BVU Graduate Plays Key Role in Unilever Sustainability Efforts

Leading Unilever North America's sustainability efforts, BVU alum Stefani Millie Grant reconnects with her Iowa roots by assisting farmers and working on legislation relating to cover crops.

While a student at Buena Vista University, Stefani Millie Grant didn’t know a program in Washington, D.C., existed until two professors detailed it during her senior year. And soon, the BVU senior found herself at American University for a semester, studying economic policy.

“That experience single-handedly put me on this career projection,” says Grant, who now leads Unilever North America’s agriculture sustainability efforts.

“A number of our key ingredients come out of Iowa,” says Grant, noting how all the soy for Hellmann’s mayonnaise, a brand leader for Unilever, grows in Iowa fields. “It’s a source of pride for me, getting to work with farmers and learning from them.”

“It goes to show you that students shouldn’t get totally hung up on their major, at least not initially. I’d advise students to learn all they can, experience all that BVU has to offer.”

Stefani Millie Grant

Grant returns to Iowa often. She works on legislation to encourage and assist farmers as they plant more cover crops. On a recent trip to the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines, she visited with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, a professional she knows well. They were members of the BVU Class of 2000. And both were members of the College Republicans as undergraduates.

Grant, who has spent nine years with Unilever, served with Stateside Associates for more than four years prior to arriving at Unilever North America. While with Stateside, she toiled in local and state government affairs, diving into projects involving the U.S. Department of Defense, Mattel, Microsoft, and a host of others.

“Prior to that, I was with the Iowa Telecommunications Association as a lobbyist, and, before that, I was with the Iowa House Republican Caucus,” she says, noting how she often worked closely with leadership such as then-Iowa House Rep. Russell Eddie, of Storm Lake, a 1960 BVU graduate.

Grant, a Sioux City native, came to BVU for its acclaimed accounting program. During her first semester, however, she enrolled in a government class as part of the general education requirement. She discovered an enthusiasm for the subject matter and continued taking classes in that realm, eventually earning a double-major in accounting and public administration. For years now, she has leaned more heavily on her public administration skillset than those derived from her accounting background.

“It goes to show you that students shouldn’t get totally hung up on their major, at least not initially,” says Grant, who resides in Alexandria, Va., with husband, John Grant, and their daughter, Alexandra.

“I’d advise students to learn all they can, experience all that BVU has to offer. I joined the College Republicans because I thought it might be kind of interesting. I got involved and really enjoyed it. Coupling that experience with classes in political science ultimately helped deepen my career interest.”

It’s a career Grant finds incredibly rewarding as she meets with growers throughout the country and into Canada, working with producers on behalf of Unilever North America in sustainability and more.

“Our company provides cost share as well as technical assistance through Practical Farmers of Iowa to a number of soy farmers utilizing sustainable practices such as cover crops,” she says. “We want to work with them; show that our company is willing to invest in their farms, so farmers realize they do not have to try to figure this out on their own. We’re doing this, and so are farmers, because it’s the right thing to do.”