When I meet with former students, they often talk about the college education that came from activities outside of the classroom. Some of this education comes from the various “social” events that are part of college life, but beyond the classroom education also comes from the formal extracurricular activities in which college students participate. These activities and experiences provide students the opportunity to develop what human resource people call “soft skills” such as interpersonal communications, organization and leadership. The clubs, organizations and judging teams associated with the Illinois State University Department of Agriculture offer students the opportunity to develop this skills and establish friendships that last well beyond their college years. I would like to provide a little background on three of the clubs.
Illinois State Chapter of the National Agri-Marketing Association was formed in 2005 and has become one of the premier chapters in the United States. There are currently 36 university chapters in the United States and Canada and each of these chapters is sponsored by a professional NAMA chapter. The Illinois State University Student NAMA Chapter sponsors several activities that help prepare members for employment in agri-business. These activities include sponsorship of the Ag Career Fair, hosting a panel of Human Resource Specialist from several major companies and guest speakers at the NAMA monthly meeting. ISU NAMA members also attend the National Conference each year. This conference allows members the opportunity to network with professionals in the industry and participate in the national marketing competition. At the 2012 National Conference the ISU NAMA chapter was recognized as the top chapter in North America.
The ISU Horticulture Club and Planet Judging team gives students an opportunity to develop their horticulture skills and serve the community. Each year the members of the Horticulture Club volunteer their time for landscaping projects at local schools. In the fall the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) landscape judging team competes in the Illinois Landscape Challenge Day and each spring it participates in the PLANET Student Career Days annual contest.
The Illinois State University Collegiate FFA has been another active organization. Students in CFFA participate in the Sales, Job interview, and Specialists career events at the state and national PAS organization. In these events, students must use their skills and are judged on their ability to make a sale, to work with clients as a (swine, beef, dairy, crops, etc.) specialist, providing support to the client and helping to solve problems. Lastly, the students compete in a job interview and are judged on their performance, as well as their written application and letter.
These are just three of the many clubs and organizations associated with the ISU Department of Agriculture. Although their areas of interest are different, their ultimate goal is the same: give today’s agriculture students the opportunity to develop the skills that will make them tomorrow’s agricultural leaders.
Dr. Rick Whitacre
Agricultural Economics, Illinois State University