CANR Outstanding Student Leader talks about making an impact

MSU graduate Lauren Heberling shared how the little things in life can create changes in the world around us.

MSU graduate Lauren Heberling shared how the little things in life can create changes in the world around us.

Lauren Heberling studied agribusiness management and food industry management and graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University.
Lauren Heberling studied agribusiness management and food industry management and graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that most of us in our graduating class are probably a little disappointed with how this piece of our journey has come to end. However, while this may not have been the ending that we had in mind, the swift way our lives have changed show us how resilient, thoughtful and innovative we all are.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a quote. “When people think about traveling to the past, they worry about accidentally changing the present by doing the smallest of things differently, but no one in the present really thinks they can radically change the future in small ways.” Lately, we have really been forced to think about our own futures and what that future looks like. Specifically, with life being so unpredictable, how can we continue to change the future for the better? Over the last four years, I have begun to find that the answer lies in the details, the small things.

While interviewing for the CANR Outstanding Student Leadership Award, I had a chance at the end of the interview to ask the panel of judges a few questions of my own. In light of the current circumstances, one question, in particular, came to mind. With our world becoming increasingly digital, and especially now with almost everything being virtual, how do you continue to build relationships with others? Members of the panel spoke about finding new ways to connect students with potential employers, consistently prioritizing check-ins with students and always remembering to meet others where they are.

There was one answer, though, that really stuck with me. It was from Jeff Keson, CANR Assistant Director for Recruitment and Retention. When addressing questions and concerns of potential students, he uses a method that is much more personal.

“When I am in a situation where I need to direct somebody to another office,” Jeff said, “I try to always connect everything to a name. I won’t just say, here is an email or here is a phone number. I will say, hey, I have a friend over here, this is their name, here is how you can reach them, they will be able to help you find just what you need.”

I know, at the surface, this method might not seem groundbreaking, it is a few extra words. But the way he carefully selects these words and pays attention to the seemingly small details of a routine conversation can completely change the experience for an individual. I mean, how many of us have been impacted by something like this throughout the last four years? That one professor who decided to ask you a question about your future. That one friend who showed up at your door. You see, it’s the little things. The very small ones. They’re the ones that add up. They’re the ones that make a huge impact.

Over the last few months, we have seen big events, important meetings and awesome trips very easily disappear from our calendars. However, our relationships with others have a cool way of withstanding all of the world’s unforeseen disasters. The things we do day in and day out to connect with those around us and the ways we invest our time and energy into the minute details are never canceled.

Give your energy to the details, your wording and your conversations, and you will be amazed at what you can do. In your career, think big picture, but be mindful of the importance of the seemingly small things — the relationships you make with coworkers, clients and your networks. In your life, don’t let the challenges and monotony of the day to day stifle your desire to create small and continuous change in the world around you. Above all else, challenge yourself to relish in the ways that these very different times have already changed us for the better and the unique way it has forced perspective on us. The big things in life may be put on pause, but the little things remain, and they are, in fact, the key to radically changing the future.

My message today is simple. It’s small things that make a big impact. It’s meant to remind you of the power each and every one of us holds. Your potential is not found in your ability to do huge and miraculous things. It is held in the words and the actions you emit each day and what you intentionally choose to give others.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020. May the rest of your life be filled with happiness, love and meaningful relationships with others.

Thank you and GO GREEN!

Watch Lauren Heberling's student speech from the CANR Spring Commencement Celebration on May 16, 2020 (starts 8:07).


Lauren Heberling studied agribusiness management and food industry management and graduated from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. She received the 2020 CANR Outstanding Student Leadership Award, one of the college’s highest undergraduate student awards. Heberling grew up on a dairy farm and is the first generation in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Following graduation, she began working within the appraisal department at Greenstone Farm Credit Services in East Lansing, Michigan.

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