Like many undergraduates today, Katie White did not come to college with a clear vision of what she wanted her career to look like. And that is exactly why she relates so well to many students in The Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

From studying environmental policy as a freshman and sophomore, to pursuing environmental economics as a junior, finding an interest in agribusiness as a senior and graduate student, Katie White has again arrived at Hutcheson Hall, now as undergraduate academic and student support advisor.

“As an alumna, Katie’s knowledge of our curricula is deep, and we expect her industry experience to be exceedingly helpful for our students,” said Mike Ellerbrock, agricultural and applied economics professor and undergraduate director. “She’s a perfect fit for the position.”

White is two-time alumna of the department, earning a bachelor’s degree in 2011 and a master’s in 2013.

“I want to give back to the department that gave so much to me; and to do what I can to make it even better,” said White.

White discovered her passion for working with students while completing her graduate work in the department as a graduate teaching assistant and an undergraduate mentor. And although she left academia to pursue a job with Farm Credit, she never stopped pursuing that passion. Working her first post-college job at Carolina Farm Credit in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, White continued to engage students by giving presentations at North Carolina State University about internship opportunities, and remaining involved in the Virginia Tech chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma as an advisor.

“I really enjoy working with students – it’s the one thing I really missed at Farm Credit,” said White. “But now that I’ve been out in the private sector, I’m in a better position to show students all the opportunities they can have. I can share tips and tricks since I know what the industry is looking for.”

As academic advisor, White hopes to spread the “Ag Econ” message that this department is diverse, offers many career options, and most importantly, it cares about its students.

“The biggest thing I can do as advisor is to truly take care of our students – to be available, accessible, and empathetic,” said White. “I’m there as their resource and their mentor, and that makes the biggest difference. If you make a difference in the life of a student, they’ll spread the word – who doesn’t want to be a part of that?”

White is especially excited to be working with undergraduates in what are some of the most formative years of their lives.

“These years define who you are because you make some of the most difficult life decisions without your parents,” said White. “You need to ask yourself if you’re going to be a leader or just follow what everyone else does; are you going to get involved or just sit in your room?”

White challenges her students to consider these questions and to make the most out of their college experience, in and out of the classroom, across campus and within the bounds of Hutcheson Hall. As someone who wrestled with these questions herself and succeeded in achieving her academic goals, White is able to listen and offer advice to any and all students who knock on her door.

“Blacksburg is a special place to me because it’s where I became ‘Katie.’ I still grow and evolve every day but one of my biggest foundation steps was here at Virginia Tech,” said White. “Now I get to help that process take shape for other Hokies.”