Kristi Mensen came to Hawkeye Community College for the Animal Science program, intent on learning skills that would help the family dairy business grow and thrive. Growing up on a farm near Dyersville, she didn’t travel beyond the Midwest and never considered she could make connections around the world – especially not related to agriculture.
Then she met Brad Kinsinger, director of the Global Agriculture Learning Center. Before long Mensen was on a flight with Kinsinger and 12 other Hawkeye students to spend spring break in northeastern Brazil, learning about the South American agricultural economy.
“It was an amazing experience,” Mensen said. “It was a great group of people, and I’m now really good friends with people from Brazil.”
The week in Brazil gave Mensen a whole new perspective on agriculture, and a drive to learn more. When she learned about the trip to Kosovo organized by the Iowa Sister States, she eagerly volunteered.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity and I hope I can encourage more students to go next year,” Mensen said. In Kosovo, Mensen and Kinsinger were part of a statewide delegation meeting with government officials, touring agricultural businesses, and collaborating on ways to build sustainable agricultural practices for that country.
Mensen wasn’t just a spectator in Kosovo. She was part of conversations with the prime minister and minister of agriculture, who had as many questions about her family’s dairy farm as she did about Kosovar farming.
“I really enjoyed building all of those relationships,” Mensen said. “I made more relationships than I ever thought I would have around the world.”
She now shares photos of her family’s dairy farm with the Kosovar agriculture minister on Snapchat.
“It’s cool to say that I’m a college student and I have those relationships because of Hawkeye,” she said.
Mensen plans to complete the Animal Science program at Hawkeye, then transfer to pursue a bachelor’s degree in an agriculture program with a minor in international studies. She sees a role for herself not just in the family business, but in making a positive impact on farming practices across the globe.
“I never thought I would be doing anything internationally,” she said. “I’m a small town girl, and I didn’t ever see this as a path for me until now.”