STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Sam Sechler
BY MARLEE MOORE, JUNIOR/AGRICULTURAL COMMUNICATIONS
That’s not a word you hear often, if ever, around Auburn’s campus. It’s a German word meaning to crave travel, to be homesick for a place you’ve never been. Samantha “Sam” Sechler, an animal sciences graduate student from Berea, Ohio, personifies fernweh.
As a high school student, Sam’s desire to travel and experience life outside her home state led her to look for colleges in the South that offered hands-on experiences for animal sciences students throughout their college careers.
“When I visited Auburn, I felt as though I was cared about and was seen as more than a number,” she says.” I was seen as a member of the Auburn family.”
That visit sealed the deal.
In her sophomore year at Auburn, she went on the Department of Animal Sciences’ spring break trip to the High Plains of Texas, a study tour that focused on the fed-cattle industry.
“That was the first time I was able to grasp the immensity of a feedlot,” she says. “There were literally cattle as far as my eyes could see.”
When she stepped onto the feed yard, she had a self-professed nerd moment.
“My heart was telling me this was what I was called to do – be a feedlot nutritionist,” she says. “This is what would get me excited to get out of bed every morning.”
Three years, a bachelor’s degree and a year into her master’s program later, Sam’s love for the animal production industry has grown.
To become a feedlot nutritionist, Sam is working on an accelerated master’s degree program, meaning her senior undergraduate year was also her first master’s year. After graduating with her master’s in May 2016, Sam will pursue a doctorate in beef cattle nutrition.
Accelerated master’s programs are growing in popularity among Auburn students, and Sam believes her participation in the program will set her apart when she applies for her doctorate.
Working under the direction of animal sciences professor Russ Muntifering and assistant professor Kim Mullenix, Sam is investigating how the nutritive quality in Tifton 85 Bermudagrass changes throughout the growing season. Ultimately, her master’s research could lead to improved formulations in feed supplements for cattle.
When she isn’t working on her research in Upchurch Hall, Sam is involved with Collegiate Cattlemen and Cattlewomen, where she served as president her senior year, and through which she has begun working with the beef industry at a state and national level. During her undergraduate career, she was involved in the national Christian sorority Sigma Phi Lambda, as well as the Ag Ambassadors, Block and Bridle Club and Diamond Dolls.
Often, out-of-state students experience homesick, at least during their first year at Auburn, but Sam’s fernweh – that desire to travel and experience the world – has far outweighed any yearnings for her childhood home, family and former life in Ohio.
Sam’s parents, Dave and Barb, raised their daughter to be independent, and she has taken their advice to heart.
Despite living four states, 13 hours and a time zone away from home, Sam still talks to her parents and three siblings almost every day and says she is closer than ever to her family. They see her as an adult who can solve problems in her life. That thought would terrify some students, but for Sam, it’s exciting.
“When life gets tough, I try to remember the saying, ‘Don’t count the seconds, make the seconds count,’” she says. “Your time here at Auburn will go faster than you think. Savor every second.”
Marlee Moore is a junior studying agricultural communications and is originally from Thomasville, Alabama. She is the Ag Ambassador education chair, Ag Council reporter and Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow vice president, in addition to being the editor of War Eagle Words.