Meet Lacey (Horkey) Dixon '06
Director of member & industry relations
American Coalition for Ethanol, Hudsonville, Michigan
— English and journalism majors
Q. How did you choose Augustana?
A. I was first on campus as part of the Augustana Band Festival in high school and was surrounded by talented musicians and music educators. It provided a glimpse of Augustana College and planted a seed for my return for a tour and conversation with English/journalism faculty. When I met the incredible Dr. Sandra Looney, I realized I was in the presence of a giant. If I could have the opportunity to study in front of that bright light, I wanted to pursue it. The Augustana Pro Musica and Regents Scholarship competitions confirmed that there was no other place I’d rather attend.
Life at Augie
Q. Favorite class and why?
A. There are easily two favorites:
Seminar in Literary Criticism and Theory with Dr. Patrick Hicks
- The class was a brain bend where each reading and discussion provided the ultimate challenge. Further, the seminar atmosphere provided an additional challenge from the great thinking of my fellow classmates. Dr. Hicks asked us to persevere, to read on, and to take risks to attempt to understand high-level material.
Seminar in Later American Literature: America in Black and White: Africa-American Fiction and Film Noir with Dr. Jeffrey Miller
- The class was an incredible dive into literature and film that forever changed my ability to critically examine both. To this day, I analyze books and movies based on the skills I learned in this class. Dr. Miller challenged us to look for more in every observation. What was beneath each discovery? Why did this event or twist happen? What was the significance of that character’s decision on the larger text? What was the context of that decision? It was powerful and fun.
Q. Favorite professor and why?
A. If you are an English/journalism major, there’s no way to pick a winning door in the hallway. The truth is that you’d want each one of them to rub off on you: Sandra Looney’s passion for life and literature, Jeffrey Miller’s authenticity, Janet Blank-Libra’s integrity, Debbie Hanson’s attention to detail, Patrick Hick’s self-discipline, Cheryl Jackson’s vibrancy, and Nancy Dickinson’s professionalism. I continue to admire these individuals both as academic leaders and good people.
Q. Best Augie memory?
A. The best Augie memories are those that began as simple activities and turned into much more. From movie nights with girlfriends or dressing up as a group for Halloween to long rehearsals for Viking Varieties or bus trips during band tour, the warm blanket of Augie memories is one of beautiful, everyday moments. That being said, I may or may not have taken a stroll in Old Main on a snowy January night senior year alongside some partners in crime.
Q. Tell us about your journey after graduating from Augustana – first job, grad school, travel, etc.?
A. After graduation, I transitioned to full time with the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) as its Outreach Coordinator. Previously, I had been an intern for the organization doing research, assisting with programs, and writing profiles for its magazine. In 2008, I became the Director of Member and Industry Relations, a position I continue to enjoy. I graduated with my Masters of Science in Administrative Studies with an emphasis in organizational leadership through the University of South Dakota in December of 2012. Throughout this time, I’ve traveled to members in the Midwest and attended regional and national conferences that focus on ethanol, fuel, and renewable energy. My husband and I moved from South Dakota to Michigan on our own little adventure, and we’ve been lucky enough to get a good list of states and countries checked off our bucket list in seven years of marriage.
Q. Tell us about your career – what’s an average day like?
A. The best part of my career is that there’s no “average” day. In the office, I engage members in our programs and encourage them to participate in events or share their stories as part of an event agenda. I work on feature stories for “Ethanol Today” magazine. I develop and execute outreach programs for membership categories. I help research or edit comments for agencies or programs pertaining to hot topic issues. I connect companies with opportunities to promote their products and services.
On the road, I visit members and learn more about technology innovations on site, and I speak to groups of investors in ethanol plants about the work the organization is doing and how they can get involved. My conversations with fuel retailers at petroleum marketer conferences focus on offering ethanol options. I work with a diverse network on projects that elevate the many passions of the people that make up the ethanol industry.
Q. Greatest challenges and best rewards of your current role?
A. The greatest challenges of my work might resemble those of other non-profits from finding ways to stretch budgets so that great ideas can be pursued as impactful projects or finding interested parties to establish partnerships for similar goals. At ACE, we work with state and federal policymakers and agencies to help communicate the best interests for the future of the industry. It’s an exciting challenge to put the stepping stones in place so that the work you share with your colleagues, members, and supporters is one that reflects long-term advances and not short-term fixes.
The best rewards of my work are imbedded in the people — their stories and their visions for the future are compelling. It’s amazing to think that working in an industry like ethanol, you’d learn about policy, environmental issues, rural development, innovation, and communication through the voices and experiences of men and women of every age occupying every role. As a student, I sought meaningful work where I could feel that I was adding to positive momentum for a greater good. I have that.
Q. Greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
A. I have had a positive impact on the direction and strength of the American Coalition for Ethanol through my role as membership director. Through the organization, I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on how we approach energy use in this country and boost a domestic fuel supply while creating jobs and transforming rural economies.
Personally, there’s no greater satisfaction than knowing I played a key role in the pursuit and implementation of an organization’s successful new brand, helped bring a new group to the cause, and shaped how our department approaches membership. ACE has provided me the tools to explore ideas, develop strategic plans, and implement changes to further promote ACE and ethanol. Throughout this time, I’ve learned what strategies work best and how to both direct and expand membership.
I consider the confidence to lead a department and influence an organization as an invaluable professional accomplishment that I can continue to apply at ACE and that will serve me well regardless of my professional journey from here. I’ve grown, and I continue to grow each day both from the influences around me and the opportunity to influence. I’m grateful for my nearly 10 years with the people of ACE so far.
Q. What’s next for you professionally?
A. I’m inspired by the cause I work for and the people that represent that cause. I want to continue to help people tell their stories and connect them with others—both those familiar with ethanol and those that would be surprised by a new perspective. I plan to continue to grow membership at ACE and challenge myself to become a more effective writer and critical thinker at every opportunity. I look forward to the opportunity to unite people behind a cause and make a difference—it speaks to who I am and to the person Augie helped me become: an independent individual focused on service.
Q. If you could offer a prospective or existing Augie student some advice, what would you say?
A. Some of the most difficult days at Augie will be those you regard with the greatest gratitude upon graduation. Whether it’s the difficult class, the bad breakup, the travel mishap, or the hard conversation that weighs heavily on you, you will persevere and likely be glad you faced each situation. Don’t dread the ugly days because it doesn’t take long before even those have a shine to them.
Q. Tell us about your family.
A. My parents, Mike and Linda Horkey, live in Heron Lake, MN, where they rarely sit still between their jobs and their hobbies that include Harley riding, gardening, carpentry, and preparing for retirement in the summer of 2015. My sister, Lexey (Horkey) Herman ’08, lives in Sioux Falls, SD, with her husband, Seth. She works at CorTrust Bank as a Collections Specialist.
My husband, Brian, and I live in Grand Rapids, MI, and are expecting our first child in April 2015. Brian is the Eastern District Manager for Brenntag Great Lakes, a chemical distribution company. We love traveling, DIY projects, and as much time outdoors as we can get hiking, scuba diving, or just being tourists enjoying what Michigan has to offer.
Q. What’s given you the greatest personal satisfaction since graduating from Augie? And why?
A. Augie cracked open my world and stamped my passport. I saw China, Ireland, and Spain as a student. Since then, I’ve been to Belize, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos, Australia, and New Zealand. My husband and I have been diving in all of these locations with the highlight of diving the Great Barrier Reef. We’ve tried new foods, hopped on nearly every form of public transportation, and gotten lost in the happiest of accidents.
Traveling with Augustana, I learned to pack light, read up, and know that photos are the best souvenir. All of these things come in handy. I carry Augustana with me each time I visit a new country or begin a new adventure. The world is big and learning about it while learning about yourself is an incredible blessing. Because of Augustana, I know that I will return home from each travel experience changed for the better.
Q. A foundation for life at Augustana begins with our five core values – Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. How did your time at Augustana help to ensure those values remain central in your life?
A. The core values roll themselves into a singular message: How then shall we live? Augustana teaches a life of service with the pillars of Christian Faith, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community, and Service. As students, we learn that these values present themselves in opportunities, relationships, and tasks. We learn to think of them as ever-present elements of our lives, and they remain at this forefront of thought after graduation. The people of Augustana gave me the tools to live a life of purpose where I can look to the core values and the people that represented those during my time on campus as my rubric for success.