Iowa Gift Of Grain Shows Students The World

Shane Bugeja’s experience in Stuttgart, Germany, in 2012 was different in two ways. First, he was immersed in the culture for four months studying agronomy and animal nutrition at the University of Hohenheim. It forced him out of his comfort zone and allowed him to grow and experience more than his previous travels combined.

Second, when Bugeja (‘13 agronomy) discovered his trip abroad was supported by a gift of grain from an Iowa farmer he was touched. “It is so cool to think that
a wagon full of grain paid for my plane ticket,” he says. “That’s pretty fitting.”

That gift of grain came from Iowa State alumni Keith and Barb Sexton of Rockwell City, Iowa. Their gift was used to fund scholarships that support students including Bugeja in international experiences. Keith (‘71 agricultural business) and sons Brian (‘08 agricultural studies) and Brent, a senior in animal science, have studied abroad. The Sextons felt it was important to give other students the same opportunity.

“Agriculture is our profession and we believe it is beneficial to support agriculture students, especially when you read about the large debt load of so many students,” Keith says. “We believe travel outside the U.S. makes participants better citizens. It expands their interaction with people from other cultures and hopefully makes them appreciate their home culture more.”

That was the case for Bugeja who interacted with students from all over the world.

After a month-long intensive language program, Bugeja took three months of graduate classes and toured German farms, including one that used animal waste as a power source.

“I gained broader knowledge about the interaction between animal welfare and environmental stewardship. I learned that animal-friendly doesn’t always mean environmentally-friendly and that there are consequences to every decision in animal and crop production,” Bugeja says.

The Sextons chose to donate with a gift of grain to make the most of favorable tax implications. Tax advisers can help farmers navigate through the process. Ray Klein, executive director of development for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is the first contact for anyone interested in making a similar gift of grain to the college. He can be reached at (515) 294-8892 or

“There are steps to put in place in advance to ensure the funds are granted as you like,” Keith says. “Because there is some extra effort required of the purchaser of the grain, we only use grain gifts for our larger contributions. We are fortunate that our local elevator has been very accepting and easy to work with as they make separate checks to the various organizations.”

Bugeja was always interested in science and says agronomy is a perfect way to apply science to benefit people. In his work with Iowa State agronomist Fernando Miguez this summer Bugeja is studying the emission of carbon from farm fields and prairies. The research will offer details useful in improving crop modeling.

In time their research may help farmers make management decisions to improve yield of the same crops that fueled his experience abroad.