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In Their Words: John Owen, MILE III, 2022-2023

The following is a leadership essay from MILE III graduate, John Owen, that was part of the MILE Program’s third semester final portfolio. John is a senior agricultural and applied economics major from Sealy, Texas.

The MILE Program has been the most influential activity I have been blessed with during my time at Texas Tech University. Without this program, I would be on a different trajectory and one that I most likely would not be as satisfied with. I am still incredibly thankful to be a part of such an impactful program.

The MILE Program has had many beneficial outcomes for me, but three that stand out are growth in my maturity, increased awareness of career opportunities, and an expansion of my professional network. Maturity has been my most beneficial outcome of the program. I am confident that I would have eventually gotten to the maturity level that I am at today, but the MILE Program accelerated that growth, which was much needed. Because I am at this level of maturity as opposed to a lower one, I have been able to better capitalize on opportunities and opened more doors for my future than I might have during my time in college. Speaking of doors opening, I am now more aware of the career opportunities I have. We have been exposed to a wide array of careers, and they have all been interesting to learn about. Lastly, my personal and professional network has greatly expanded during my time in MILE. Whether that be my mentors John Duff and Tim Lust at National Sorghum Producers, Dr. Jay Killough at the Texas Tech Career Center, or my wonderful fellow cohort members, my network has expanded. I am thankful and grateful to have my network filled to the brim with such great and impactful people.

John Owen shakes hands with former USDA Deputy Secretary Bronaugh during a meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2022.

Moving forward from my time in the MILE Program, I will utilize these outcomes. I still have one more year in college, but that doesn’t mean I can’t use these skills and opportunities. I have back-to-back internships set up for this summer and fall, including a congressional internship in Washington, D.C. As I enter these new spaces, I will mature even more than I already have in my year in the MILE Program. I will need to lean on the lessons learned and skills gained to maximize these opportunities. I also hope to use these internships to narrow down my career possibilities. Whether the internships go good or bad, they will help in deciding my career post-graduation. Lastly, I will continue to expand my network. There are so many wonderful people out there in this world, and I want to make a concerted effort to know and develop a relationship with as many of them as possible.

MILE III graduates Kloe Walker and John Owen greet guests during the cohort’s graduation ceremony May 2, 2023.

While we meet with so many incredible individuals through the MILE Program that all imparted their wisdom and knowledge to us, there are three people who still stick out to this day: Jeremy Brown, an organic cotton farmer on the South Plains, Mayor Ginger Nelson from the City of Amarillo, and former USDA Deputy Secretary Jewel Bronaugh. Jeremy was my favorite stop on our South Plains tour. As a huge advocate for both agriculture and environmental sustainability, listening to someone who is equally as passionate and values both of them so much was extremely heartwarming. I hope more producers adopt his approach to production. Individuals such as Mayor Nelson and Deputy Secretary Bronaugh shaped my view toward our government and effective leadership on all levels. While often the big personalities get the big headlines, it is humble leaders like them who make a lot of positive change for Americans and people around the world. It is encouraging and reassuring to know that our government on all levels are filled with people that truly do care, are serving to help others, and are just kind people.

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