At 5:15 a.m., I wake up and tiptoe over my two and half year old who has made her way onto a puppy-shaped sleeping bag beside our bed. By six a.m., I’m out the door and on the road, heading to a one stop-light kind of town about seventy-five miles north of the city.
You won’t know the town by name, but around here it’s home to the largest robotic dairy farm in North America. Today, it’s my office. At 7:30 AM, a three-man film crew will arrive to capture footage of this year’s Indianapolis 500 Milk Person, alongside the calves receiving her attention and care. It’s almost race month in Indianapolis, and our dairy farmers and cows will soon receive their fifteen minutes of fame.
My job includes promoting every aspect of their dedication.
On a daily basis, I am the Director of Communications for the American Dairy Association in Indiana and work for over 750 dairy farm families. Sitting in Hale Library finalizing my last graduate school paper, I never would have guessed I’d end up where I am, but that’s the great thing about an English degree: the possibilities are endless and can be rewarding.
When asked to introduce myself, the phrase “I have a Master’s degree in English and I work for dairy farmers” often prompts some confusion displayed on the faces of those inquiring. However, K-State molded the way in which I’m communicating with consumers, thought leaders, partners, and our dairy farm families. Professors taught me how to condense pages of thoughts into a well-constructed abstract and how to translate the work of Chaucer and Shakespeare into something a non-English major would understand. The often overwhelming writing assignments are what I credit for launching me into my current role.
As I worked toward finishing my M.A. (completed in 2011), many of my mornings, days or nights were spent on long walks around Manhattan stepping off deadline stress and sweating out fear of failure. I’d listen to satellite radio while a six-mile loop around campus took me, quite literally, out with the cows — on the north-side of campus, opening and closing the livestock gates along the highway. In response to the demands of professors, I walked this regular loop in an effort to diminish my anxiety. I spent Saturdays sitting at my desk; there, my dog, Bentley, and I became each other’s entertainment while I daydreamed about life after graduation.
Ten years ago, I remember feeling overwhelmed with anticipation as I prepared to defend my Master’s project analyzing the work of writer Junot Diaz. When I walked into the designated basement room of ECS, I distinctly remember the feeling of pride mixed with trepidation as I took a seat and began fielding questions from those with more literary accomplishments than I’d see in a lifetime. For two years leading up to that appointment, I had sacrificed time with family and friends in order to check a box and obtain a degree that I hoped would lead me down a road of employment and some degree of happiness.
Ten years later and a few hops and jumps in transitional jobs, I am overseeing communication plans and activating our team of passionate and energetic employees as we shine light on the hard work and dedication for dairy farmers across the Hoosier state (and worldwide during the Indianapolis 500’s famed Drink of Milk tradition). 2021 marks my eighth year on staff but this past year is one I won’t soon forget — personally or professionally. Successfully working through a pandemic is one thing, but successfully working through a pandemic with two under the age of two feels like I am graduating all over again.
Thankfully, K-State not only provided me with a degree, but it laid the foundation for a level of high quality work I know I can achieve. K-State also led me to accept a job back home in Indianapolis where I married my husband, Bennett, and where we raise our two children, Scottie and Monroe. I am dumbfounded as to how ten years passed so quickly and significantly.
Between marriage, children, a pandemic and other life events, I am just as proud today as I was when defending my Master’s project. The beginning I was dreaming about on Campus Avenue is now the life I live — Holsteins and all — each and every day.
— Brooke Williams (MA ’11)