Students for Cultivating Change hosts webinar on inclusion and diversity in ag

Justin Heasley
May 09, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Students for Cultivating Change organization in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences recently hosted a webinar focusing on inclusion and diversity in agriculture, which was presented by Ashlee Davis, the global lead for external affairs for Cargill, a privately held corporation headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Students for Cultivating Change is the Penn State student chapter of the national Cultivating Change Foundation. Students for Cultivating Change promotes a safe, inclusive network for students interested in agricultural sciences who are in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally (LGBTQA) community.

Members strive to promote inclusion, foster a sense of community, and increase visibility within the College of Agricultural Sciences and larger Penn State community for LGBTQA individuals by hosting educational and outreach events.

As global lead for external affairs focusing on global inclusion and diversity for Cargill, Davis is a strategic leader of key processes that support employees in more than 70 countries. Her work has allowed Cargill to be in the forefront of inclusion and diversity.

Before joining Cargill, Davis received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to receive a law degree from Howard University School of Law. She then became an intern at the White House and worked for other governmental agencies, such as U.S. Department of Agriculture.

During the presentation, Davis explained how Cargill focuses on “fostering inclusion to unleash the power of diversity.” She said all companies need to demonstrate how they value every employee. This may require people to have uncomfortable discussions, but this will lead to more representation within the company and help the company grow, she said.

In addition, Cargill has four “Global Inclusion and Diversity Strategic Pillars.” They are Inclusive Environment and Culture, Inclusive and Diverse Workforce, Effective Philanthropy and Outreach, and Business Value through Inclusion and Diversity. These four pillars help employees feel represented and allow Cargill to be a model for other companies to follow, Davis noted.

Cargill also participates in the community to show its support for inclusion and diversity. The company held a “Management Leadership for Tomorrow” program to inspire the next generation of leaders, and more than 200 underrepresented youth attended.

The company was represented in the Twin Cities Pride Parade, an annual celebration in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, focusing on the LGBTQA community. In addition, Cargill has been identified as a Yellow Ribbon Company by the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs for its support of veterans and military families, and the company supports women in high profile executive jobs.

Davis advised club members to “find the intersection of your passion and the world’s needs, embrace dissenting opinions and, lastly, protect and preserve your mind, health and happiness.”

Jenneth Layaou, director of student retention and enrollment for the College of Agricultural Sciences and adviser to the student organization, said the industry conversation series hosted by Students for Cultivating Change brings valuable dialogue to Penn State on how each company values diversity and inclusion.

“As we prepare students for the next step after graduation, we talk about the ‘top 10’ skills that industries want, and though those skills have value, we miss an important conversation,” she said. “We need to talk about how future employers of our students view building teams of people with different backgrounds, education, skills and experience to create value, to embrace diversity and to demonstrate inclusion.”

Students for Cultivating Change’s mission is “Valuing and elevating LGBT agriculturists through advocacy, education and community.” It works toward the goal through three strategies. The first is to hold an annual summit, during which individuals throughout the agricultural community come together to compare ideas on how to combat various problems faced by the LGBTQA community in the agricultural sector.

The second strategy is holding regional caucuses that include, but are not limited to, roundtable discussions and networking events. These events allow Cultivating Change to showcase how inclusion and diversity can help the industry grow.

The third strategy is holding industry events. During these events, Cultivating Change can form relationships and partnerships with various agricultural companies. These relationships and partnerships can help the companies realize the benefits of being more inclusive and valuing diversity.

More information about the organization can be found at

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Last Updated May 09, 2019