Young alum lands leadership position in poultry industry
Ask 2015 poultry science graduate Sarah Stephenson what led her to the enviable professional position she’s in today as animal welfare director for the United Egg Producers, and she gives almost all the credit to others.
“I was raised by parents who encouraged me to pursue the things I wanted, to chase every opportunity I thought worth the effort. That’s huge,” Stephenson says. “Once at Auburn, I learned to surround myself with industry members, professors and fellow students who would push me. My passion was important, but if I hadn’t run in circles with people willing to fan the flames of others, my own fire would have been snuffed out very early on.”
The Hartselle native now oversees the association’s certified program and works with its Scientific Advisory Council for Animal Welfare and Producer Committee for Animal Welfare. She also engages media, activist groups and producers to develop and implement UEP’s animal welfare strategy, an issue about which she cares deeply.
During her years as a College of Agriculture student, Stephenson was active in several organizations, holding leadership positions in Ag Ambassadors, Ag Council and the Poultry Science Club. In 2015, she received the Student Government Association’s Outstanding Student Award for the College of Agriculture.
In addition to her involvement in student groups, Stephenson made a point to gain industry experience through internships each summer during her undergraduate studies. At New Life Mills in Hanover, Ontario, she worked in technical service. She spent a summer interning with Tyson Foods’ government affairs office in Washington, D.C., and another in sales with Elanco Animal Health in Nashville.
Throughout her academic years, Stephenson worked on campus—at the poultry research farm, in a faculty member’s lab and, finally, in the college’s Student Services office.
Though all the activity meant many late nights, loss of sleep and missed meals, Stephenson says it paid off when she was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible—landing a dream position with an organization she respects highly. Asked what advice she has to offer other students with lofty goals, she keeps it simple.
“Do it all,” she says. “Take every opportunity to join clubs, meet folks in the industry, travel, complete internships and so on. There is nothing more valuable than passion, and we will not tap into that if we are unwilling to sacrifice time and energy.”