A 2013 Ballard High School graduate said the award she received from Iowa State’s College of Agriculture was not the highlight of her four years at Iowa State, but was certainly “the cherry on top of a sweet ride.”


Katlyn Kahler, daughter of Pam and Wade Kahler of rural Cambridge, was a third-generation Ballard High School graduate in her family. She went on to Iowa State, where just two weeks prior to graduation, she found out she was the recipient of the 2017 ISU College of Ag and Life Sciences Woman of the Year. The award was presented to her during the College of Ag’s send-off breakfast and her picture was posted on the big screen in Hilton Coliseum during the College of Ag Convocation Ceremony.


“There are so many other strong agricultural women my age at Iowa State that deserved this award, and it’s truly humbling for me that the College of Ag and Life Sciences chose me to represent them with this honor,” said Kahler, who earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science and a minor in international agriculture. She also earned an online swine science certificate (basically another minor in swine science) through the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.


Kahler, who graduated from ISU on May 6, has started a full-time position with PigCHAMP Knowledge Software in Ames, where she works as a customer support specialist. She said her career plans also include expanding her cattle herd that she started with her dad. “I also hope to volunteer with Story County 4-H program and other agriculture groups in the area,” she added.


Growing up on a farm and as a participant of 4-H, Kahler said she was always surrounded by pigs, cattle and horses. “I grew a strong passion for the swine industry based off my background and I knew that I wanted to be part of it,” she said. She thought about pursuing her degree at several other universities, before meeting with a couple professors at nearby Iowa State and receiving a number of scholarships there, which solidified her decision to be a Cyclone.


“Looking back, it was definitely the right choice,” she said. One thing that helped her get the most out of her education, she reflects, is never saying no. “Whether it was a leadership position, club committee, school trip, studying abroad or internship, I never missed a chance to take advantage of those opportunities, even if it meant getting out of my comfort zone.” She also made it a point to show up for classes regularly.


She also has several other words of advice for high school students getting ready to embark on their college career. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and truly be yourself.” She tells a story about her first Block and Bridle club meeting, where she had to introduce herself. “I stood up in front of a couple hundred club members whom I had never met and said my name, hometown and that I joined Block and Bridle to network, meet new people and find a husband.” She said the entire room broke out in laughter, but everyone, from that point on, was able to remember her and her name. “I went out on a limb to make a lasting impression early on, and it paid off…”


She also made a decision, by attending Iowa State, to stay close to home, which many kids don’t want to do. “The one thing you want to do after high school is to get as far away from that school as possible. However, I was able to travel to three continents, seven countries and 19 different states because I went to a university so close to home.” Kahler explains that Iowa State has dozens of opportunities to “see the world” and it’s “extremely affordable” for the quality of education you receive. “Don’t be afraid to go to school close to home,” she advises.


Looking further back, to her youth and high school days, Kahler said that aside from her parents, one of the biggest influences in her life was the late Larry Anderson, who was her 4-H leader for many years and was a lifetime supporter of 4-H. “His enthusiasm for 4-H was no doubt contagious and one of the many reasons I gained so much out of the program.”


Also important for her was the education, especially in the science department, that she received at Ballard High School. “As an animal science major, I had to take a lot of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, biology, microbiology, genetics and biochemistry courses. There were more times than not that I was thankful I had taken all the courses Mr. Vespestad and Mr. Edgar had to offer at Ballard, because the material was very similar.”


Kahler is also thankful that because Ballard did not have an FFA program when she was a student there, that she was able to be part of the FFA program at North Polk. “With that experience, I was able to find a group of students who were excited about agriculture just like me, and helped solidify that the agriculture industry was where I needed to be,” she said.


As for the award she received at Iowa State, Kahler is very level-headed about what that recognition means to her. “I’m not going to use this award as a crutch in the future, but more as an expectation,” she said. “Iowa State saw great things in me, chose to recognize me for it, and I’m going to continue to work hard and make a difference in the agriculture industry to live up to that honor.”