Kayla Kaalberg, a triple major in Global Resource Systems, Agriculture and Society, and Spanish, has already established herself as a dominant force in the agriculture industry. Growing up on the family row crop farm near West Liberty, Iowa, she formed a steadfast admiration for those linked to the land. "I was captivated by how crops become food and other products that connect people all throughout the world," she relates.
A fast-paced child and lifelong learner, Kaalberg was heavily involved with 4-H, FFA, sports and volunteer activities. When it came time to choose a college, Kaalberg was in search of an institution that not only had a reputable agriculture program, but would also foster a strong community that would challenge and develop her. Iowa State proved to be the perfect fit. "I knew that long-term I wanted to contribute to and lead out in the agriculture industry. I had built meaningful relationships with a few faculty members through FFA who helped me experience the collaborative and close-knit culture we have in CALS," she explains.
Kaalberg has stayed busy as a Cyclone, serving as a student leader of the The Salt Company, collegiate host for the National FFA Organization, selected participant of the Cargill-GRS Leadership Academy, member of the Cardinal Key Honor Society, and leader on the leadership team and CALS Advantage Day committee for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Collegiate Ambassadors. She also served on Freshmen Council, her residence hall floor cabinet, and volunteered as an International Studies Abroad Student Conversation Assistant while studying abroad in Spain.
Study abroad experiences have played a huge role in Kaalberg's time as a student as well. "I'm energized by learning different cultures and love to be immersed in new ways of life. I have participated in seven study abroad experiences in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East!" she exclaims. One such study abroad experience was Econ 496: Economics International Travel Course, offered by the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative. This course intrigued Kaalberg due to the opportunity to be in a consultative role for a company as well as understand agriculture systems in different parts of the world. "I had a friend who spoke very highly of their experience in both domestic and international courses, and I was excited to draw from my previous experiences and refine skills while developing new ones. Overall, I wanted a hands-on experience that applied what I learned in the classroom and could translate into a future career; the opportunity to visit Brazil was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity," she elaborates.
Kaalberg's time in Brazil affirmed her career goal to focus on international markets and work-cross culturally. "The course was exciting because it not only furthered my global competency and cultural awareness, but it tremendously increased my knowledge of the growing digital and precision agriculture spaces. I learned what it takes to deliver a robust product to a client, be an effective teammate, and be a flexible and optimistic traveler " she explains.
Meaningful relationships were also formed on the trip. For Kaalberg, this proved to be the highlight of her experience. "My teammates became some of my closest friends at Iowa State, and I'm grateful for how we have been advocates for each other," she expresses. Kaalberg also formed meaningful relationships with Brazilians that she still maintains to this day. "I trust that I will never have such an incredible exposure to farms, dealerships, and leaders in Brazil than I did through this course!" she exclaims.
Kaalberg is always looking to be involved with activities that help her build new skills and add to her toolkit. Economics 496 helped her do just that, providing her an opportunity to learn everything from market research and strategy to facilitating group conversations and being flexible abroad. "It was hands-down one of my most memorable experiences at Iowa State. No hesitations - you should apply! The content was practical; the experience is unforgettable! You won't regret it!" she exclaims.
As graduation approaches, Kaalberg is working to finalize where she will begin her journey and is excited to represent CALS throughout her career. Her past internships include working as a Global Strategy intern for John Deere Financial, a Business Development intern for Alliant Energy, and as a George Washington Carver Youth Programming and Education intern for the World Food Prize Foundation. Kaalberg also served as the Iowa FFA Association Secretary and has worked on her family farm for many years.
When Kaalberg isn't working or studying, she enjoys paddle boarding on the lake of the Ozarks with her family, escaping to the outdoors for a good bike ride, competing in intramural sports, mentoring women, and cooking new dishes like a wanna-be Rachael Ray.
We wish her all the best of luck as this chapter closes and another chapter begins. We know she will excel, and we can't wait to watch her accomplish great things!