Elly Williams

Waimea, Hawaii
Research Associate at DuPont Pioneer

Tell us your story into the world of agriculture. Why did you choose this career path?
I grew up on the southwest side of the island of Kauai, Hawaii. There were sugarcane fields as far as the eye could see. My grandfather immigrated to Hawaii as a young teenager to work for McBryde Sugar Plantation, so agriculture is in my blood. As an adult, I began to learn how to farm taro, a culture crop of the Hawaiian people. I had always grown a garden at home, but I felt my love for agriculture take root when I first stepped foot into the lo'i, or taro patch. The lo'i are very similar to rice paddies, and require almost constant flood irrigation. This is back breaking work, and taro is very sensitive to elements such as heat, cold, drought stress and flood events. I had been farming taro for almost ten years when massive rains caused severe flooding of the lo'i. Thus, my crop was lost. In early 2009, I began to work as a temporary worker at DuPont Pioneer’s Waimea Research Station, and I have never looked back. I was invigorated every day by the science behind the seeds.

 I chose this career path because farming and agriculture is fundamental to the world’s food supply. Seeds are not only the means by which to feed a growing world population, but also a dynamic, thriving industry that I am excited to be a part of. 

Tell us about your experience as an online learner within the Seed Technology and Business program.
My experience as an online learner in the Seed Technology and Business program has been challenging and rewarding. It has been challenging because of the distance and curriculum. However, it has been rewarding because I have figured out how to balance work, life and study times. This helps me to enjoy the process. The professors are well-versed in their subject areas and program is staffed with experienced personnel who are always there to help. The students that I have had the privilege to meet in my courses come from diverse backgrounds, so, this helps me gain a bigger understanding of discussion topics and points of view. The online environment of the Seed Technology and Business program is comfortable and I feel like I made the right decision to pursue this degree online.

Why did you choose to pursue ISU’s Masters in Seed Technology and Business?
From the day that I shootbagged my first corn plant, I was fascinated with corn and corn pollinating by hand to produce research seed. I was soon hired on as a full timer, and in seven months, I was promoted to the research associate position that I currently hold in maize genetics. I pursued and obtained an online Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences in September 2013. Throughout the years I have learned and grown in the industry. But another side of the industry began to pique my interest: the business administration side. I also wanted to give back and be a real contributor to the seed industry, so, I began seeking out a Master’s program that would give me the knowledge and skill to be able to contribute to my company in this area. I chose the Master’s in Seed Technology and Business program because it is geared towards professionals in my field of agricultural biotechnology looking to enhance their knowledge of the seed industry and in turn become leading contributors in seed science, technology and business.

What advice do you have for future online students thinking about applying to the program?
My advice for future online students thinking about applying to the program would be to go for it! If you have a desire to learn, the willingness to dedicate time to yourself and a positive attitude, you will succeed. There is no better time than today to get serious and talk to Lori Youngberg, program coordinator.

What have you enjoyed most about the faculty you work with within this program?
What I have enjoyed most about the faculty I work with within this program is their breadth of knowledge and willingness to help. I like learning from top people in the field of agriculture, seed science and business. The program coordinator, Lori Youngberg, is friendly, approachable, and well –versed in the program’s curriculum and procedures. She ensures that I keep on track with registration for courses, and is always willing to answer any questions I may have. This makes for a very comfortable and welcoming environment.

Why was online learning the right choice for you?
Online learning was the right choice for me because I work full time and live in Hawaii. I am unable to attend campus courses, so, I searched online for a program that would fulfill my needs. This program can be done as 1-course terms, so it is not too much of a heavy workload. It is very manageable in an online setting.

What are your future plans after finishing your master’s degree?
After finishing my master’s degree I plan on applying for a Senior Research Associate position at my company. My long term goal is to enter the administrative side of the business and to excel at whatever role is next for me. I am confident that ISU’s Masters in Seed Technology and Business will help me to achieve these goals and more.