​First Time Competitors Win National Honors!

In their first time competing at the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge, the University of Tennessee accomplished what many thought was impossible-they came home as National Winners!

The team consisting of Stephanie Nash, Rebecca Davis, Jeanette (Ettie) Peterson, and Billy Rochelle, and coached by Dr. Gina Pighetti (professor of Dairy Science at UT), was one of four division winners at the contest held April 9-11 in Syracuse, New York.

Dairy Challenge, now fourteen years old, offers college-level dairy students real-world exposure to operating dairy farms that are trying to balance all aspects of long-term sustainability. Participants evaluate the dairies in areas such as health management, herd nutrition, financial records, and facilities management, and then present their observations and potential changes to a panel of dairy industry consultants and professionals. While visiting the dairy and studying the operational practices, the team is allowed to have a twelve-minute, personal interview with the manager. Each team then had five hours to meet and discuss its recommendations for the dairy farm. During this time period, a digital presentation was to be completed and submitted. The following day, the teams had twenty minutes to display their digital presentations and orally explain their recommendations for the dairy farm. These recommendations could include adjustments in financial management, nutrition, reproduction, cow comfort, or milking procedures. After the presentation, a panel of five judges had the opportunity to ask the group questions for ten minutes. The students were scored on their findings and responses to the panel’s questions, with individual scores tallied for a final score. With the combined knowledge and talent of our animal science and agricultural business students, the University of Tennessee’s Dairy Challenge Team obviously made a​ knowledgeable and professional presentation because they brought home first place!

“I can’t brag enough about them and the work they’ve put into this effort! I am so proud; they did what no one thought was possible, given the history of the programs of other universities competing,” said Dr. Pighetti.

AREC Students Really Experience Learning

Students majoring in either Food and Agricultural Business or Natural Resource and Environmental Economics in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC) thrive in a learning environment that embraces the power of experiential learning to help prepare students for careers in the industry.  Faculty like to bring the real world in to the classroom and have students engage in experiential learning using actual scenarios. For example, students in the spring class of AREC 342, (Farm and Financial Management) visited Strong Stock Farms and discussed potential alternative enterprises. Members of the class use the farm for their class project to develop farm business plans. Faculty also encourage successful alumni and stakeholders to come into the classroom and share their experiences and expertise with students. Bill Johnson (CEO, Farm Credit Services) guest-lectured to the class in February.

Students have opportunities to apply what they learn from participation in events such as the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) annual national contest to the Farm Bureau Discussion Meet. Club members prepare for national competition each year by developing a product marketing idea and presenting a business/marketing plan to the national NAMA contest committee. It is both a challenging and rewarding experience and gives them a chance to meet with professionals from across the U.S. at the annual meeting. Students in AREC also participate in the Farm Bureau Discussion Meet, which the department helps to sponsor annually. AREC provides the advertising, meeting place, and a portion of the scholarships associated with this undergraduate program. Students are given a topic to discuss in front of a panel of professionals. The local winner advances to a regional/national competition, where additional scholarships are available.

The Farm Credit Scholars Program, supported by Farm Credit Services (FCS), is an internship/scholarship program for CASNR undergraduates. Undergraduates apply to be admitted in this program. An assessment team consisting of faculty and FCS personnel evaluates the applicants and names five to six recipients each year. Each student qualifies for a $1,000 annual scholarship from FCS. Typically, students are admitted as they enter their sophomore year. Students are given opportunities to intern with FCS during the summer break. They also participate in educational travel experiences. Recent trips have included the New York Stock Exchange; Washington D.C.; and Sweetwater Valley Farms.

AREC students are also encouraged to engage in internships. Since 2004, AREC students have participated in seventy summer internships, with such organizations as Farm Credit Services, Monsanto, the Tennessee and American Farm Bureau Federations, Tennessee Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Farmers Cooperatives, John Deere, Tractor Supply Company, Sysco Foods, Case IH, Pilgrim’s Pride, and many others. Internships are a wonderful way for students to examine career opportunities and see what life beyond college will be like.  In many cases, these experiences lead to lucrative job offers and productive careers in the field.

Through these out-of-classroom opportunities, AREC students really experience learning and that gives them the confidence and ability to excel in their chosen career field.

Students Attend Thirtieth Annual MANRRS Conference in Houston, Texas

The UTK Chapter of MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences) traveled to Houston, Texas in late March to attend the thirtieth Annual National Conference. The conference, sponsored by some of the largest companies within the agricultural industry, including John Deere, Monsanto and the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, provided hundreds of underrepresented agricultural students to come together for three days of networking, professional training and employment. 

The UTK chapter of MANRRS, which has witnessed a resurgence in membership, service, and engagement in recent years, took seven students (five undergraduate students and two graduate students) to the conference, along with the chapter advisors, Mr. Craig Pickett and Dr. Sharon Jean-Philippe. While at the conference, students attended a plethora of professional development seminars focused on internships, resume development, networking, leadership in the workforce, the graduate school application process, as well as research and interviewing skills. In addition to the seminars, students participated in a career fair, with over sixty companies and graduate program representatives. Employers traveled from across the nation to recruit the best and brightest agricultural students for potential internships, fellowships and full-time opportunities – in particular, the USDA came to the MANRRS conference to fill more than one hundred internship and full-time positions over the course of three days. Several of our students had on-the spot internship and job interviews with major companies, including Cargill, Ardent Mills, and the USDA, while others met with representatives from graduate programs throughout the nation. 

The chapter advisors and doctoral candidate Jeneen Abrams (Plant Sciences) represented CASNR at the career fair and spoke with many students who had a strong interest in our graduate programs. While in Texas, our students had the privilege of meeting Mr. Isaac Bennett, a key supporter of the UTK chapter. Bennett graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in 1984 with a degree in agricultural education, before earning a graduate degree in agribusiness and economics from South Carolina State University. Bennett, who currently serves as the vice president of capital markets for Farm Credit Bank of Texas, has become an annual supporter of the UTK chapter. Through his annual donations and support, the UTK chapter of MANRRS has grown substantially. With the chapter’s continued growth, we look forward to attending the fall 2015 region conference in Atlanta, Georgia and the thirty-first annual national conference in Jacksonville, Florida in March 2016.

Crops, Cancer, and Chickens, OH MY!

This past year, Anna Ingleburger had the opportunity to travel to Arizona to participate in the Biotech University Conference in Phoenix. While attending, she received a great education on biotechnology and its uses in agriculture. She shared, “I also enjoyed meeting with and getting to know our fellow participants, many of whom were studying journalism or other fields of communications and did not have much knowledge about agriculture or biotechnology.”

The first event consisted of two presentations each with differing points and stances on Genetically Modified Organisms. The first presentation was given by the Regent's Professor and Founding Director of the Biodesign Institute of Arizona State University, Dr. Charles Arntzen. Dr. Arntzen beautifully illustrated the basics of how biotechnology is currently used and how genes can be utilized for human benefit. He personally worked on a project that created a vaccine and treatment for Ebola by using tobacco plants to produce proteins similar to that of Ebola. These proteins were then utilized to save the lives of two American missionaries who were actively working to treat this disease in Africa. Dr. Arntzen also headed many other projects that resulted in advancements for our military, agricultural industry, and the ASU Biodesign Institute.

The second speaker, Michael R. Dimock, the President of Roots of Change (a "think and do" tank that advocates for a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system for the people, businesses and the planet), spoke about the need to alter current agricultural methods in order to secure our future. He made comments concerning the move to monoculture and its effects on disease and pest control. He called on agriculturalists to make a shift to a more polycultural method of producing food. He also spoke on his support of GMO food labeling. His belief is that transparency among the governments, biotechnology corporations, food manufacturers, and producers is fair for all and provides consumers with the information they are demanding.

Following the question-and-answer portion of these presentations, participants visited the ASU Biodesign Institute that was founded by Dr. Arntzen and met with researchers who were working on crops, cancers, and chickens. Dr. Jagdev Sharma who is heading a project working with chickens was especially interesting. He is coordinating a program that is utilizing Kuroiler chickens, a hybrid chicken from India, to aid impoverished farmers in Uganda. These birds produce about ten times more eggs and grow about three times as fast as the native birds. The Kuroilers must be purchased as a flock each year, but the return on them is great for their caretakers. Compared to native birds, these genetically superior and vaccinated birds can survive much better in village environments where food is scarce and disease is prevalent.

Dr. Sharma is helping to coordinate this program as well as a joint charity called "Gift a Chicken.” This charity raises money to purchase Kuroilers for severely impoverished farmers in Uganda.

Following the Biodesign Institute visit, participants travelled to a local farm to experience firsthand the joys and discomforts of growing wheat, alfalfa, and cotton in the hot and dry climate of Arizona. Anna said, “I found the irrigation practices to be interesting as they presented a real challenge to producers and lawmakers but were essential to Arizona's agriculture and economy. I learned that while irrigation is both essential and difficult, producers manage to harvest about ten alfalfa hay cuttings per year due to their long growing seasons. Similarly, Arizona producers are able to cultivate large numbers of fruits and vegetables due to the hot climate.”

As the conference drew to a close, Anna was once again reminded of the opportunities presented to her by the University of Tennessee, her love for agriculture, her appreciation for education and her passion for spreading awareness. If Anna can continue to grow in her education and speak on behalf of the greatest industry in the country, then maybe one day, she too can make a difference.

Interview Opportunities Abound at the International Production and Processing Expo

Where can twenty-two students have over 120 interviews in a three-day time frame? At the College Student Career Program held in conjunction with the International Production and Processing Expo, that's where! At this event, held in Atlanta, January 27-29, 2015, participating students submitted résumés in advance and were able to schedule interviews in advance of the event, as well as at the event, with the thirty companies interviewing for internships as well as full-time jobs. Some of the participating companies were American Proteins, Aviagen, Case Foods, Cobb-Vantress, Koch Foods, Mountaire Farms, Pilgrims, Purdue Farms, Sanderson Farms, and Tyson Foods. The US Poultry and Egg Association sponsors the program by organizing the event, coordinating awards, registering all students for the Expo, and paying hotel expenses for qualified students.

The group was comprised of two PhD students, two MS students, and eighteen BS students. Students were accompanied on the trip by Emily Gray, CASNR Dean’s Office, and Mary Mahoney, UT Career Services. Ms. Gray and Ms. Mahoney prepped student in advance of the trip on interview skills, résumé preparation, professional dress, and related topics. They also used the event as an opportunity to network with employers to increase visibility of UT’s vast array of programs and interest in hiring our students.

Full-time job offers were made at the event to fourteen students, with salaries ranging from $33,000 to $48,600. In addition to interviews, students had the opportunity to network with employers by visiting the exhibit floor. Many informal contacts were made and some arrangements for follow-up employment actions were made. Dr. Michael Smith, Animal Science, attended the Expo and mentored students in networking with companies both for interviewing and making contacts with Expo exhibitors.

Industry leaders from all over the world gather at the Expo to share the newest ideas, most innovative technologies and advanced educational programming available in the meat, poultry, and feed sectors. The show featured an estimated 24,000 attendees and over 1,200 exhibitors.

Below are quotes from some student participants:

“You're in a four-million-square-foot facility full of companies looking to hire people. What more could you ask for as a college senior?”  Ben Rucker, Animal Science

“The IPPE really opens your eyes to the vastness of the agricultural industry.”  Phillip Hatfield, Food Science

“The expo was great! A lot of opportunities and networking. It really is a valuable experience.”  Rachel Bush, Animal Science

“You never know what's out there until you go out there!”  Clay Kesterson, Animal Science

CASNR Students Are True Volunteers

 “April showers bring May flowers,” and as we all know, this is more than true for Knoxville, Tennessee. However, as agriculturists, we also know that May flowers aren’t as pretty without a little help. One cold and chilly morning this past month Ijams Nature Center became a little more prepared for the warmer weather as a group of University of Tennessee agriculture students prepared the gardens for its plethora of guests in the springtime.

One of the requirements of a College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources ambassador is that each member must select an annual spring project. This past semester, ambassadors Ashley Coutta and Tori Bryant decided to take the CASNR’s Living & Learning Community students on trip to clean up Ijams Nature Center.

Thirteen first year students, all of whom live on the agriculture floor of Morrill Hall, were able to use the project as a required community service project for the semester. The volunteers spent their time pulling weeds and spreading mulch. Not only did the project benefit the nature center but spending time as an LLC group helps create strong bonds of  friendship among agricultural students in CASNR.

Ashley believes that the LLC program directly correlates with the ambassadors’ leadership goals. “Our main mission as ambassadors is recruitment and retention,” said Ashley. “That’s a big part of us choosing to work with the Living & Learning Community. We wanted to foster that relationship with our underclassmen and show them that they have a place.”

Rachel Eatherly’s spring CASNR ambassador project truly touched the hearts of students, faculty, and staff. Rachel decided that CASNR should construct a wooden swing in memory of Dr. Riley, the professor of agricultural and resource economics who passed away in 2013. Many spring graduates would have been the last students to have had him as a professor and wanted to leave something in his honor.

The swing will allow visitors to enjoy the outdoors and students to relax. Future students will realize that the ag campus is different than main campus and has a hometown feel and relaxing environment. The swing will also allow students, faculty, and visitors to remember Dr. Riley where he loved to enjoy the outdoors at the UT Gardens. The swing will be placed near the newly constructed wheelchair-accessible tree house, near the Vet School. The UT Gardens staff has also graciously agreed to plant Dr. Riley’s favorite flowers around the swing.

Funds for the memorial swing for Dr. Riley were raised through donations and CASNR is grateful for all the donors’ generous support. We hope that many of you will enjoy the memorial swing and remember Dr. Riley's commitment to CASNR and the UT community.  

Alpha Gamma Rho Gives Back

Alpha Gamma Rho National Agriculture fraternity is a social-professional fraternity that is devoted to improving its members through each brother’s mental, social, moral, and physical growth. The Alpha Kappa Chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho here at the University of Tennessee is a second home to many and has molded 1,200 young college men since this chapter’s founding in 1951. 

Alpha Kappa chapter members are involved heavily in the classroom, in the field, throughout the community, and also on the intramural field. The AGR men are involved with many organizations, such as serving as campus Ambassadors, SGA and IFC officers, presidents of campus clubs, and many other areas of leadership. The men at Alpha Kappa strive to better themselves within the fraternity in addition to their responsibilities on campus, while serving as executive officers for the fraternity and also as secondary officers in charge of events that occur within the fraternity throughout the year. Through different officer positions within the fraternity, AGR men challenge themselves daily to develop themselves professionally with their leadership roles.

Academics are very important to the men at Alpha Kappa as the brothers are always striving to be at the top of their class. One of the Alpha Gamma Rho members strive to better themselves academically is through the required study five hours per week at the Pendergrass Agriculture library located in the College of Veterinary Medicine on the agricultural campus. The AGR chapter continually performs in the top tier academically among Greek organizations at the University of Tennessee, and this distinction is very important to Alpha Kappa men. Another way that the brothers at Alpha Kappa benefit from being a part of Alpha Gamma Rho is through the annual scholarships that are awarded to deserving members. The active alumni chapter is committed to helping brothers decrease the financial burden of attending college.

The brothers at Alpha Gamma Rho also try to better the community around them through different events and projects. One of the ways that AGR is trying improve the world around them is through annual philanthropy. “Water Wars,” which involves the entire sorority community at UT for a weekend in the late spring and benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, annually raises thousands of dollars. This year, the
fraternity raised roughly $9,000 for St. Jude Children's Research hospital. The brothers of Alpha Gamma Rho are starting to get involved with Habitat for Humanity by building community housing and also regularly play Bingo with a group of elderly adults on the weekend in a Knoxville area nursing home.

The University of Tennessee has a very famous mascot and a slightly less famous handler. Every year Smokey’s handler is a brother of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and the brothers on campus take pride in the care of Smokey and running the checkerboard every home game! Overall, the men of Alpha Kappa are striving to be the face of the Greek community through leadership on campus, academics in the classroom, and service throughout the community.