Alumna is creating impact by supporting the vital transition to digital agriculture
The self-proclaimed data nerd and Northern Neck of Virginia native didn’t happen upon Virginia Tech by chance. Annah Latané ’11 comes from an entire family of Hokies to include grandfather James Latané ‘38, father Bill Latané ‘77, brother, aunts, cousins, and also husband Nicholas Zastrow, AIA, ’12 who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.
Latané began her studies at Virginia Tech in 2007 in International Studies due to an interest in travel. During the spring semester of her sophomore year, she had the opportunity to go to Spain and Ecuador for two study abroad experiences, but felt that something was missing. She took the advice of her dad who worked over 40 years for Virginia Farm Bureau before retiring, to check out the agricultural and applied economics program. She found the department to be a great fit, and focused on environmental issues through both her B.S. in Ag Econ and B.A. in International Studies.
While her education has impacted her career, so did many of the professors. Kurt Stephenson was one of them. His environmental economics class laid the foundation that solidified her passion. "He was ‘my champion’ and saw my ability to do research and encouraged me to present at conferences during my senior year,” she said. He also encouraged Latané to pursue a graduate degree, which she did and graduated in 2014 with a M.S. in Applied Economics from Oregon State University.
Other professors Jeff Alwang, George Norton, and Darrel Bosch provided Latané the opportunity to discover the challenges and rewards of conducting research cross-culturally. Thanks to them, this was an experience during her study abroad to Ecuador that helped set the foundation for her globally-focused career.
With degree in hand, Latané stayed at Virginia Tech for an additional semester and worked as a research associate. She was a member of an interdisciplinary policy working group examining nutrient cycling in animal waste to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Latané was responsible for communicating with biological systems engineers and soil scientists and translating scientific details into charts and spreadsheet models to determine the economic impact of policy scenarios.
Latané is proud of her Virginia Tech degree and experiences. We asked how it has helped with career growth and she immediately said, “My degree has given me the knowledge and confidence to trust in my ability to always find the answer.”
Today Latané, who speaks French and Spanish, works for Syngenta as an Associate Product Manager. Syngenta is a global company with headquarters in Switzerland (employs over 28,000, in more than 100 countries) and is working to transform how crops are grown and protected. She develops digital platforms for farmers that help track stats on their crops. “This platform will help farmers achieve better yields,” said Annah.
The Hokie hasn’t been back to campus in a few years, but plans to return so she can share her love for Virginia Tech with her daughter Evelyn once she is a little older, and hopefully continue the legacy.
Latané and her husband currently reside in Durham, NC.
By Melissa Vidmar