Thursday, April 18, 2024

Cotton School Creates Career Opportunities

By Tommy Horton

Need to find an important contact in the U.S. cotton industry that might lead to a career opportunity? One of the best places to find such an environment is the International Cotton Institute conducted each year at the University of Memphis.

Regardless of what part of the cotton world a student has an interest, he (or she) will likely find it in this seven-week school, which completed another session in mid-July.

Whether it’s a social event associated with the school, noted speakers teaching a class or creating international friendships, the path to a new career can be made easier.

Such was the case for Samantha Shoaf, a recent graduate of the school and a member of a well-known farm family in West Tennessee. She had already earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in agronomy and plant science. She then moved on to Purdue University and earned a doctorate degree in a similar academic discipline.

Working In Washington

Shoaf is now in Washington where she works as a Congressional Science Fellow. It is a one-year fellowship and allows her to be a consultant on all scientific issues for representatives and senators.

She describes the job as incorporating sound science into legislation by providing members of Congress with accurate information and current research. She will be working on the staff of a member of Congress or on a congressional committee.

Other members of Shoaf’s family have previously graduated from the International Cotton Institute and encouraged her to enroll. They believed the experience would open additional career opportunities for her.

“I had been aware of the school fora number of years,” she says. “This was the perfect summer for me to participate, and it was a wonderful academic experience.”

Shoaf knew that her knowledge of the cotton industry would definitely improve if she could learn more about marketing. Initially, the sessions about how cotton transactions occur daily on the Intercontinental Exchange in New York were a bit overwhelming. How-ever, her classmates were quick to help with any question that she had.

“I wanted to have a more diversified background in agriculture as I look ahead to my career,” she says. “I thought it would give me a great introduction to the financial side of the cotton industry.”

Sharing Information

It’s hard to know where Samantha Shoaf’s career path will take her in the future. She will certainly get a taste of Washington during the next year while she works in Congress. Ultimately, she’d like to return to help with the family farm business, but she is keeping all of her options open.

“Whatever path I take, I know that being a part of this school has helped me a great deal,” she says.

Bill Griffin, director of the Inter-national Cotton Institute, says Shoaf can pursue a number of career opportunities in agriculture.

“We’ve had other members of her family in this school,” he says. “She has continued the tradition for the Shoaf family, and I’m confident that she’s headed in the right direction.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or

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