to do a thing about it.  Is this because they’re not sure what they can do or because some students seem to not care?  Either way, there is nothing more unprofessional than using to/two/too or their/there/they’re in the wrong context, in my opinion.

So, are students just that lazy that they don’t want to put forth the effort to write correctly?  This is what I want to know.  Because I find it extremely difficult to believe that so many Purdue students actually don’t know the differences between these words, and if they truly don’t know, well…then…I might as well go ahead and lose faith in my generation now (metaphorically speaking, that is).

The misuse of these triads is disturbing to me as it indicates that students don’t care a whole lot about how they are viewed, what they are saying or about being professional.  It’s more than just bad grammar, its laziness.

I suggest that professors re-teach this concept to students in writing intensive courses and take off points every time they incorrectly use these words.  Maybe students won’t be so lazy if their grades are influenced by it.

We are all communicators and obviously all know how to do so effectively.  But, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world (as in Purdue) can just reject learning how to correctly use the English language.  Communication is, after all, the basis of all human interaction.  Professors should be focusing on perfecting the most basic grammar mistakes before they begin teaching students linear algebra and organic chemistry, in my opinion.

Holly Keehn is Senior in Ag Comm with a minor in Forensic Science.

Crossing State Street

Today I feel that Purdue University is widely known for its three outstanding programs of engineering, professional flight and agriculture.

Sure, though agriculture is still included as one of those three, it is still somehow left on the backburner.

In 1862 the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant Act of 1862, was signed by then president Abraham Lincoln. This act allotted 17.4 million acres to be sold for the purpose of financing colleges in the United States that would primarily focus on the teaching of agriculture and mechanics.

Purdue University was one of those land grant colleges.

So if Purdue was established for the original intention of being a college with a focus in mechanical arts and agriculture, how is it that students give less credit to the College of Agriculture and its students today?

While there has been no study conducted on such attitude, I can say that such does in fact exist through my own experiences.

One of the contributing factors to this is an argument that has remained constant over the years. It is the imaginary rivalry between students over “who has the harder/more worthwhile major”, a rivalry more irritating than anything I know.

You will have engineering students accusing liberal arts students of knowing nothing about critical thinking while aviation students argue that their work is more than just a hobby and so on. The list of complaints and bickering between students differing in coursework goes on and on. However, at the end of the day, none can argue with a student in agriculture.


Because they simply have no idea what it is that we do.

The subtle disregard for the College of Agriculture and its students does not stem from actual disdain or question of credibility, but a lack of information passed and received.

For some reason or another, students (a portion at least) identify the College of Agriculture with the maintenance of farmland or livestock as major areas of study. A stereotype of rural agriculture being the background of agriculture students also follows. All of this is then also assumed to not require a rigorous curriculum because of its simple roots.

I myself am in the College of Agriculture. I do not come from a farming background. In addition, I have no desire to maintain farmland or produce vast amounts of livestock. In fact, in my major I have taken courses in science, economics, communications, history and the list goes on.

In addition to the stereotypes, there is often the assumption that if one is not directly affiliated with the College of Agriculture, then one would hardly find a need to “cross State Street.”

The term “crossing State Street” is meant in reference to the fact that a great majority of agriculture-based classes are taught in buildings south of State Street.

By students making such a statement they are not only are they lacking in knowledge about the buildings that are located south of State Street but also creating an image of isolation. It seems to be that the College of Agriculture is separate from the rest of Purdue.

To help resolve this issue there are little things that each student in the College of Agriculture may do to enlighten others on how agriculture brings one of the broadest areas of study in the university.

The first would be to stop ignoring the stereotypes and stop separating ourselves further from students in other studies. While it may seem that the easiest way to deal with such without having to go through lengthy, roundabout conversations is to ignore the separation and stereotypes, it does us no justice in the long run.

The second is what I consider as taking a “first impression” stance on the situation. If it seems that one lacks in interest or knowledge about my major or college, I take that as a chance to explain to them that it is one of the best things out there. I am passionate about what I study and what I hope to accomplish with my coursework, so why not share that with others?

Camille Quiñones is a senior at Purdue University where she majoring in Agricultural Communication and Naval Science.  

Lessons in loving and learning: how my undergraduate research project taught me more than proper vegetable handling.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present my undergraduate research at Purdue’s poster symposium.  It was a beautiful day that served as the culmination of months of effort.  The symposium also challenged me to perservere with this research.

My topic, “Communication food safety information through English as a Second Language curricula,” was born of a desire to combine two things that are very important to me:  food and the Spanish language.

Hispanic parents, like all parents, want to provide the best nutrition for their families, but they might not have the resources or know-how to do so.  Accessing information proves to be a challenge, since most governmental or university documents are written for those with more advanced literacy.  So my project focused on reaching Hispanic food preparers where they are– ESL classes.  The information isn’t complicated; the bigger question is how we can meet Latinos within their culture.

I met a few bumps on the road to the poster symposium.  One of the most daunting tasks of research was attaining Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval.  Because I was performing my research with human subjects, this board had to make sure I wasn’t harming the subjects in any way.  Let me tell you, getting IRB approval can be a very long process.  I practiced patience and perservered.  It did eventually go through, and I was able to begin the study.

My undergraduate research combined my passions in an effort to bring the good, true, and beautiful of life to families in need. Making this happen required overcoming beaurocracy (and procrastination). In the end though, this project isn’t about me.  It’s about those who deserve to know how to keep their families safe. Vegetable safety isn’t going to revolutionize the world, but it might make a difference for one family.

I think of myself as a loving person.  Truly loving these communities happens when we can reach them with truth.  Before this project, I often envisioned research as a cold-hearted approach to find hard facts and information.  Through my work, I realized that research should always serve a higher purpose and lead to understanding that brings goodness to people’s lives.

Certainly, this has been a culminating experience, and I learned more about washing produce than I ever imagined possible.  But more importantly, this project challenged me to apply learning to how I love and loving to how I learn.  Don’t tell Dr. Tucker, but I think that’s been the most exciting part of the project.

You’re either cookin’ or you’re not

This week, we’re resuming our senior blog series.  Today’s post comes from Erik  Stepanovich.  Erik is majoring in AgComm and minoring in Agricultural Business.  

It really bothers me when someone says they’ll make me dinner and then they pull out a frozen pizza from the freezer or a bag of ramen noodles from the cupboard. It amazes me everyday how our generation or just college kids in general don’t know how to cook. By cooking I mean everything is put together from scratch not just from a box. I don’t know if its lack of money, time, creativity or that they really just never learned how. Cooking is not hard. In fact it’s easy once you do it. Being able to cook leads to a healthier lifestyle and if you can’t cook you’re not getting the balanced nutrition you need.

Another excuse I often hear is, “I don’t have enough time to cook.” You can make spaghetti in less than 15 minutes. It takes 10 minutes to boil noodles and even less time to make sauce with meat. Other things might take longer of course but the more you do it the faster you become. Most of my dinners take 20 minutes to prepare unless they’re in the oven. Believe me when I say this, it’s worth it to take time out of your day to stay away from processed and pre-cooked food.

So why don’t people cook? If they say it’s money, I don’t believe it. The average four-

Cooking chicken fried rice is as easy as this…

person family spends 10 percent of its income on groceries. That means as a single person you should spend 2.5 percent of your expenses on food. I go grocery shopping and spend $60 a week between my roommate and myself. That’s 30 dollars for my half. So if you’re eating out I’ll break it down for you. That’s 30 four-piece McNuggets from McDonalds, six 5 dollar foot-longs from Subway, four 8-inch subs from Penn Station or three pizza’s from Papa John’s. So when people tell me they can’t afford to cook and order food out, I laugh because they get maybe one good meal a day, whereas I get to eat three square meals a day.

Some people may feel they just don’t have the creativity to cook. Once again I don’t buy it. Call your grandma, call your mom or even buy a cookbook. They will give you ideas and tell you how to make it. You don’t need to be creative… you just need to know where to look for ideas. Once you’ve made something for the first time from an idea, it’s like second nature to make it again.

Being able to cook has so many health advantages and I’m not sure people see them. By following the food plate you get your daily allowance of fruits, meats, dairy, vegetables, and grains. Eating out or buying processed foods might satisfy some part of the food plate but in an unhealthy way. With eating out and process foods the fat, sugar and salt content is so high it ends up being terrible for you.

The finished product of chicken fried rice

Everyone needs to take a step back and look at cooking in a whole new light. Cooking actually can save you money. It doesn’t take much time once you know what you’re doing and if you don’t know what to make or how, just ask. Cooking’s main benefit is health and you can’t put a price on that.

Ag Comm Student Speaks at Alumni Event

Brooklynne Slabaugh, a junior studying Agricultural Communication and Agricultural Economics, had the opportunity to represent her college and fields of study at the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry earlier this month.  Read her thoughts below.

It’s amazing how abundant the opportunities are in Purdue Agriculture. As a junior in ag communications and ag economics I have done more things in my three years at Purdue than I could have ever imagined. From going to an amazing leadership conference in Kansas City, Missouri to being able to lead one of the most esteemed clubs in the College of Agriculture, I feel truly blessed to have experienced all that I have thus far.

One opportunity that I was offered recently was to speak at the Annual Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry on February 4. This event is where all the “big dogs” come together with one common theme: their passion for Purdue and agriculture. Now don’t let me confuse you, I don’t consider myself one of the “big dogs”– I just got the amazing opportunity to speak to all of them.

I was humbled when the Ag Alumni staff asked me if I would thank the sponsor during the program of the Fish Fry. Oh boy, did I jump on this opportunity! Giving me, an ag comm major, the chance to speak to people who are passionate about the same things as me, was right up my alley. Although I did not get to say much more than the basic script of thanking the sponsors, the mere fact of being on stage in front of hundreds of esteemed people who love agriculture was a dream come true.

It’s unique opportunities like this one that keep me motivated to keep doing what I am doing in the College of Agriculture. It is truly an honor to be asked to help with things like this, knowing someone recognized me as a deserving leader. I would like to think I did a good job of representing myself and the departments I am a part of, ag communications and ag economics. I look forward to my final year and a half at Purdue and seeing what other things will come my way. Let it be known though, opportunities don’t just happen.  You have to embrace the small one’s you start with, build on those, and then you will see things come 360. That is how you create your own destiny.

Unmasking Photo Editing

This post comes from Jessica Thayer who is a senior in Ag Comm with a minor in Art and Design.  Using her knowledge of the topic, Jessica draws attention to the power of photo editing programs in this post.

Editing photographs has been around probably as long as photography itself. With advancing technologies making it easier and cheaper, it has become common for anyone to be able to manipulate an image and it’s important for people to realize this.

Photoshop and other photo editing software are allowing people to create images from scratch and edit original photographs to a point where they’re hardly recognizable. As a senior studying agriculture communication, I have come across many controversies surrounding the ethics behind editing photographs.

I’ve found that editing photographs can be easy and fun, but I’ve also found that there is a line you cross when you edit a photograph too much. However, this line isn’t black and white and is purely determined by a person’s ethics and purpose for editing.

For example, in my art classes I can edit photographs as long as I have a creative, artistic purpose for doing such. The same can’t be said for my journalism classes, where photographs should not be edited to avoid editorializing, a term used to describe when someone shows only the part of an argument that is their opinion.

When editing images for art, I’m not trying to deceive anyone; I am merely expressing my point of view in a creative way. When reading the news, people want facts, not the writer’s point of view. That’s why I think it is unethical to alter a photograph that will be published for a news story.

The Colbert Report from Comedy Central discussed how The Economist magazine unfairly manipulated its cover photo by editing out a woman.  Click on the link below to see Colbert’s report on the issue.

Colbert Video

In its television series, The Colbert Report uses photo editing to get across their message. It’s a comedy television series, so viewers expect to see photo manipulation, where they don’t expect to see it, is from news sources.

Even though it is easy to say photo manipulation should be left out of news stories, the topic isn’t as black and white when it comes to other forms of media. Manipulated photos are published without any warning label, so it’s important that consumers recognize that every image may not be showing the truth.

Did you know that many celebrity’s photographs are edited before being released to the public? The extent of manipulation varies depending on the photo editor, but there’s no boundary as to what can be edited in a photo. published a two part YouTube video investigating celebrity Photoshop makeovers and discusses the negative effects photo manipulation has on girls’ self image.  Click here for part 1 and here for part 2 of more info regarding this topic.

Photo Manipulation is a growing problem in the media. It not only has negative effects on the consumers, but it also negatively affects the media publishers. After coming across many manipulated images, consumers grow untrusting of the sources and the media then loses its creditability.

So everyone out there…be aware of photo manipulation. It’s everywhere and affects everyone.  Remember, consumers should protect themselves from hidden agendas and unrealistic expectations by being aware of photo manipulation and its affects on them and their community.  Also, media producers should stray away from manipulating images in order to keep their credibility and give an accurate representation of the truth. If both parties can accomplish this then the news will be presented by the media and critiqued by the public to effectively share information across all communication channels to help our communities.

Just the bees’ knees: Some reflections on reports of a “punny” industry

To inaugurate our new series, I’d like to begin with a post written by my fellow Ag Comm. co-worker, fellow Downton Abbey fan, and the gal who introduced me to PHD Comics, Lisa Schluttenhofer.  As those of you who have previously read this blog know, Lisa is an Ag Comm. major and Spanish minor who will graduate this May. 

In several of my classes, I’ve been instructed to avoid clichés and puns “like the plague.”  However, there is an industry in which, for some reason, even the most educated journalists fall back on overused slogans, puns, and old adages.

I would like to present this nearly ubiquitous contradiction to the cliché rule:  the beekeeping industry.  Sadly, puns seem to be the only way to introduce anything related to my favorite six-legged insect.

Here is just a sampling of real leads encountered in the last few years:

“She’s the queen of her hive.”

“There is quite the buzz in the beekeeping world.”

“City residents are making a bee-line to beginning beekeeping classes.”

“It’s not a sting operation, but beekeepers are giving a honey of a deal at the local farmers market.”

Feel free to groan.

Despite the puns, beekeeping is serious business.  In fact, honeybees are responsible for pollinating nearly one-third of our daily diet, including fresh fruit, vegetables, and nuts.  Without honeybees and beekeepers, we would miss out on a meal each day.

The honeybee population has plummeted since the introduction of a small parasitic mite called Varroa destructor, and in recent years, beekeepers have reported a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder.  The media were all over that, shall we say, like “honey on a biscuit.” (Ok, I made that one up.)

These news articles introduced the American public to a relatively unknown field.  The importance of pollination and the realities of this ag industry were indeed, news to some people who realized for the first time that without honeybees, much of every consumer’s food would not be around or would be very expensive.

It’s a crucial industry, and while the puns are cute, they don’t convey the seriousness of the situation.   So, if you are beginning a career in agriculture, remember the importance of the honeybee.  For those entering the journalism field, consider the words of your first mass communication class.  Avoid the puns; report the news.  Oh, and “bee” happy!

Senior thoughts on Ag Comm

Okay, now that you’ve recovered from the sheer shock of seeing a new post on this blog, I’d like to introduce you to a series we’re doing this semester.  Yes, a series.  You’ve seen that word before on our blog. And this time, the posts have already been written and are prepared for publication.

Last fall, the seniors from our major completed their capstone course.  Over the semester, they extensively researched the communication skills of students in Purdue’s College of Agriculture and gave a presentation for faculty and staff about their findings.

In addition to their research, each student completed a piece for the department blog about communication, Purdue, agriculture, and/or the intersection of the three.

It’s my pleasure to introduce this wonderful of series of posts written by my fellow ag comm classmates.  Over the next several weeks, you’ll read about everything from how the media covers the bee keeping industry to the advantages of cooking for yourself.  You’ll gain insight into the students who comprise the ag comm program and learn a bit about agriculture and communication too!

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the thoughts of these burgeoning young men and women who are about to bid adieu to Purdue and embark on a lifetime of communicating excellently about agriculture.