Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Bentley
Jennifer Bentley’s passion for the dairy industry runs deep, so it makes sense that she came to Iowa State and got involved in all things dairy. After transferring from Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), Jennifer jumped into activities like the Dairy Science Club and Dairy Challenge team.
Originally from Stacyville, Iowa, Jennifer grew up on her family’s dairy operation and loved working with animals. Her involvement at home became her “why,” and after showing dairy through FFA, she wanted to continue her learning and foster her passion for the industry. This led Jennifer to NICC in Calmar, Iowa, and her involvement in their two-year dairy management program. After contemplating going back home or pursuing a career in the industry, she landed at Iowa State to obtain her bachelor’s degree in dairy science in 2002. Jennifer credits her advisors, Lee Kilmer and Howard Tyler, for guiding her path at Iowa State. “They were great mentors and had a big impact on my career path and direction to pursue a master’s degree.”
After Iowa State, she headed back to northeast Iowa, where she was hired on with the Iowa State University Research and Demonstration Farms at the Northeast Iowa Dairy and Ag Foundation location. At the time, she was the bridge between collecting research, demonstrating herd management practices, and collaborating with projects at Iowa State. The farm was a satellite for many of Howard Tyler’s projects and included things like calf feeding and dry cow trials. Between managing the young calves and working with research, Jennifer was able to pursue her interest in young stock management. Here, Jennifer also obtained her Master of Agriculture degree through an online program with Iowa State.
Then, Jennifer took a position with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach as a dairy field specialist. She focuses on taking research-based information from campus out to the state and producers. “No two days are the same, so it makes my job very interesting. “I listen to the needs of the producers and then offer resources and recommendations to help them make good management decisions for sustainability and profitability. We want our Iowa dairy producers to thrive, enhancing their dairy profits and quality of life.”
She also takes on teaching and outreach in dairy herd and youngstock management, offering a breadth of learning opportunities for the industry, producers, youth, and consumers. Jennifer said that Iowa State helped prepare her for this role through the different activities that she got involved in. “Through the Dairy Science Club, I got to know my peers and build relationships with people in the industry. I built leadership skills that were valuable, no matter where I would have been taken in my career.”
Her favorite class was ANS 434: Dairy System Management with Howard Tyler. Jennifer says this class directly translates into what she does and helped teach her about working with producers and dairy herd management practices.
Jennifer says her most meaningful moment at Iowa State was being a part of the Dairy Challenge team. “It was so new when I was there. My teammates and I were the first to participate in the contest. I was able to learn from everyone and it allowed me to get out and meet people involved in the industry.”
Jennifer’s advice to current students:
“Take any opportunity to experience new things. You can't take back time, so take advantage of the opportunities and experiences when you can, you won't regret it. Also, find a mentor (s) and use them as guide to help you through and it will make your experience much more impactful then and in the future.”