College Education, Schmeducation?


Last week, a question posed by a college professor initiated the thought process.  Is a degree necessary before going home to the family farm or ranch?  Obviously it isn’t mission critical, but what does that outside involvement do for the individual?  Is it lost time that you could have helped out?  Or are there invaluable lessons learned?


We dove into those questions with one Montana rancher who says that at age 17, she wanted to get as far away from a cow as she possibly could.  
[EasyDNNGallery|1288|Width|350|Height|350|position|left|resizecrop|False|lightbox|False|title|False|description|False|redirection|False|LinkText||]Now back on the family ranch, Michelle Fox says that her education has made her a much better rancher than she would have ever been without it.  Fox, who lives on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, spoke with Haylie Shipp this week.
 “I was never going to come back,” says Fox, “so I went as far away as I could.”  That she did.  Fox’s sights were set on an Ivy League school.  She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1998 and has since completed her Masters of Business Administration.
As if often the case, Fox realized that the land she was running away from might be worth running back to.  After doing stints in Great Falls and Spokane after her across-the-nation college experience, Fox returned to the very ranch that her family has been running for the last 125 years.
“I really wanted to do something for myself and for my family,” said Fox.  For them, the fit was back home.  Seven years later, it’s still working.
[EasyDNNGallery|1287|Width|350|Height|350|position|left|resizecrop|False|lightbox|False|title|False|description|False|redirection|False|LinkText||]Reflecting on her time away, Fox jokes that she had to give up her sushi habit and daily lattes.  Looking at the life before her, she wouldn’t trade the experience behind her.  As a rancher, she is more aware.  And, when it comes to finances, she is much more comfortable with analyzing how much risk the ranch can take.  
A Gros Ventre woman, Fox oozes confidence and sprinkles a bit of Montana ranching reality into the lives of her expansive social media network while also taking on leadership roles in her community.  It’s clear that her time away was highly valuable and their decision to return home was right on target.

What do you think?  Did you spend time away from the farm or ranch?  What experience did you gain that helped you?  What did you give up?  Please post your comments below!






© Haylie Shipp 2015

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