Skip to main content

Passion and Perseverance: The Career Journey of a First Generation Student

Written by Kayla Bashore, BSC Associate and Jenkins MBA graduate

My name is Kayla Bashore and I grew up in Panama City, Florida. I am a recent graduate of the Jenkins MBA program with a concentration in marketing.

In my kindergarten time capsule, I dreamed about being a veterinarian. I knew from a young age that I wanted to help and serve others. I clearly never took the veterinarian path, but my passion for servant leadership still remains to this day. In high school, I helped grow a local agriculture program and Future Farmers of America (FFA) chapter. I knew I wanted to continue this as a career path because of the people in the agricultural industry. The growers, farmers, and other individuals in this industry are the most hard-working, kind, and know they have the biggest job in the world which is to feed almost 9 billion people by 2050.

I was able to achieve my dreams of attending college as a first generation student. and I received a scholarship to attend the University of Florida, where I majored in agricultural education and communication. I loved my college experience and I was very active in many organizations such as Agriculture Future of America (AFA), internships with BASF, and a carbon neutral internship with We Are Neutral which sparked my interest in sustainability. I ended up graduating early, but I knew this was not the end of my education.

I applied for my MBA and got a full ride to attend the NC State Jenkins program. I loved Raleigh, NC and was attracted to the Triangle due to the many agriculture companies and industry innovation happening here. I really liked NC State when I visited, and particularly the culture here. I was also looking for a diverse MBA program filled with people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. As someone who came straight from undergraduate to the MBA program, I wanted to surround myself with people that I could learn and grow from. What makes Jenkins unique is they value students who may not have the traditional 5 years of work experience post undergraduate which made me feel like I could learn from so many different perspectives as well as what I bring in my own perspective.

In undergraduate, I focused a lot of work in communication and marketing skills but I wanted to have a more refined skill set in business, more specifically marketing so I pursued my MBA. Some of my favorite classes at Jenkins were Negotiations and Business Management with Professor David Henard. These classes were definitely challenging, but the skills I learned I still use today and highly recommend them to anyone in the program. I also loved Professor Jessica Yinka Thomas’s business sustainability course. Learning about B Corps and the BIA framework in the sustainability course was very beneficial to understand one aspect of sustainability. Working hands-on with a local company on their sustainability goals gave me an appreciation on how much of this work is a journey that never ends. The coursework also helped me transition to my current position where I am learning about new reporting guidelines like TCFD, CDP, and GRI sustainability frameworks.

When I arrived at the Jenkins MBA program, I started to have a stronger interest in sustainability which was reinforced through meeting Professor Jessica Yinka Thomas. As a graduate assistant at the MBA program I was randomly paired with Professor Thomas who teaches an undergraduate business ethics course. By sitting and listening in her class, I got more and more interested in sustainability and was eventually asked to join the Business Sustainability Collaborative (BSC) team as a BSC Associate, where I was then able to take a leadership role in planning FoodCon 2023.

FoodCon is an annual conference co-hosted between NC State, UNC, and Duke’s MBA programs. The event brought together a diverse group of over 150 students, community members, business leaders, and industry experts to increase awareness and understanding of the sustainable food industry.

Kayla Bashore and Sarah Henderson at FoodCon 2023.

The experience with FoodCon led me to my current position because I was reaching out to contacts I have known through AFA for potential speaking roles during the conference. I connected with Megan Rock who is the VP of Sustainability and Innovation and Chief Sustainability Officer at CHS. It was a great initial conversation and even though Megan did not speak at FoodCon, she gave me a much greater opportunity to provide value on her team at CHS through a sustainability and innovation internship.

This internship experience led to a newly created experience sustainability analyst position where I had the opportunity to help develop strategy for CHS sustainability. I am helping tell our story through different mediums and content. We are a small, but mighty team that is helping to transform CHS for the better through an outcomes based approach on sustainability and innovation. CHS is a cooperative system and providing value for our owner/members through new sustainability avenues is a top priority for our team. This role is very new to me as I am just starting in sustainability but it is an incredible opportunity to learn, grow, and make a huge impact.

If I had to give advice to any college student, it would be to keep all your doors open. You never know what opportunities lie ahead especially when you keep your mind open. Don’t be afraid to take risks, have that growth mindset to challenge yourself. You might just come out of the situation better for it. For Jenkins students, use your network. Be sure to connect and learn from your peers or faculty especially if the subject interests you like sustainability was for me.

For now, I do not know where my career path will take me just yet. I am more focused on the present to learn, develop, and refine myself while helping others and doing more for the greater good. When I am not working, I am active at volunteering. I volunteer at the Durham Museum of History, which I highly recommend checking out (it’s free!) if you are in the Triangle area. I also volunteer at a place called Sleep in Heavenly Peace, where they build beds for children in need that do not have beds. I find volunteering is a great way to connect with the local community. I have also recently picked up pickleball, which is really fun! I am only a beginner but it is always fun to stay active and meet new people.

If you want to learn more about my experience, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!

Kayla Bashore Jenkins MBA Graduation.