Dr. Levon Esters is Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies at Iowa State University. Dr. Esters completed a PhD at The Pennsylvania State University in Agricultural and Extension Education in 2003.

The educational and professional experiences I had as a graduate student at Penn State played a major role in preparing me for a career in academia. For example, I had the opportunity to serve as a graduate teaching assistant. This opportunity allowed me to gain an understanding of the responsibilities involved in teaching an undergraduate level course. This was especially important since my first course as a faculty member was similar in structure and content. Additional experiences related to teaching were several guest lectures in various agricultural communications, leadership, and diversity courses. Not only did teaching these courses provide me with additional knowledge of these areas, but they were also related to my areas of specialization which also increased my marketability for the job market.

Another important aspect of my graduate experience involved my involvement in numerous leadership opportunities. Currently, I serve as Coordinator of Teacher Education in Agricultural Education. One of the most relevant graduate experiences I had related to my current position involved my role as Program Coordinator of the Food and Agricultural Sciences Institute (FASI). Interestingly, many of the skills I gained as FASI coordinator equipped me with a firm knowledge of program coordination and the ability to work independently and collaboratively, which are all requisites for working with faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students.

Perhaps the capstone of my graduate experiences involved my three-year term as Associate Editor for the Journal of Agricultural Education. Working as associate editor helped increase my knowledge of research and statistics as well as improve my written communication skills. Working with the Journal also allowed me to learn about emerging topics and trends within agricultural education in addition to helping me establish professional relationships with future colleagues.

In summary, my advice for graduate student is to gain a variety of relevant educational and professional experiences. Doing so will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively function in whatever your career goals may be.