From Global Food Challenge to WinField United, Elizabeth Alonzi takes a full-circle journey to Land O’Lakes
"Whether you think you’re interested in a career in agriculture or not, I’d recommend students explore the opportunities Land O’Lakes offers. If your experience is anything like mine, I think you’ll get more than you would ever expect out of the experience."
Elizabeth Alonzi never thought her career path would lead her to a role in agriculture. As a student in the U of M’s College of Science and Engineering, Alonzi majored in bioproducts and biosystems engineering. Her interest in STEM outreach led her to apply for a Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader internship in 2015, and it was there that her journey began.
As she celebrates her one-year anniversary as a full-time hire, Alonzi shares some highlights from her journey to Land O’Lakes.
How did you find your way to Land O’Lakes?
I worked for the College of Science and Engineering’s Office of Collegiate Life for a year while I was a student. The wonderful staff in that office picked up on my interests in sustainability and international development.
The assistant dean had been working with Land O’Lakes on an internship program called the Global Food Challenge (GFC) that really focused on both of those areas, and introduced me to the opportunity.
Can you share a little bit about your Global Food Challenge internship?
Through GFC, I got to travel to Kenya and Rwanda with the Land O’Lakes International Development team (now called Venture 37) to work with and learn about their programs with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It was an incredible opportunity to see how development efforts are rolled out on the ground in cultures that differ drastically from my own.
Some projects were as simple as trying to replace white sweet potatoes with orange sweet potatoes, which have more nutrients. Some were more complex efforts to stimulate entrepreneurship in small-scale agriculture. I learned so much from that experience that I continue to use and reflect on in my daily life.
What does your role at Land O’Lakes look like now?
Currently, I work in research and development for crop input products at the WinField United Innovation Center in River Falls, Wisconsin. We specialize in products that can help reduce pesticide drift, so we have giant wind tunnels and various laser systems that we use to measure the size of droplets in agricultural sprays.
In this role, I’m also able to remain connected to the University of Minnesota. We actually donated our wind tunnel to the University of Minnesota and continue to work closely with some of the mechanical engineering professors on collaborative projects.
What attracted you to Land O’Lakes?
Land O’Lakes is a local company with a history in Minnesota that stretches back almost a hundred years. Because of their farmer-owned co-operative model, Land O’Lakes really values its ties to the Minnesota community, of which the University of Minnesota is a huge part.
Over the years, Land O’Lakes has supported U of M students in such a huge variety of ways–scholarships, internships, even athletic buildings. Their impact is visible in everything from Welcome Week to career opportunities, and they continue to support students after graduation by hiring many U of M alumni every year.
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Alonzi