Agribusiness economics major wins national FFA leadership post

Miriam Hoffman took one disappointing outcome and turned it into a life-altering victory.

The Southern Illinois Carbondale junior will now help oversee the National FFA Organization, which spans nearly 800,000 students across the country. She was chosen from among 40 candidates as the new Eastern Region vice president to the national committee.

Miriam Hoffman, a junior studying agribusiness and economics at SIU, was elected a national FFA board member, the first from an Illinois university to hold this distinction in 14 years.

The Earlville, Illinois, native, who is studying agribusiness economics, ran for national board member during the 2019-20 academic year. She did not succeed but learned from the experience.

“Ultimately, it comes down to people and wanting to build relationships and help,” she said. “I can’t say I have focused exclusively on winning an election, because I’ve tried to set goals within the realm of my control. Getting here has taken hard work, talent and definitely luck. I’ve learned that being a leader isn’t about being noticed. It’s about noticing other people.”

Hoffman went through a weeklong set of interviews in mid-October, then waited four days for the grand announcement on the FFA convention’s video conference.

“This is an extreme honor for Miriam and SIU,” said Susan Graham, the assistant to the dean in the College of Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences. “For SIU to be represented by one of our outstanding students demonstrates the quality of students the university attracts on a national level. SIU had the attention of hundreds of thousands watching during the election process. It was a great night for all of us, and it will be a great year for Miriam.”

Empathy and ideas

Hoffman is also a Provost Scholar and part of the University Honors Program — not to mention a member of the first all-female state officer team for FFA in Illinois (2018-19). She quips that the way her brain works can “be exhausting.”

“I can see all sides of an issue,” she said, believing that empathy will be one of the strongest characteristics she’ll bring to a post that hasn’t been held by an FFA member from an Illinois university since 2006.

Hoffman, who had transferred from Illinois Valley Community College, has certainly been noticed in her time in Carbondale. Professors and peers rave about her leadership qualities, feeling fortunate to have her. Likewise, Hoffman said she appreciates the support and community, and the nearby head-clearing hiking.

Facing the future with confidence

Soon, she will move to Indianapolis to focus on her national board responsibilities and resume her studies at SIU in spring 2021.

“I really think there’s an opportunity for our group to step up and serve,” she said.

Normally, the work at FFA would include a lot of travel. Now, it’ll likely feature more online interactions. Hoffman laughs at how far she’s come in accepting any type of meeting.

“I’ve generally been very shy, and all of the personality tests I’ve ever taken label me an introvert,” she said. “But I do think leadership takes all styles, and I think I’ve grown up and gained a lot of independence.”

She recently read that the best time to be a leader is in difficult or uncertain times.

Hoffman said her confidence and sense of mission have built since losing the previous election, plus serving a valuable internship last summer as a consultant at Continuum Ag, a company that works with producers (and examines trade policy) from southeast Iowa to South Africa.

“I was everywhere, from running social media to going out to the cornfields,” she said. “I think I have a lot to offer, and it’ll be exciting to be around a great group of people.”

Learn more about FFA at SIU

For more about SIU FFA and its activities, contact Agricultural Sciences at 618-453-2469 or via email at collagri@siu.edu.

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