All Things Dairy for Graduating Senior

Dec 11, 2023

By Whitney Baxter

For Nicole Gudenkauf, it has been all things dairy since stepping foot on Iowa State University’s campus.

Gudenkauf, senior in dairy science, is the fall 2023 semester College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Council Leadership and Innovation Award recipient. The award is in recognition of the leadership roles she has held on campus and her demonstration of innovation and creativity.

A native of Farley, Iowa, Gudenkauf did not grow up on a farm and, for a long time, had her eyes set on a nursing career. That changed when she began working on a local dairy farm in high school.

“It was a snap of the fingers decision to go into dairy science instead,” Gudenkauf said.

She enrolled in Iowa State’s dairy science program and quickly took advantage of all the dairy-related opportunities available. Gudenkauf served as co-chair of the Dairy Science Club, planning events and working to get Iowa’s youth involved in the dairy industry.

She also took the lead in developing and growing the DairyCY program under the guidance of Gail Carpenter, assistant professor of animal science. The program started as an independent study opportunity at the ISU Dairy Farm. Gudenkauf led its transition into a program where students now manage a jersey cattle herd at the farm.

“I had to pave the path myself,” Gudenkauf said of building the DairyCY program. “It was challenging sometimes, but it helped me grow a lot as a leader and forced me to get out of my comfort zone.”

“Of all the leadership roles that Nicole has held at Iowa State, DairyCY has allowed her to combine her passion for the dairy industry, along with her team skills and dairy knowledge to exemplify what a true

leader is,” wrote Kelsey Powell, academic advisor in animal science, in a letter supporting Gudenkauf’s nomination for the leadership award.

Gudenkauf’s biggest breakthrough in her Iowa State experience came last spring through her participation in the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge. The competition has students analyze existing dairy operations and provide recommendations for improvement that will maximize profits. Gudenkauf was placed on a team with three students from other universities. They placed third in the national competition held in New York.

“I felt as if I were in the real world doing this rather than doing it as an Iowa State student,” Gudenkauf said of the competition.

She will take all these dairy experiences and use them on her next adventure, which she hopes will be at a reproductive or genetics company within the dairy industry.

“I really took advantage of every dairy opportunity available and used it to propel me forward,” Gudenkauf said.

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