Alumni Profiles - Meet Katy O'Connell
Hometown: Smyrna, DE
Year of Graduation: 2000
Major: Agricultural Education
Minor: Wildlife Conservation
Ag Ambassadors, Harrington Theater Arts Company, Alpha Zeta, Student worker – Poultry Unit, Student worker – Tallamy lab
Current Position of Employment or Education:
Communications Manager, University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Describe your best Ag experience:
The best part of my ag experience was the great connections that I made during my time here. I'm so thankful that I'm back at UD and get to reconnect with so many of the people who inspired me during my time as an undergrad!
Which Ag course was your favorite and why?
I enjoyed any ag course that was a blend of classroom teaching and lab work. (Remember that I work here and many of the professors who I had still do, so I can't play favorites! Hah!) Courses that stick out in my mind are Dairy Production with Dr. Kung and Dr. Dyer, and Topics in Ornamental Horticulture with Dr. Frey, because I could truly see what I was learning in the classroom in action on the farm or in the greenhouse, just steps away. I also really enjoyed (yes I said enjoyed) Insect Taxonomy with Dr. Tallamy; I think I still have my notecards!
Tell us about your current position or program of study and what led you to that field.
I started off as an entomology major, switching to wildlife conservation when that major was approved. Then, thanks to some wonderful internships with the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Delaware Aquatic Resources Education Center, I realized that while I enjoyed the science, what I loved best was teaching people about it. Technically I’m certified to teach, but I knew that being in a traditional classroom really wasn’t where I wanted to be.
Immediately upon graduation, I started work as the Education Coordinator for the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, overseeing all aspects of K-12, teacher, public, and coastal decision-maker education programs. I became the DNERR manager in 2005, overseeing all education, research, land stewardship and administration for the two-component site.
In December of 2007, I left the DNERR to take a position that took me back to education and communication as the Communications Manager for UD CANR. I get to use my background in agriculture and natural resources coordinating projects that involve science writing, event coverage, photography, graphic design, social media, web site development, and more. Helping people make the connection between science and themselves is what I enjoy.
How did your College of Ag experiences prepare you for your current job or post-graduate education?
The best part of my College of Ag experience was the diversity of the courses that I was able to take. In a communications role, it helps to have knowledge of many, varied topics and due to the 30+ credits in technical agriculture and natural resources that I had to take as part of my AGED requirements, I was able to take classes across all of the departments. Having such a wide background of experiences on which to draw from is extremely useful in my profession. And even though my degree is in education, not communications, the skills that I learned in my AGED classes are ones that translate directly to my field.
What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
Make the most of your summers by doing internships, whether paid or unpaid. Even if an internship doesn't exactly match what you want to do after graduation, you never know what skills it will add to your resume, or what doors it might open up for you.