Elizabeth Shaw’s agricultural roots run deep. She grew up on her family’s seedstock cattle ranch in Parma and was active in FFA, including serving as Idaho FFA state vice president. As an agricultural science, communication and leadership student at the University of Idaho, Shaw is gaining experience to achieve her goal of advocating for the industry that has given her so much.
Discovering Her Passion
Shaw initially planned to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. She saw the impact that her mother had on the lives of her students and the close relationships she built.
During her first year at U of I, Shaw took a course that required spending eight hours in an elementary classroom. Although she loved the experience and working with children, she knew that being inside all day was not the right path for her.
“I’m a fourth-generation rancher, so being in a classroom all day, every day wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to do,” she said. “I’d love to be out in the industry and meeting new people and advocating for the importance of Idaho agriculture.”
Once Shaw realized that her true passion was advocating for agriculture, she decided to switch her major to agricultural science, communication and leadership in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Narrowing Her Focus
After making the decision to focus her career on agricultural communications, Shaw knew she needed to gain more experience to narrow down her focus. She accepted an opportunity to serve as a public information officer intern for the Idaho State Department of Agriculture during summer 2023.
“Communications is such a broad field, it’s kind of endless opportunities,” she said. “This internship helped me narrow my ideas of what I was good at and what I was wanting to do with my career.”
In her role, Shaw worked under recent CALS alum and current ISDA Public Information Officer Sydney Plum (’22, agricultural sciences, communication and leadership). She helped coordinate monthly newsletters, social media posts, pesticide compliance promotional materials and efforts to revamp the ISDA website. She even had an article about the ISDA Weights and Measures department published in the Idaho Farm Bureau Quarterly magazine.
“My favorite part was getting to work with all the people,” Shaw said. “We traveled a lot and met people from different departments. Everyone was so genuine and intentional about their job and liked what they did.”
Completing an internship with only one year of college under her belt was a little intimidating for Shaw, but the experience helped her learn more about her strengths and weaknesses.
“I’ve never felt like I was a very strong writer so going into the internship, I was super nervous,” she said. “But every project that I did, Sydney would give as many edits back as possible. She wouldn’t take it into her hands and fix it. I was able to make those edits and learn about what it really takes to be perfect in the communications world.”
The experience has solidified Shaw’s decision to pursue a career in agricultural communications. She hopes to return as an intern with ISDA next summer to complete projects that she began this summer.
But first, she plans to get more involved on the U of I campus. Her obligations as an Idaho FFA state officer left her with little time to join clubs and organizations other than her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.
“There are so many opportunities. It’s kind of overwhelming but also incredible to see all the different options,” Shaw said. “I feel like everybody is involved in something in some sort of way.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Garrett Britton, University of Idaho Visual Productions
Published in September 2023