Class of 2015: Experiential learning prepares Thomas Sefcik for career in food and water security
BLACKSBURG — When he was first asked to complete theStrengthsFinder assessment, Thomas Sefcik of Orlando, Florida, a graduating senior who will receive a degree in agricultural and applied economics and a minor in environmental horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, did not realize the impact the results would have on his time at Virginia Tech.
His top five strengths are competition, command, learner, significance, and focus. For Sefcik, they explained the reasons behind many of his actions.
“It all began to make sense,” he said. “After discovering my strengths, I realized why I made certain decisions, why certain events did not work out, why I compare things, and why I am constantly working to be the best.”
Sefcik applied these strengths to each of the leadership positions he held at Virginia Tech. They also gave him insights into his weaknesses and, he said, made him a better person.
“The strength of significance is what drives me,” he said. “It is the one that shaped my career goals. I cannot stand the thought of going through life without making a substantial impact. This is why I have decided to make it my objective to help reach food and water security for this planet.”
Sefcik said he realized that the agribusiness economic sector needed more people from his generation to provide the means to feed the growing world. His fascination with markets, especially those related to agriculture, inspired him to join Commodities Investing by Students, or COINS, a select group of students studying agricultural and applied economics who invest $500,000 annually in commodity markets for the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc.
Sefcik represented COINS as sector analyst for coffee and as sector head for natural gas and soybeans, which gave him experiential learning to complement his classroom education. To further his knowledge of the industry, Sefcik spent summer 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri, where he held an internship at INTL FCStone Inc., a Fortune 500 financial services firm specializing in commodity trading.
Last summer he successfully completed the Harvard Business School CORe Fundamentals of Business online certification program.
The new year will see Sefcik following his passion and putting his leadership skills to work to help stop food shortages. In January 2016, Sefcik will begin a job with Premex Inc. in Medellin, Columbia. There, Sefcik will work with a team to develop, manufacture, and market international animal feed ingredients.
To prepare for the move, Sefcik spends time each day practicing the Spanish language so that he will feel comfortable in the new environment. “There is so much potential in both South and Central America in terms of what I want to accomplish, so I might as well take advantage of this opportunity and get out there,” he said.
Sefcik joined Farmhouse fraternity early in his college career and was inspired by one of the fraternity brothers to become a leader and a mentor for men involved in the Greek system. He was president of Interfraternity Council, Virginia Tech’s largest fraternal governing council. The council plans and implements educational and leadership programs for its chapter members, while also providing administrative guidance for policy, procedure, recruitment, academic issues, and governance. As the group's president, Sefcik was also a member of the Order of the Gavel, a group of undergraduate and graduate student leaders representing major student organizations at Virginia Tech.
Those leadership experiences led to his belief that it is essential for undergraduate students to find something they truly enjoy and to get involved. “Once you feel responsibility for something, it will cause you to thrive in the community,” he said.
Written by Erica Palladino of Glen Head, New York, a graduating senior majoring in professional writing with a minor in medicine and society in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.