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Texas Tech MILE Program graduates third 14-student cohort


The 14 undergraduate student members of the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources’ Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement graduated from the program on Tuesday, May 2, during a ceremony held at Texas Tech University’s historic Dairy Barn facility.

The MILE Program is a three-semester leadership certificate program that seeks to develop participants’ personal and professional skills through high-impact learning experiences in agriculture and policy. During the three-semester program, MILE participants enrolled in three academic courses focused on the personal, service and community aspects of leadership and each completed a professional internship experience. 

The MILE program uses regional agriculture tours in the Texas Panhandle, Rio Grande Valley and South Plains, trips to Washington, D.C. and Austin, and workshops to expose students to all facets of agriculture. MILE also use professional development seminars that include etiquette and media training to produce well-rounded leaders who can advocate and communicate effectively.

“Ultimately, MILE is creating problem solvers and critical thinkers who can make a difference in our industry,” said Lindsay Kennedy, MILE program director and assistant professor of practice in agricultural communications. “Exposure to the key issues affecting agriculture at the local, state and national level is one way the MILE Program works to develop these future leaders in hopes they will be the difference makers in agriculture and rural communities.”

During the cohort’s graduation ceremony, Kayla Robinson, a member of the MILE Advisory Board, Davis College alumna, and CEO of AgTexas Farm Credit Services in Lubbock, was presented the MILE Excellence in Leadership Award for her volunteer work with the program. 

“Kayla has spent hours assisting with the selection process and she has served as one of our student mentors,” Kennedy said. “She embodies the energy and spirit of what the MILE Program hopes to accomplish as it invests in student development and industry engagement.”

Jennifer Whisenhunt, Sarah Nixon and Mindy Johnson of the 1687 Foundation accept their plaque from Matt Williams and Lindsay Kennedy during the MILE III graduation ceremony May 2, 2023.

AgTexas Farm Credit Services was also recognized in 2021 with an industry partner plaque for their contributions to the MILE Program as the sponsoring organization of the South Plains and Panhandle agriculture tours, contributing $90,000 over five years toward the MILE Program. 

The 1687 Foundation was recognized with an industry partner plague for its support of the MILE Program. 1687 Foundation board of directors’ vice president, Mindy Johnson, along with Sarah Nixon, retreats manager and activities coordinator, and Jennifer Whisenhunt, assistant retreat manager and scholarship coordinator, were in attendance to accept the award on behalf of the foundation, which has been a valuable partner of the program since 2019.

Kayla Robinson of Ag Texas was recognized with the MILE III Excellence in Leadership Award for her service to the program.

“We are so grateful for the partnership the Davis College has with the 1687 Foundation and Wood Ranch,” said Matt Williams, Davis College director of development. “Their support of the MILE Program, as well as other programs and projects within the college, continues to provide students with high-impact learning opportunities.”

MILE III graduate, John Owen, an agricultural and applied economics major from Sealey, Texas, said the program opened new doors for him.

“MILE has been the most impactful experience I have had in college,” Owen said. “I think it’s the single most impactful program we have here at Texas Tech.”

Jenne Arrott, an agricultural communications major from San Antonio, Texas, said MILE exposed her to new career opportunities and options.

“It changes your life,” Arrott said. “It sparked something in me that I didn’t know existed. It gave me purpose. It gave me clarity on where I see myself and what I want to do with my life.”

Kennedy said the third cohort represented Texas Tech, the Davis College, and agriculture extremely well throughout their three semesters in the program. 

“These students are not only the future leaders of our industry, but they are also high achievers in the classroom,” Kennedy said. “We all have high expectations for them, and I personally cannot wait to see what they will accomplish.

The 14 students in the second cohort (2022-2023) represented the diverse academic departments within the Davis College: 

  • Jenne Arrott, agricultural communications, San Antonio, Texas
  • Kourtney Gibson, agricultural communications, Haskell, Texas
  • Phelan Graham, agricultural & applied economics, Sanger, Texas
  • Breely Huguley, agricultural communications, Olton, Texas
  • Sara Masterson, plant and soil science, Houston, Texas
  • Kade Miller, animal sciences, Panhandle Texas
  • Blake Mills, agricultural leadership, Center Point, Texas
  • John Owen, agricultural & applied economics, Sealey, Texas
  • McKenna Pavelock, agricultural communications, Anderson, Texas
  • Kloe Walker, agricultural communications, Celeste, Texas
  • Kielee Whitewood, animal sciences, Sanger, Texas
  • Carlye Winfrey, agricultural communications, Seminole, Texas
  • Kennedy Wood, animal sciences, Levelland, Texas
  • Isabella Yoder, animal sciences, Lindale, Texas

The recruitment and application process for the fourth cohort (2024-2025) of the MILE Program will begin in September 2023. For more information about the Texas Tech MILE Program, visit  

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