Feb. 20, 2012
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Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award 2012



“Never apologize for an idea.”

Kenda M. Resler Friend
Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell
Kenda Resler Friend is shown in Dow AgroSciences’ Indianapolis headquarters with a John Deere 40 tractor, the first tractor the company used when it began operations in 1953.

Sixth in a series highlighting this year’s recipients of the Purdue University College of Agriculture’s Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award. The series will continue each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to March 2, when the honorees will receive their awards during 3:30 pm. convocation in the Purdue Memorial Union North Ballroom.

Kenda M. Resler Friend, MS ’91, of Indianapolis, is a global communications leader for the Enlist Weed Control System at Dow AgroSciences, a global company with more than 7,000 employees and annual sales of $5.6 billion. She previously led corporate and executive communication for the Indianapolis-based company. Before joining Dow more than a decade ago, she worked on the communications agency side of the ag industry, including serving as a vice president at a leading agricultural communications agency. Resler Friend was the 2007 winner of Indiana’s Women in Agriculture Leadership Award and the 2000 winner of Purdue’s Outstanding Young Alumni Award.

• Which Purdue faculty member had the most profound impact on your professional career? I tip my hat to Steve Cain, who was leading the Ag Communication Service News Unit during my time at Purdue. Steve gave me great freedom as a writer to explore stories and build my communication skills, an opportunity for which I am grateful. He also personified the importance of networking. When I was about to graduate with my master’s degree, Steve provided the contact and helped me secure an interview at a public relations firm in New Jersey. They hired me on the spot, and my career took off from there.

• What part of your visit back to campus in March are you most looking forward to? I’m lucky to live in Indianapolis, so I have the chance to be at Purdue quite a bit. This occasion in March will be special in terms of spending some quality time with the College of Agriculture faculty and students as well as being joined by my family and close friends.

• Why did you select Purdue as the place to continue your education? I was a very active 10-year 4-H member in Elkhart County, and that Purdue connection was a great influence in selecting where I went to college. From attending 4-H Round-Up on campus as a preteen to being on State Junior Leader Council as a senior in high school and interacting with the state 4-H staff, every contact reinforced Purdue as the place for me.

• Where was your favorite place on campus to study? I was a member of Twin Pines Cooperative, and there were a lot of great spots in the house from the “back study” to the “bum room” where I could study. Remember, this was before email and the Internet, so it was actual books I was carting around. So staying at the house worked well.

• Were you a good student at Purdue? Yes. I graduated with high honors as an undergrad and had a 6.0 in grad school. (Today’s students may not realize Purdue was on a 6.0 scale way back when.) I thrived on balancing the academics with the many activities and did my best work when I was busiest.

• What was the most difficult course you took at Purdue? Economics. I did not have a lot of exposure to that topic before, and while I found it fascinating and learned a lot, I struggled on the tests.

• What do you miss most about your college days at Purdue? Do I miss living on a couple hundred dollars a month, sharing a tiny closet or fighting for parking spaces? No. Do I miss the ability to play euchre into the night or always have a buddy handy to hang out with? Yes! All kidding aside, it is that special daily contact with friends that made college days so special and built friendships for a lifetime.

• What is the best advice you got while you were at Purdue? Dr. Bob Ritchie was on my graduate committee master’s research project, which involved investigating why kids drop out of 4-H. Dr. Ritchie encouraged me to “dig beyond the obvious” to really see what was going on and how the Extension service could address the issue of older kids dropping out of 4-H. It would have been easy to say, “Oh, kids just get busy once they can drive” and try to make that the answer. Yet the real answer I found through research related to the quality of the adult volunteer leadership, which is something that can be acted upon and improved. In my job as global communications leader for a leading life-science company, that advice of moving beyond the easy answer to get to the bottom of an issue remains very relevant.

• What is the best advice you have ever given? Never apologize for an idea. All too often, women in business “qualify” their contributions with prefaces like “This may not work, but here’s my idea.” What type of mindset does that instill in the group about to discuss the topic? Being 20 years into my career, I have seen the impact this type of “qualifying language” can have and advised both junior associates and executives on the importance of how an idea is presented. You say you are sorry when you spill coffee in someone’s car, but NOT when you are bringing forward an idea based on your perspective and experience.

Read about other 2012 Distinguished Agriculture Alumni Award winners.


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