Strong Relationships, Successful Placement

Teamwork gets the job done at Career Services, says Mike Gaul.

After 21 years as director, his team has grown the largest job fair of its kind in the country, even through difficult economic times. Above all, the office has helped maintain a consistent placement rate of at least 97 percent spanning two decades.

Gaul succeeded Roger Bruene (’56 agronomy) as director in 1998. Their tenure has provided a continuity in leadership stretching 45 years that is necessary for “establishing and building relationships,” he says. Lois Benning has been Gaul’s assistant for 17 years.

The office runs lean. Three part-time students round out the staff. An integral part of the team is CALS students and career day volunteers, who Gaul can’t praise enough.

“It’s amazing the quality of students we have, absolutely mind-boggling how good these students are,” he says. “Of course, it makes my job easier and makes coming to work a lot more enjoyable.”

Tim Heiller (’90 animal science), a senior account manager in charge of college recruiting for PIC (Pig Improvement Company), says the college does an “excellent job producing marketable students, many with great internships.”

Erin Chalupa says her crop scouting internship with Nutrien Ag Solutions expanded her horizons.

“It really opened my eyes to how many job options there are to explore in agriculture, and made me excited to see where I will end up in the future,” she says.

The students’ smarts and maturity are only part of the story; Gaul says most are very motivated to find employment. He says the largest group attending last year’s fall career day was first-year students.

“I’ve had to bring extra recruiters to the career fair because there are so many freshman students looking for opportunities,” Heiller says.

Kent Krager (’02 agricultural business), commercial director of U.S. Retail for Cargill Feed and Nutrition, says turnover takes a lot of time and can be very costly.

“Getting the right placement early and often is a must,” Krager says. “I’ve appreciated the partnership with Iowa State. Their students are hardworking and not only bring strong technical and leadership experiences, but also a real passion for the industry.”

Advisers, faculty and peer mentors make up another part of the campus team stressing career prospects.

“There’s collaboration with faculty and staff within CALS. I’m invited to probably about 90 percent of our orientation classes. They’ll have me come in and talk about our office and how to get ready for the fall recruitment season.”

Internships have become increasingly important for students since Gaul started as director.

A few years ago, the office started offering scholarships to students accepting unpaid summer internships. Typically, vet clinics, zoos, international organizations, non-profits and governmental entities don’t pay interns, so the $750 scholarships funded from career day proceeds help provide some income.