Beyond Books: Building Your Best Self
Jake Hlas’ journey to Iowa State started with his family’s Simmental cattle operation near Traer, Iowa.
As a junior majoring in animal science, he continues to work with his family’s cow-calf operation and travels the country preparing cattle to show.
“That background led me to seek a degree in agriculture, specifically one that will assist me in continuing the cattle operation as well as any other business I might pursue,” he says. “Although my mother graduated from Iowa State, I chose to come to college here because I fell in love with the professors and the passion for excellence CALS instills in its students.”
Early in his Iowa State career, a senior told him to not let books get in the way of receiving an education, and he took that statement to heart.
“Initially I decided to focus on my fraternity, Alpha Gamma Rho. As civic engagement chair, I direct activities that expand community involvement and volunteerism by providing monthly workshops on agriculture to 100 kindergarten students in Des Moines,” Hlas explains. “We may be their only tie to agriculture.”
His campus involvement includes Collegiate Cattlemen, CALS Ambassadors, Block and Bridle and the livestock judging team. He also works at the Iowa Beef Center as a student research assistant for extension program specialist Beth Reynolds. Hlas served as the Northeast State Vice President for the Iowa FFA Association last year, traveling 35,000 miles to present leadership curriculum to nearly 16,000 high school FFA members. He also met with government officials and developed a passion for being a voice for agriculture on a government level.
“In the future we as an industry will be faced with challenges, and I want to ensure the voice of the American farmer and rancher is heard and heard well,” he says. His summer 2019 internship at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Secretary Sonny Purdue in Washington, D.C. included working directly with the 2018 Farm Bill. He also oversaw programs directly impacting Iowa State and other land grant universities. These leadership, internship and work experiences led to him being recognized by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences as a Fred Foreman Scholarship recipient.
“Only a small percentage of CALS students receive this award and I am extremely grateful for this and all the scholarship dollars. They allow me to maintain a high level of involvement, focus on my schoolwork and investigate various work opportunities as an undergraduate,” Hlas says.
Hlas has advice for students who, like his younger self, might think they know what they want to do: “In the end, your college experience is entirely what you make of it. Be intentional with your time and use the standard of excellence set by those who came before to build the best version of yourself far beyond the end of your four years.”
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