Successful Alumni Stories
You might not be on the plains, but you’re still a part of the Ag Hill Family. We see our Alumni are serving their industries with incredible leadership skills and a willingness to continue the life-long learning they began during their time at Auburn University. It is our great pleasure to share Alumni stories, experiences, and announcements here.
Victoria Drouet Pratt B.S. '06, Poultry Science; DVM '10
Dr. Pratt was able to visit the College of Agriculture in 2016 to give a seminar as part of the “Our Work” seminar series. View her seminar online.
Alumna pursues Master’s Degree in Avian Medicine to better serve the poultry industry.
From the moment Victoria Drouet Pratt (BS ’06, Poultry Science; DVM ’10) stepped on the Auburn University campus as a student, she knew her career goals to earn a bachelor’s degree in poultry science and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree were possible.
Pratt, who began her undergraduate education at Snead State Community College through the Auburn–Snead State 2+2 program, came from a strong background in poultry. The 2+2 program was ideal, she said, because it allowed her to take classes and work part time in a poultry processing company then called Gold Kist, now well known as Pilgrim’s.
The Cullman County native found that hands-on experience in all areas of an integrated commercial poultry industry to be invaluable.
“If I could go back and start over, I wouldn’t change the process,” Pratt said. “The
work experience, coupled with classroom instruction, developed me into a very focused and driven poultry science/pre-vet student upon transfer to Auburn University.”
Pratt settled in well at Auburn, joining clubs and enjoying her academic courses. As a member of the College of Agriculture’s Ag Ambassadors, Pratt represented the college to her peers on campus and the Auburn community.
“Ag Ambassadors allowed me to make professional connections throughout many areas of the agricultural community and helped me become more aware of the network that so many of the agriculture students share,” Pratt said.
She also joined the Poultry Science Club.
While involved with this organization, she built friendships with fellow poultry science students and had the opportunity to network with leaders in the poultry industry.
“Many of my poultry science classmates and speakers I met during those years at Auburn remain colleagues of mine today,” she said.
Upon completing her DVM degree from Auburn in 2010, she entered the industry at
a small-animal practice in Rome, Georgia. She then moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to work at an animal? emergency and critical care hospital and to start her own ambulatory practice, Tri-State Veterinary Services LLC, serving the large-animal community of Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. Pratt also worked as a relief veterinarian in the tri- state area.
In 2013, Pratt accepted a position with Elanco Animal Health’s Poultry Business Unit, working with commercial poultry companies covering 12 states while maintaining her private practice and relief veterinary work on the weekends. In her “spare time,” she and
her husband started VNP Land and Cattle Company, a registered Black Angus farm in Chattanooga.
In 2015, Pratt enrolled in the University of Georgia’s graduate program and is now pursuing her master’s in avian medicine.
During the week, she lives in Athens, Georgia, and travels home to Chattanooga on the weekends to spend time with her husband and son. After completing her master’s in avian medicine, she aims to work in production medicine at an integrated commercial broiler company, with an emphasis on bird health and welfare.
Her drive for this career stems from her desire to provide a nutritious and safe source of protein to people worldwide.
“I have always wanted to be a veterinarian, and once I learned more about the poultry industry, I realized how important it is to provide veterinary care for the birds that determine the livelihood of families where I come from,” she said. “I want to support the industry that has such a positive economical impact to the great state of Alabama.
“The poultry industry has a $15 billion impact on Alabama’s economy,” she said, “and I feel a tremendous responsibility to protect these birds and the lives that this industry touches.”
Alumni Spotlight Archives
Food science graduate begins career with Tyson
Cullman County native Kayla Fromhold, graduated from the Food Science program in the Department of Poultry Science in May of 2016. Upon graduation, she joined Tyson Foods in Beryville, Arkansas as their manager trainee in the food safety field.
As a 2+2 transfer student, Fromhold found her home at Auburn University after transferring her sophomore year.
While at Auburn, Fromhold was an active member of social sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, helped transfer students acclimate to University life as an S.O.S. orientation leader, and served peers in the College of Agriculture as an Ag Peer Mentor. Fromhold was also an active member of the Poultry Science Club and served as the Food Science Club’s president from 2015-2016.
She knew from the beginning that her primary interests were food science.
“All my life I was in love with Good Eats and Unwrapped on Food Network,” Fromhold explained. “Those shows explained the science behind foods we eat every day and how those foods were commercialized.”
From these snapshots of the industry, Fromhold began to find her passion in food science, and pursued education that would allow her to contribute to the industry.
In 2015 she completed a summer internship with Wayne Farms at their Decatur Prepared Food Plant. “From that job, I learned much about the industry, and how plant life makes the food we eat possible,” Fromhold said. The internship built on her classroom experiences to give her additional hands-on experience she will utilize in her career.
At her new position with Tyson Foods, Fromhold will work with food safety and quality of all of the prepared foods produced at that plant. “As a trainee, I’ll be working towards becoming a supervisor for another plant,” she said.
Fromhold’s jobs search began months ago with assessing available food science positions throughout the country. Sometimes, the timing wasn’t there, but eventually she found the perfect fit in Tyson.
“I attended IPPE, International Poultry and Processing Expo, I posted my resume and had five interviews,” Fromhold said, “Tyson was one of them.”
“I knew Tyson was the right choice for me,” she said. Fromhold received several offers from employers even after accepting the Arkansas position. “The opportunities in the industry are endless!”
Fromhold’s passion for food science lies in the challenge and reward of the decision making and problem solving aspects of the industry. She said, “I love food science because, you know, it is a challenge, but it is so rewarding to know you have the ability to positively impact thousands of people.”
“Working with major parameters of making appealing, safe, and sustainable food creates a great puzzle,” she said. One our department is sure she will help to solve.
For Poultry Science alumna, Maggie Lawson, BS ’13 poultry science, good news is in no short supply. Lawson’s acceptance into Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has reaffirmed her long-term career goals to work in the field of veterinary medicine.
An Alabama native, Lawson describes herself as outgoing, outspoken, persistent and talkative. As a hands-on learner who loves conversation and has a soft-spot for animals, it’s no surprise that her personality and interests fit the bill of a professional student in vet medicine perfectly.
Finding the right path
Interestingly enough, the pre-vet track wasn’t always in Lawson’s master plan. Upon graduating high school, she sought to teach politics and history at Wallace Community College. In her first English Composition class, a writing assignment prompted her to write an essay on career goals.
“I was told to write an essay on a career I was interested in but not currently pursuing,” she said, “I chose veterinary medicine and it was actually through that process that I decided to officially pursue a career in vet med, and ultimately, attend Auburn University.”
Lawson spent her first semester as an Animal Science major, a logical pre-vet choice, but ager hearing about poultry science classes and through encountering faculty and staff in the Department of Poultry Science, she changed her major to poultry science, keeping her vet-med goals at the forefront.
“I began thinking about job opportunities post-graduation and what degree would give me the most opportunity,” she said, “Dr. (Roger) Lien made an honest effort to get to know me, my interests and m goals – and he offered the best advice on classes as well as internships and jobs.”
Lawson found and welcomed support and guidance in the poultry faculty, staff, and peers. She became a member of the Poultry Science Club, and eventually went on to become Club President. She notes that the club helped develop leadership skills and gave her networking experience with professionals in the poultry industry.
One of the most impactful experiences as a club member was participating in the Farm-to-Fork Smoked Chicken Sale. “Farm-to-Fork is a wonderful way for students to hone in on their organizational and teamwork skills,” she said.
“Because of the many events hosted by the department and club throughout the year, as well as that ability to gain experience at the farm and the whole farm-to-fork process, we’re able to build an impressive résumé while working towards our degree,” she noted.
The power of perseverance
In her first round of applications to the vet school, Lawson was not accepted. But that didn’t scare her away from pursuing her dreams. Determined to do whatever was necessary to prove her ability to be a successful vet student, and future veterinarian.
“I decided to start a Master’s of Agriculture – and work diligently to strengthen my application,” she said, “I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year, and looking back, I am extremely thankful for the year I’ve had to mature as a professional student.”
After reapplying to the program this year, Lawson has been accepted into the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Class of 2018. She describes this acceptance as one of the most defining moments of her career to date.
“I am the perfect example of someone working hard to achieve their goals and not letting anything stand in my way,” she said. “If I can do it, anyone can!”
Lawson is excited for the opportunities that await as she pursues her DVM with her fiancé, Andrew Thompson, and their three dogs at her side.
Advice for future students:
“Take your coursework seriously,” she said, “Don’t put it off. It might sound cliché, but it’s so true. When you’re professors tell you to go home and read over your notes…DO IT!”
Maggie recommends to find the answers on your own, but rely on fellow students and faculty if you get stuck when studying or working on assignments. She advises not waiting until the night before to study for a test – but study a little bit each day – then the night before you can review the material and better comprehend what you’re revisiting.
“Get involved,” she urged, “especially with the Poultry Science Club! Being an active member of the club can open countless doors for you as a student and a future member of the poultry industry.”
She also recommends students use time in the department as an opportunity to build your professional portfolio.
“Don’t just view it with a one-track mind as a highway headed straight to graduation. Understand that you’re part of an industry that ins extremely important to the future of our world,” she said, “The more you do in college to strengthen your résumé will provide you with more opportunities to have a greater impact on this industry.”
“I really have to thank Dr. Don Conner and Dr. Wallace Berry,” Lawson said, “They both believed in me and their confidence in my capabilities provided the boost I needed to keep working towards my goals.”
She also recognized the service of Ashley Pangle, lead administrative admin and Codi Plaster, student coordinator for the Department.
“Ashley helped me through every piece of paperwork, and I could always turn to her for advice and a smile,” she said, “Codi’s humor is a breath of fresh air. She does a wonderful job of promoting our department and advising the club.”
Favorite Auburn Memory:
Maggie’s two favorite memories include the 2010 football season and the Poultry Science Club winning “Club of the Year” at the International Poultry Expo, in 2013.
“I was President of the Poultry Science Club that year, and I was blessed with an amazing group of officers and members who believed in the goals we set and worked extremely hard to achieve them,” she said, “It was very rewarding to have our hard work recognized!”
RELEASED JUNE, 2014
“Successful” is an understatement when it comes to the career of Alumni, Jason Shell, BS ’98 poultry science with a minor in Agricultural Economics. Today, Shell serves Keystone Foods as U.S. Proteins Vice President of Food Safety and Quality Assurance. Though his position carries significant responsibilities in his day-to-day duties, work doesn’t hold him back from enjoying ‘the good life.’
Shell is directly responsible for the Food Safety & Quality Assurance of all products produced within the USA Proteins Group. His daily responsibilities include developing strategic direction for programs and maintaining excellent customer relationships.
Responsibility and balance
“We’re responsible for the food safety and quality of about 800 million pounds of beef, chicken and fish produced annually,” Shell said, “we’re also responsible for supporting Global FSQA Plans and activities through our active participation in the Global FSQA Counsel”
He also supports operations by providing direction that ensures compliance with all customer requirements and applicable federal, state and local food regulations.
Shell’s work directly impacts the lives of consumers across the country every day. His position contributes to a safer food supply and helps regulate the continual high standards of the food industry in America. But this work is just ‘what he does.’
“I’m an extremely driven person and I love to be around other people, especially positive, uplifting types of personalities,” Shell adds, “I also enjoy life – I like old muscle cars, hunting and playing golf.”
Shell contributes much of his professional success to his positive attitude, his work ethic, and the support of his wife. “Without her support, I would not be where I am today,” he said.
Leadership experience in the real world
Shell’s first-ever promotion left a deep impression on him.
“It seems like it was just yesterday that the opportunity was given to me,” he said, “I vowed then that I would make the most of the opportunity.”
That step eventually led to Keystone Foods offering the position of General Manager to Shell for their brand new Fully Cooked Poultry facility. That opportunity allowed him to demonstrate his management style and commitment to insuring the success of his team, as well as the company.
These moments are monumental in Shell’s career, giving him valuable insight into the administrative side of the industry. As he was able to gain more and more experience, he saw the process of decision making first-hand.
“I realized that the decisions that are made by company leaders are never made overnight. Leaders are truly doing what they feel are in the best interest of the company, their people and their customers,” Shell said, “It’s not as easy as some people can make it look!”
Remembering the Auburn ‘Glory Days’
Shell’s first ever exposure to poultry science came from his high school Agriculture teacher. Providing support and encouragement, his teacher convinced him that a great career in his field awaited, and also provided help on scholarships that would support his college education.
“Mr. Todd then asked me to come work on his poultry farm after school and through the summer months, which peaked my interest further,” he said.
With great networking and hard work, Jason secured enough scholarship money to make his Auburn education a reality. He was awarded the Wayne & Nadine McEltrath scholarship by Lyn Calhoun in a graduation recognition service at his church, to his complete surprise.
“That scholarship would cover full tuition and books for four years,” he said, “I owe everything to God, Mr. Wayne and Nadine McElrath’s support, and my family for allowing me the great opportunity to prove that I was capable of attending Auburn University and one day making a great career out of their investment!”
The strong education Shell received from the Department of Poultry Science prepared him to enter the industry after graduation.
“I was the only person in my graduating class to choose to work at a processing plant after graduation,” he said, “at that time, the curriculum prepared us for the field side of the business, now I think it does a good job of preparing for field work and professional work.”
Shell’s career goals are to continue providing strong leadership to his coworkers and colleagues.
“Title means nothing, it’s about being a true leader and driving to be the best person I can be each and every day.” He said.
For the past seven years, Jason has been part of the Talladega Superspeedway family during race weekend. He now has the opportunity to work with the Director of Public Relations, Russell Branham, to help manage the media center during race week twice a year.
As a big NASCAR fan, this experience has been special to Jason, “I’ve been able to meet many of the drivers, football coaches, and several celebrities,” he said, “I’ve also gained a lot of experience helping to manage the media center.
Advice for students:
“Study hard,” he shared, “College is all about you! YOU have to make the choices that lead to your success,” he said.
“Work hard, play hard, but always work to find that career path that makes you happy. If you’re not happy – it makes things a lot harder to move forward in your career.”
Shout outs & acknowledgements:
“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to all the faculty members of the Auburn University Department of Poultry Science. Each and every one of them during my time there truly cared about my success and me as a person,” he said, “They were always willing and able to talk and give advice based on their experiences.”
Favorite Auburn memory:
“My favorite Auburn memory,” he said, “[it was] playing intramural sports with my old high school buddies and rivalries!”
RELEASED APRIL, 2014
Beth Westermoreland, originally from Scottsboro, AL, graduated from Auburn University in May of 2013 with her degree in Poultry Science/Food Science and a minor in Supply Chain Management. Her pastimes include cooking and traveling, and true to her Alma Mater, watching the Tigers take the field. After relocating to California for her new position with Nestlé, she is enjoying teaching her new friends to love the south “one piece of cornbread at a time!” Beth has enjoyed her transition from Auburn to California, and loves to explore new cities and neighborhoods. “I live in Pasadena, California—just a short walk from the Rose Bowl [Stadium],” She says, “My location made the National Championship game a day to remember for sure. Pasadena is beautiful with views of mountains everywhere you look. The restaurants and shops around are superb as well!”
Growing up in Scottsboro, Beth attended Auburn football games each year, and although she was at some times hesitant, she none-the-less pictured herself attending Auburn University as her parents had before her. After experiencing the campus as a teenager her doubts subsided, “My junior year I attended a War Eagle Day and left knowing that Auburn would be my home for the next four years.” Auburn was more than just an education for Beth, as she became involved in many different organizations and clubs:
“Being involved on campus was my key to happiness at Auburn. My favorite organization was Student Recruiters. My love for Auburn grew deeper with every tour I gave of campus. I was also involved in the College Agriculture, serving as the Food Science club president as well as a committee member for the Agricultural Council. Alpha Gamma Delta provided a great support group of women who were also involved on campus and wanted to inspire change. I was the College of Agriculture representative for the Committee of 19 my sophomore year. I enjoyed learning about humanitarian efforts both on Auburn’s campus and around the world. “
Beth originally planned to major in Biomedical Science and go onto dental school. After shadowing several dentists, she decided to change her major to Nutrition Science, and carved a new path as a pre-professional. Much to her surprise, her undergraduate career took another exciting turn after taking a look into the Food Science world at Auburn. “[That] all changed after I took Science of Food with Dr. Bell,” She states, “I knew that Food Science was instead the career path for me. The scientific understanding initially drew me in, and the world of opportunities secured my decision.” Though initially apprehensive about such what seemed to be an uncharacteristic changing of majors, Beth found a whole different world within the College of Agriculture than she had planned:
“Since changing my major to Food Science in college, my love for the food industry has grown with each day. My family and friends were shocked when I moved to the College of Agriculture…After three years in the college I have a whole new respect for every part of the agriculture industry. The Poultry Science department does a great job at teaching you the story from farm to fork. I believe that my degree in Food Science will allow me to grow and advance throughout my career. The food industry changes everyday, which leads to endless opportunities for our field.”
Now Beth finds herself working at Nestlé USA as the Confections and Snacks Deployer, where she works with a factory that produces all of the Nestlé chocolate items. She collaborates with the factory on supply, demand, and logistics, and manages the transport and inventory of 100 different chocolate items. Currently a Supply Chain Management Trainee, she is being prepared to act as a future leader in different areas of the supply chain. This program is a three to five year rotational program, providing the opportunity to relocate periodically. Through her experiences at Auburn and her new position, she has gained valuable insight into the structure and innovation within the food industry. “I have always been amazed at how fast things change,” She says, “From ingredients to government regulations to formulas, procedures, and products change is constant. This makes it a very interesting time to be in the industry.”
Beth is thriving in her new position, an opening which she found on the professional networking website, LinkedIn. (www.linkedin.com) Looking back on her experiences at Auburn as an undergraduate she explains how the classes offered within the Poultry Science Department combine technical science with a hands-on learning. This gave her the experience she needed to be successful beyond graduation. She reminisces, “Having the overview that I have from food chemistry to food plant sanitation helps me everyday when solving problems and balancing the workload.” Now, Beth is looking forward to a successful and fulfilling career as she makes her mark on the food industry.
Beth’s Advice for Students:
Get involved, ask questions, take school seriously but have fun too. Learning to balance activities and school at Auburn helped me so much in preparing to balance a workload in the food industry.
Shout Outs & Acknowledgments:
We laugh and say that on Ag Hill—everyone knows your name. But in Poultry it is reality. I loved having my “Poultry Family” and knowing that every time I walked into the building I not only could talk to my professors and administration, but also to a host of friends. Dr. Bell was my wonderful advisor and professor for several classes. I could not have made it through without many advising sessions where he helped me with career development, life lessons, and class planning. Dr. Huang is a wonderful professor who is responsible for a large part of my Food Science education. He also helped bridge the gap between international students and domestic students in lab and in Food Science club. I will forever be grateful for the cultural education I received through these events!
Beth’s favorite Auburn Memory:
My favorite Auburn memory will forever be A-day 2013. The day started with brunch on my front porch followed by a fun game and then the entire “Auburn Family” gathering together to celebrate our past and look forward to our future at Toomer’s Corner.