Charting Her Own Course
In part, it was a friendly threat that inspired Troy High School graduate Hannah Doumit to pursue a four-year degree at the University of Idaho.
“Honestly, I didn’t even think I wanted to go to college,” said Doumit.
Which is a bit ironic considering that her parents are both faculty in U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
“I always valued education growing up with parents with advanced degrees who work in a university setting,” she said.
Nevertheless, Doumit wanted to attend a technical college and start a career in welding and commercial fishing.
“But my uncle, who’s made his living in the fishing industry, told me he wouldn’t talk to me about fishing full-time until I got a four-year degree,” she said.
Doumit held firm on her side of the deal with her uncle and will graduate in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural science, communications and leadership (ASCL) and minors in marketing and animal science.
A Family Affair
Despite the threat of withheld trade secrets, Doumit already knows a thing or two about commercial fishing. At 22, she’s spent a decade of summers fishing with her family in Alaska’s Cook Inlet. For every July she can remember, the Doumits traveled north to catch salmon off the south-central coast of the country’s 49th state.
The fishing industry is in her genes. Doumit’s great uncle was one of the first fish buyers on the Columbia River and her father and uncles worked in the fishing industry in Alaska during their summers in college to help pay for school.
Although her family includes many generations of fishermen, Doumit is the only fisherwoman of the family. According to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, women account for only 14% of commercial fishermen.
Doumit recalls eagerly anticipating the day she could join her dad on the family’s 32-foot gillnet boat. When she turned 13, that day arrived.
For the next eight years, Doumit worked as her dad’s crewman until the summer of 2019 when the family purchased a second vessel and she assumed the role as captain of her own boat and crew.
“I was used to working 15 to 16-hour days but the responsibility and stress of knowing that somebody else’s life is in your hands adds a lot of weight on your shoulders,” she said.
But Doumit is no stranger to responsibility. Growing up near Troy on her family’s cow-calf operation, Doumit participated in 4-H and FFA raising market steers. Since she was away fishing during the critical weeks leading up to the fair, she needed to ensure her animals were ready for the market months in advance.
“It was a lot of work,” she said. “I would make sure my steers were halter broke before I left for Alaska, rely on family to help while I was gone and then return and get them ready for fair.”
Much like her love affair with fishing, Doumit is passionate about agriculture. Inspired by the strong work ethic embodied by a family of fishermen, farmers and ranchers, Doumit chose a degree that would allow her to pursue a career advocating for the agriculture industry.
More Than Just Classes
While Doumit claims she’s not the most academically inclined individual, she credits CALS’ many extracurricular activities for helping her enjoy her college experience more than she anticipated.
Doumit joined the Student Idaho Cattle Association, the Block and Bridle Club, and the professional agricultural sorority Sigma Alpha. She took advantage of internships, national conventions and during her junior year, traveled to Mexico as part of the Global Agricultural & Life Sciences Systems course.
Doumit is also concluding her second year as a CALS Ambassador, recruiting students across the northwest and talking to high schoolers who — like she once was — are hesitant to pursue a four-year degree.
“My dad always said that once you have your degree, it’s something no one can take away from you,” she said. “That encouraged me to attend U of I and it’s something I find myself telling students who are where I once was.”
Her Next Frontier
After what Doumit believes were the four fastest years of her life, she anticipates graduating will be bittersweet.
“It’s a mix of emotions, but I’m anxious for the next adventure,” she said.
That adventure begins in August, when Doumit will start working as a production team lead for the North American potato processing company Lamb Weston in Quincy, Washington.
What Doumit thought was a casual conversation with Lamb Weston employees during the U of I’s Fall Career Fair, turned out to be an informal interview. Before she knew it, the company was encouraging her to apply for a position. She was then invited to the Tri-Cities for a formal interview and offered the job — just shy of a semester of graduation. It was all very unexpected, she said.
“In a matter of 24 hours, I went from thinking I was going to take a gap year fishing to interviewing, being offered a job and planning to move to Washington,” Doumit said.
According to Kattlyn Wolf, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, the job with Lamb Weston is the perfect fit for Doumit.
“She’s the kind of person you want to be around, and she has a great work ethic, can solve problems; she’s a total people person,” Wolf said. “Plus, she selected courses like marketing, business management and human resources to complement her ASCL degree, which created a really well-rounded education that will serve her well in the role.”
But before Doumit takes the first step in her post-collegiate career, she plans to spend most of the summer fishing with her family.
Article by Carly Schopeflin, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos provided by Hannah Doumit.