This story is part of a series following University of Findlay alumni who have gone on to have meaningful lives and productive careers right here in the local Findlay community. Their stories provide a glimpse of the difference UF students and graduates make in the lives and businesses of our immediate area, and of the impact a UF education can have right here at home.
The University of Findlay has some programs, majors and classes that, singularly, can be considered unique without comparison. Students come from all over the globe to learn about anything from tropical medicine to American musical theatre and everything in between. When students can see their future clearly, sometimes they find the need to pair majors together, creating an opportunity down the road for a melding of interests, and a seemingly perfect fit for a meaningful life and productive career.
Sarah (Shedd) Ranker ’17 was raised with a love for horses and a heart for helping. She grew up in Massachusetts and was close to UF western equestrian assistant coach Kim Zimmerman, also meeting Kim’s husband (western head coach) Spencer Zimmerman along the way. “They were friends who became family,” Ranker said. “I was in their wedding, and Kim was in mine. We’re all pretty close.” It made sense at the time, then, for Ranker to home in on UF as the University she wanted to attend, upon graduating from high school in Massachusetts where she is originally from. She was so certain that she wanted to become an Oiler, she said, that she took advantage of early admission, and was accepted before her senior year of high school. “I knew Findlay was where I was meant to be,” Ranker said.
She arrived in Findlay and took on a double major in western equestrian and, early on, what she called a “broad version of business,” later honing it down to marketing. She enjoyed the equestrian program and the classes, competitions and camaraderie that went along with it, and was a member of the western equestrian team for all four years at UF, seeing particular success early in her college career. Ranker won two national championships for herself as a freshman and sophomore, and came very close to winning with the team as a unit during that period. She loved the whole experience, she said, and gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge for horses and their care, but, with her eyes tightly affixed on her future after college, she knew she wanted to do something outside of training horses. She just wasn’t quite sure what it would be. “I knew that I definitely wanted to be in the equine industry,” she said, “and I love working with people.”
To point herself in the right direction, Ranker put her faith in UF and the people whom she knew could help her figure out a path for herself. She worked closely with assistant professor of equine studies Robin Koehler; she did the same with professor of business Dr. Chris Ward; she worked for and with the director of equestrian studies and equine management at UF, Meri Marsh. All of those helpful people, combined with the other resources that UF has for students, Ranker said, allowed for her to see more clearly the direction in which she was headed. “I have always been a believer in focusing my time productively,” she explained. “I really invested my time into my future. The Center for Career and Professional Development helped me with resumes, and alerted me to internships I either wouldn’t have known about or wouldn’t have pursued without their encouragement. I did many marketing internships outside of being a full-time student and working for Meri.”
One of those internships, with AR Marketing in Findlay, led to employment after Ranker graduated from UF in 2017. After interning there for her senior year, she took a job with the marketing firm, and that, as well, afforded her a wealth of knowledge. “That’s what really helped to hit off my marketing career and further my skills,” Ranker said. “I learned so much through them about marketing, and then Kalmbach Feeds reached out.”
It was at that point, a little over two years ago, that Ranker found her double major come full circle to a remarkably apropos career. As she moved on from AR Marketing to begin her career as the retail marketing and equine specialist for Kalmbach Feeds, she quickly found out that the position seemed to almost be tailor-made for her dual skills. Among her responsibilities is doing the media buying for advertising and working to market the business to customers and their animals; namely, in her case, their horses. “I am the first point of contact for our equine customers,” Ranker said. “When they email, comment on our social media, call, or come in and ask about that, they see me first.” She helps people to create an individual equine nutrition program for their horses by recommending one of Kalmbach’s many products. “Customers want to do right by their horse. And we pride ourselves on being able to assist and assure them that they can reach out at any time to re-evaluate. So, helping with that meshes both of my UF majors really well.”
So, as things have come together for Ranker, who lives in Vanlue, Ohio, a small village outside of Findlay, with her husband, Joe, to whom she was married in 2018, and their eight-month-old daughter, Zoe, her upbringing in Massachusetts and the people she surrounded herself with then, are still not too far away, either in memory or physical distance. “As long as I can remember, I was hanging out at Kim [Zimmerman]’s farm. I’m very thankful for her and her mother for setting me up for the life I have now, both as a UF grad and as a professional. And I’m grateful for the whole UF and surrounding communities as well.”
Chemistry and film. English and environmental management. Equestrian studies and marketing. Regardless of the combination, if there is a future in it, motivated UF students, with the help of the people around them, will find it and make it their own. Just ask Sarah Ranker.