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Erin Slagell, 2024 Ferguson College of Agriculture Outstanding Senior, found an educational home at OSU and in the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center studying food science.

Achieving Ferguson's Highest Honor: Ferguson College of Agriculture honors 2024 Outstanding Senior

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Media Contact: Sophia Fahleson | Digital Communications Specialist | 405-744-7063 |

Growing up on a farm in southwest Oklahoma, Erin Slagell learned what it meant to work hard, show integrity and think critically. During her four years at Oklahoma State University, she applied those skills in a way that earned her the 2024 Louis and Betty Gardner Outstanding Senior award for the OSU Ferguson College of Agriculture.

Slagell, a 22-year-old food science major from Hydro, Oklahoma, accepted the honor during the college’s annual scholarship and awards banquet April 4, 2024.

“Coming from a small town, Erin had a leg up on everyone to get involved,” said Morgan Pfeiffer, animal and food sciences assistant professor. “In a small town, everyone gets involved in everything, and she knew she had to get involved on campus.”

In her first year at OSU, Slagell knew she had found her career path with her first food science class, she said. Beginning as a shy freshman, she made the most of her time at OSU, joining the Food Science Club, the 2022 Meat Judging Team and the Oklahoma Pork Council’s Pork Industry Group.

Slagell also served on the Student Success Leader team as a career liaison. In this role, she helped students with résumés and cover letters and served as a tour guide for companies when they came to campus.

“Serving as a career liaison was the most meaningful opportunity I participated in at OSU,” Slagell said. “It was really rewarding to see a fellow student who was really nervous come in, hand you a blank sheet of paper, and let you help them build their professional documents from there.”

 The most rewarding aspect of being a career liaison was building up the students’ confidence, Slagell said. Getting to know students through their cover letters and résumés was a way to gain their trust and to get them to share their interests, she said.

“When you look at what Erin has done and how she’s been involved since she stepped foot on campus, she’s taken a path where her goal was to not only be successful academically but also to grow personally and professionally,” said Cynda Clary, Ferguson College of Agriculture associate dean.

Taylor Harbuck, OSU Career Services assistant director, established a connection with Slagell when she interviewed for her career liaison position. At the time, he was the adviser for the career liaisons. She came onto the team during a pivotal time of rebuilding the SSL program, he said.

“When she came onto the career liaison team, I knew with her skill set and leadership style she could help grow the program,” Harbuck said.

Slagell was paired with empirical foods to serve as an on-campus guide, Harbuck said, a pairing that later helped her secure an internship.

Her role as a career liaison put her in the right place at the right time to make a connection with the company she will start her career with, he said.

Slagell has shown the value of the SSL program and how it can impact a student’s college career, he said.

“Slagell has been selected to wear the orange gown at commencement to represent the Ferguson College of Agriculture,” Pfeiffer said. “Erin is someone a lot of students should aspire to be like.”

After graduation, Slagell will move to South Dakota to begin her career at Empirical Foods. In her position as a technical services supervisor, she will continue to work with students, claimed products and logistics within the company.

“My time in the Ferguson College of Agriculture has prepared me for my future because it has given me the opportunities to grow as a leader, work on my communication skills, and have the chance to work one-on-one with students,” Slagell said. “It has given me the chance to do hands-on learning.”

 Her experiences at OSU make her confident in her future career, she said.

“That’s a part of what we try to get all students to do — to find where they belong, be engaged, and thrive — and Erin did that,” Clary said.

Story by: Kate Jackson | Cowboy Journal

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