by Rachel Waggie, agricultural education and communication master’s student
This May will mark 20 years since Jennifer Hotchkiss Shike graduated from Kansas State University’s Agricultural Journalism program – now the Agricultural Communications and Journalism program. Shike transferred to K-State for her final two years of college and was a dual-major in agricultural journalism and animal sciences and industry. During her collegiate career, she was a member of both the horse and livestock judging teams and completed three internships, which she credits as a key part of her educational experience. Shike interned
with the Washington County Extension Office in Washington, Iowa; Seedstock Edge/National Swine Registry in West Lafayette, Ind.; and the Angus Journal in St Joseph, Mo., before graduating in May 2000. She notes that internships “opened doors to opportunities for my future careers, helped me build a network in the industry, allowed me to get real-world experience and maybe most importantly, helped me realize things I did and did not want to do in a future career while having respect for the growth process.”
Before entering her current role as Farm Journal’s PORK editor, Shike served as National Swine Registry director of junior activities. She later went on to work for the University of Illinois as a news writer and then director of communications and marketing.
“Organizing the National Junior Swine Association from the ground up was an amazing opportunity that I still can’t believe I was able to do. Through that I learned so much about communication, organizational development and people – I can’t imagine my perspective at this point of my life without it. Going to work for the University of Illinois…just grew my experience base tenfold,” Shike remarks. “If I would have limited myself to immediately going to work for a livestock magazine as I had dreamed in college, I would have missed out on so much.”
Reflecting on her time at K-State, Shike fondly remembers working with faculty and staff in ag journalism. She says they were very supportive of her as a dual-major and especially appreciates Dr. Boone’s encouragement and support. “I was involved in ACT and she always made that a fun and rewarding experience. She encouraged me to get out in the industry and experience ag communications firsthand,” Shike recalls. Shike also credits her peers from K-State who motivated her to push her boundaries and sharpened her as a writer and communicator. Currently, Shike serves on the Livestock Publications Council board of directors and as a committee co-chair in AAEA – The Ag Communicators Network.
Shike and her husband, Dan, who is also a K-State alum, live near Champaign, Illinois. The Shikes have three children – Olivia, 13; Hunter, 11; and Harper, 6.
“Our kids definitely keep us on the go – we all enjoy showing pigs as a family and the kids pretty much live in the barn in the summer when they aren’t in school,” she says.
Jennifer and Dan originally met at Black Hawk College East Campus while on the livestock judging team. Both continued their judging careers at K-State, and judge at livestock shows still today. Dan judges livestock shows throughout the country and has been fortunate to judge in some amazing places outside of the U.S. like the Sydney Royal Show in Australia and most recently, the Royal Adelaide show in Australia. Jennifer recently judged showmanship at the Arizona National Livestock Show. At the community level, with all three kids involved in 4-H, the Shikes assist with the county 4-H livestock judging team.
When asked what advice she would offer to current students, Shike says, “Be open minded and push yourself to think outside of the box. The very best part of this major is the flexibility – there are so many ways to apply what you are learning and that is exciting! I know I’ve been able to get to where I am today because of that strong base I developed at K-State.”