Jill Steiner has adopted a “listen first” policy since Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed her this summer to a two-year term as the student representative on the Purdue University Board of Trustees.
Finding out she had been appointed the student representative to Purdue University’s Board of Trustees could not have come at a better time for Jill Steiner, a junior from Berne, Ind.
The confirmation call from Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office on June 27 was an off-the-chart highlight in Steiner’s week that had more ups and downs than a Marine Corps push-up contest.
Steiner, who had a summer internship with Monsanto in Nebraska, was participating in a training program for the company in California when she got the offer she couldn’t refuse to join the 10-person board of trustees. The appointment is for two years.
For Steiner, the last week in June was a whirlwind of travel that included visits to six states in six days, a bumped flight and lost luggage, and the chance to experience Los Angeles freeway traffic for the first time.
“I think driving in that traffic took five years off my life,” says Steiner, who learned to drive in her hometown of 4,150 people on Indiana’s eastern edge, about 30 miles south of Fort Wayne.
But that phone call gave her back those five years, plus some.
Members of Gov. Daniels’ staff interviewed three finalists for the position to replace Rachel Cumberbatch, BS ’07, an animal sciences student who was required to step down as student representative upon graduation.
“Jill will complement the already strong agriculture perspective provided by (trustees) John Hardin and JoAnn Brouillette, and will bring a perspective for the next generation of Hoosier farmers that is so essential in our efforts to make agriculture an integral part of our economic comeback,” Daniels said in a statement. Steiner is majoring in agricultural economics and agricultural communication.
Out of a large pool of student applicants, Steiner was one of about 20 selected by a committee to interview for the prestigious position during the spring semester. But when the semester ended and she started her internship without having heard from the governor’s office, she didn’t think her chances were too good.
“The board of trustees appointment was something I thought about and prayed about often,” Steiner now admits. “But I really didn’t think I was going to get it.”
The other two finalists were interviewed in person at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. But Steiner interviewed by phone, since she had already relocated to Nebraska.
“I didn’t think that was a good sign,” says Steiner, who reluctantly applied for the position in February.
“When I first considered applying for the trustee position, I thought, ‘No, I’m too busy right now; that is just too much of a time commitment,’” Steiner says. “I thought I had done just about everything I wanted to accomplish while I was at Purdue. And I certainly didn’t want my grades to suffer. I’m not the best student when it comes to science and math, and I wanted to be sure I had time for my studies. There are so many opportunities for me right now, but my biggest focus still has to be my grades.”
But a couple of Steiner’s accomplished friends wouldn’t let her put her academic career on cruise control.
“You’re only a junior,” said Bridgette Golden, her adviser in Purdue’s Old Masters program. “You can do so much more with your career.”
Since then, Merrill has played the role of big sister, role model and adviser for Steiner. As the 2004 winner of the Flora Roberts Award as Purdue’s top graduating female, Merrill is well qualified to fill those roles.
“Stephanie showed me that opportunities are endless at Purdue,” Steiner says. “She made me aware of all the things I can do at this university. I used to call her all the time and say, ‘Is this a good thing to get involved in?’”
For Purdue’s newest trustee, the advice was well received.