Don Sleight, president of AgReserves, will speak to students and answer questions at the University Forum on Feb. 20 at 11:30 a.m. in the Taylor Chapel.
Sleight has worked with the company for over 35 years and holds a master’s degree in agronomy from the University of Nebraska as well as an MBA from BYU. AgReserves oversees the internationally-based investment ranches and farms of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Although many Latter-day Saints are unfamiliar with the organization, it manages land around the world.
Nels Hansen, the applied plant science department chair and one of the event organizers, feels that it takes high-quality leadership and a high education level to run a company like this and hopes that students will learn from Sleight’s experience.
Preparations for this forum began months ago. Hansen believes planning is worth it because of the possible positive impacts guest speakers can have on students. As Hansen himself remembers being majorly impacted by a university forum speaker at Ricks College, he also wants students to have the opportunity to benefit from these forums.
“That (forum) led me to everything that followed,” Hansen said. “It really solidified a pivot point for the rest of my life, and that’s what I’m hoping for the students that attend.”
Hansen hopes Sleight will show another side of agricultural careers.
“We’re not trying to get people to the point where they’re just driving tractors or working as cowboys,” Hansen said. “We want the graduates not just to find a job but to be leaders in the community. He’s had those experiences in leadership.”
Hansen believes Sleight’s connection to agriculture connects him to BYU-Idaho as the University is one of a few private religious schools with an agriculture department, making it a unicorn of sorts.
He believes agriculture encourages community members to connect with the world around them, whether creating a garden or growing peas in a student apartment.
“Everywhere you go, you have the opportunity to make the world around you a better and beautiful place, and agriculture is part of that,” Hansen said.
He also believes being prepared for the future is a key element.
“The Church has practiced exactly what it preached, and we see the expression of that in these farms,” Hansen said.