By Lura Roti

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We probably all remember being asked this question as elementary students.

The question matures a bit as high school graduation nears. “What are your plans after high school?” But the premise is the same. And we either know the answer or we don’t.

The answer, if it comes to fruition, does shape our lives. Our career has the potential to determine so much about what our life will become because often our career determines our income and impacts our overall happiness. Our career often determines who we associate with and how we spend most of our time.

What we do, does impact who we are.

Of course, most of us don’t think of all the outcomes when we try to answer this question as youth. I know I sure didn’t. But I’m happy I did choose the career path I did.

Journalism. I decided to become a journalist in middle school. There had been a few other career interests prior to eighth grade. Initially I wanted to become a nurse or a teacher. But then I fainted after an injury and realized nursing was not the career for me.

Playing teacher consumed my free time. I’m not sure what or who changed my mind to journalism. But I do remember the moment I decided I would become an agriculture journalist.

I won a regional FFA speaking contest as a high school freshman and the local newspaper asked to do a story about me. FFA is an agriculture leadership organization. As part of the interview, the reporter asked me what I wanted to do, and after I told him, he said, “you know, there is an agriculture journalism degree.”

From that moment on, I knew I would go to South Dakota State University and major in agriculture journalism.

It was among the best decisions I have ever made. (The other one is marrying my husband…also a decision that has life-long impacts.)

To this day, when I set foot on the campus of SDSU, I get this feeling that I can only describe as one of belonging. The four and a half years I was a Jackrabbit were truly some of the best years of my life.

Up till then, I had survived socially. In college I thrived.

I enjoyed the engagement with professors. I loved the friendships I made. I valued my personal freedom. I even thought the 10-by-14 cinder block dorm room I shared in Hansen Hall was pretty darn cool.

The degree I received along with the network I developed at SDSU continues to have a positive impact my career. In fact, I returned to SDSU nearly 20 years after my bachelors to complete my Master of Mass Communication degree.

Today, as a seasoned journalist, when I reflect on how I answered one of life’s big questions: What do you want to be when you grow up? I am grateful for the choice I made because I do love the work I do, the people I get to work with, the individuals I work for and the life my career enables me to live. I’m equally grateful I chose SDSU as my launch point.