Alumni Spotlight- Lesley Gleason
Lesley Gleason (TAMU 2005) is the Program Coordinator for Texas A&M Poultry Science- the program from which she also graduated as a Terry Scholar. When she’s not on campus, she spends time with her daughter, Avery, and husband, Kevin. Dedicated to the Terrys’ vision, Lesley has been an active Terry Alumna serving on both the Advisory Board and as an interview panelist over several interview cycles.
The Poultry Way
I graduated from the Poultry Science department with my bachelor’s. I went to grad school at Oklahoma State for two years and got my master’s. While I was at Oklahoma State, I did my assistantship with International Student Services. I didn’t really know much about it, but I thought, I just want to work with students. It doesn’t really matter to me if they’re Poultry or International. It’d be a good learning experience. When I graduated, a position opened at International Student Services here at A&M. I figured if I wanted to be at A&M eventually, I just needed to get my foot in the door and just start working on campus somewhere and then I could finagle from place to place. I actually worked there for about four years when this position opened. The advisor that had been in this position before me was actually my advisor, and she had left to go teach. I took this is a sign from God, because where else could I work where I could use a poultry bachelor’s and a higher education master’s?
Part of the reason they hired me was because they were looking to improve our recruitment efforts. We’re a small department. We have around 140 undergrads, and when you compare that to how many students are at Texas A&M, we’re definitely a small community. We’re a little fish in a big pond. A handful of people go into our field just by nature. Their parents work in the poultry industry; they raised chickens through the show scene. There are just not a lot of people who say, “I want to be a poultry science major when I grow up.” So, a lot of our job is education. We get our name out there by doing recruiting events, and again, a lot of those students have never thought about poultry before, but one thing that’s really worked in our favor the past two years is our Pre-Veterinary route.
Our Pre-Vet track is similar to an Animal Science track in the sense that you’re going to take some classes specific to our field, but you’re also going to complete all but four or five classes that are prerequisites for Vet School. You’re still going to take Organic Chemistry , Biochem., Genetics, all of those things. It’s kind of a non-traditional route, but it’s really helped us to promote some distinguishing elements:
a) It’s a little bit different. When you look at Vet School, there are hundreds of people coming from Animal Science and hundreds from Biological Science. Poultry Science is something a little different that helps our students stand out.
b) We have 100% job placement. Every student, if they’re wanting to get into industry, is guaranteed a job right out of college. I promote that a lot because Vet School is very difficult to get into, especially the first try. Students start out thinking the only job they can have work with animals is to be a Veterinarian. One thing we really promote is that a major like ours gives you the prerequisites you need to get into vet school, but if you don’t get in, or if you change your mind, the back-up plan has 100% job placement. That’s been very successful for us.
Typically, we will promote the technical route for anyone that’s looking into a professional program. For us, that means vet school, and we often have some kids that do med school. We actually have two Terrys that are looking into nursing, but they’re using our track to get there. It’s funny because they were actually freshmen during my first year here. At New Student Conference, both of them said, “I’m on this scholarship- you probably never heard of it- the Terry Scholarship.”
I was jumping up and down saying, “We have TWO in one year. This is crazy!”
It has been pretty neat seeing them at the banquet every year.
Selecting New Terrys and Beyond
I definitely look forward to Terry Interview season each year. Every year I leave humbled and unsure of how I got the scholarship. I think all of us on the panels say, “Man, I don’t know how I got picked!”
I think now for what I do at my job- looking at admissions and grades- has really given me a step forward in the interviewing process. Before I started this job, I think I based a lot on feeling.
Do they feel like Terry material?
Do they feel like someone I would have wanted to be a Terry with- and do things in the student organization?
This year was a little bit different because I served on a transfer panel and found myself asking,
Are they going to be able to make that transition smoothly?
Are they going to make that transition and be involved on campus, or are they already kind of set in their college ways?
Everyone on the panel is looking for something a little bit different, and everyone has a different interpretation of what they see in the candidates.
As we move forward, in five years, ten years from now, it’s going to be a little harder for the new Scholars to connect their gift back to Mr. Terry. Those of us who were Scholars when he was around need to make sure we’re telling this next generation, “This is his story.” That’s the challenge- a challenge that we have to make sure is continued. We want to make sure they know this scholarship is something they received because of a family- not just a check in the mail.
It’s been a great experience- the biggest blessing of my life.