Q&A: Khalen Robinson humanizes lending at Alabama Ag Credit
Growing up surrounded by health care professionals, Khalen Robinson thought she had her future mapped out. A conversation with an assistant dean in the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences at Tuskegee University would alter her course.
“My mom and sister are both nurses, and I have always been fascinated by the work they do,” Robinson says. “From an early age, I wanted to become a health care administrator like my mom, who is now the clinical coordinator at Children’s of Alabama.”
During her senior year in high school, Robinson attended an open house at Tuskegee University, completing an application while there. As she toured the campus and talked to faculty members, she met Olga Bolden-Tiller, now dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences.
“She asked me what my interests were and what I wanted to do with my life,” Robinson says. “I told her about my career plan. Then she asked, ‘Have you thought about agribusiness?’ I hadn’t but was curious. I decided to take a leap of faith and leave my original plan behind.”
Changing direction led her to pursue a degree in agribusiness with a concentration in marketing and management. It also exposed her to Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), an organization that supports minority students in agricultural programs. Through MANRRS, Robinson was introduced to the Farm Credit System.
“Alabama Ag Credit participated in many events including the career fair at Tuskegee University,” Robinson says. “During my cooperative learning course, they talked to us about the company and their internship program. They even took us along on a customer visit to see how they impact the community.”
In 2020, Robinson was hired to be an intern at Alabama Ag Credit and received Farm Credit’s Launching Leaders stipend to offset her living expenses. The internship led to her current role with Alabama Ag Credit as a credit analyst trainee.
SF: Tell me about your role with Alabama Ag Credit.
KR: As a credit analyst trainee, I am learning how to mitigate financial risk across different farm operations and determine the lendability for those operations. It has been wonderful to merge what I learned at Tuskegee with a hands-on position that allows me to gather and review financial data about loan applicants, so I can see all sides of an operation. One key thing that has been most interesting to me is that credit analysis is an art. Some think that all we do is crunch numbers and get an outcome, but that’s not true. We humanize lending, which allows us to better understand and empathize with a borrower.
SF: Talk about what it meant to receive Farm Credit’s Launching Leaders stipend.
KR: It was an incredible opportunity to receive the stipend. Having additional funds for housing, food, and transportation lifted a weight, especially during the height of the pandemic. To me, the stipend shows that Farm Credit cares not only about the impact the internships have on students but also about cultivating the talent from HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities].
SF: Who has been a mentor in your life and how did that person make an impact?
KR: I personally believe each person who has come into my life has shared the wisdom I needed at that time. From my family to professors to work study supervisors, each has given me something, even if it was as small as a word of encouragement. The person who pushes me to hold onto my faith and live my life to the fullest is my mother. She has always loved and accepted me for whatever I wanted to do and try to be. She may not have always agreed with me, but she was always there with love.
SF: What advice do you have for other students who may not have a background in farming when considering a career in agriculture?
KR: You do not have to be a farmer to be impactful in agriculture. It is an industry that is expanding and changing every day, and everyone can have a part to play in some way. If you have a passion for any sector in the agriculture industry, my advice is to take that leap and go for it. It is an experience like no other. Wherever your path leads you, remember to do your research. I do not know where this journey will take me, but I am holding onto my faith and letting God lead the way.
Name: Khalen Robinson
Background: Robinson grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where her grandfather, Larry Simpson, taught her the history of the city and its impact on their family heritage. She served as an intern with Alabama Ag Credit and was offered a credit analyst trainee position in 2021.
Education: She has a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness, with a concentration in marketing and management, from Tuskegee University.