CAFES marketing director brings smiles to program


Kira Gifford, Reporter (She/her)

At the end of a long corridor in Berg Agricultural Hall sits an office and a desk. Inside are shelves overrun with binders labeled “Promotional Material,” “Events,” “Academic Programs and Departments” and dozens of  pamphlets promoting  programs like SDSU Extension and the university’s research facilities and diagnostic labs.

A whiteboard on the wall keeps track of a whole list of things to get done, and it’s accompanied by sticky notes and pads of to-do lists sitting on the desk – along with a copy of “The Associated Press Style Book.”

Sitting behind the desk keeping track of it all is Lora Berg, the director of marketing and communications for the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences (CAFES). Students popping in are likely to get a smile from Berg, a question about how their day is going and, if they are really lucky, an invitation to swing by the SDSU Dairy Bar to grab some ice cream.

Berg has been in her position since January 2015, and almost six years later she still finds herself fulfilled and excited to come to work every day.

“Not much I don’t like about my current position. There isn’t much to complain about . . . and it’s a Monday, isn’t that crazy!” Berg said.

Berg graduated from SDSU in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, then returned for a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication in 1990.

Her first job out of college was writing newsletters for the National Livestock and Meat Board in Chicago.  This company used checkoff dollars for beef, pork, lamb and veal to conduct research and then marketed that information to different areas of the industry through newsletters and a magazine.

After working for the National Livestock and Meat Board, Berg was hired as the communications director for the Nebraska Beef Industry Development Board, where she would write press releases and newsletters and help direct media tours.

An opportunity to work with “National Hog Farmer” magazine came next, and she eventually took the position of managing editor and created the first electronic newsletter for the company.

When she was urged to apply for her current position on campus 25 years after graduating with her master’s degree, she was thrilled.

“It sounded like a fun time to jump in and start developing communication and marketing content for the college,” Berg said in explaining what motivated her to take the job.

She was a one-woman department when she started. The CAFES marketing and communication efforts had been under the supervision of the University Marketing and Communications office, but faculty and staff members advocated for CAFES to build its marketing and communication team, and that’s when Berg got hired.

Berg’s day-to-day work varies, but some projects stay the same, like overseeing the marketing and communication for the South Dakota Agriculture Experiment Station and SDSU Extension, creating promotional content, social media content, press releases and student recruitment content for all of the academic programs in CAFES, managing the publication of “Growing South Dakota,” organizing student photoshoots and helping the dean with press releases and communication sent out from that office.

After working for a couple of years on her own, Berg got help, hiring Sydney Meyer in 2018 and Andrea Schubloom in 2019.

Meyer, the marketing and communication coordinator, enjoys working with Berg because Berg brings energy to whatever project she does.

“She is a strategic thinker and is able to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for campaigns and marketing ideas,” Meyer said. “It has been great to learn from her and learn how she thinks.”

Additionally, during non-COVID-19 years, the CAFES marketing and communication staff hires about 10 students to help with projects. Berg tries to assign them to positions based on their interests or what they want to gain from the experience.

“On her team, my possibilities are endless, and my ideas are never shut down,” said Christine Moening, an agriculture communications major from Elko New Market, Minnesota. “They trust me and confide in my ability to succeed and learn.”

Moening said working with Berg and her team is one of the best things that has happened to her in college.

When Berg is not working in the office, she is often volunteering as an adviser for three clubs and organizations at SDSU. She is an adviser for Little International (Little I), Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) and the Sigma Alpha Sorority.

When Berg started at SDSU, she didn’t have much of a chance to meet the students sitting there in her small office, so she would look at the CAFES monthly calendar and go to club meetings to meet students and figure out what the clubs were doing on campus.

“If I didn’t volunteer as a club adviser, I would never get the chance to work with students and learn who I am creating content for,” Berg said. “I enjoy getting to work with and meet new students.”

Samantha Greiner, the president of ACT, said Berg is the best adviser because she makes new members feel welcome, attends all club and officer meetings and never makes students feel like they are an inconvenience. 

“I’m never scared to go to her with crazy ideas because she either really likes them or her ideas are even crazier,” Greiner said with a laugh.

Through ACT, Greiner said she has come to know Berg and now frequently asks her to proofread cover letters, help her with her resume and share advice.

Berg’s advice to anyone in college or entering the workforce is to take advantage of any opportunity that comes your way. She urges students to always live with the mentality that someone has to get the job or award, so why can’t it be you? 

 “You can tell that Lora is someone who thoroughly enjoys her job and is passionate about what she does,” Greiner said. “That is what helps me and many other students believe in their futures.”