Last month, three animal sciences students represented the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students at the Animal Welfare Assessment Contest at North Carolina State University. Daniel Dolfi, Nick Espina and Carmen Burner received support from the VP Promise initiative. Presented by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the competition gave students the opportunity to assess the animal welfare in various settings using science-based methods. Students were able to develop a variety of skills such as public speaking and critical thinking.
As this was the first time the University of Florida has ever had a team present at this competition, the students were nervous, especially about the public speaking aspect of the competition. “While it wasn’t necessarily public speaking that involved talking to a large group of people, the pressure of having to present a speech in front of judges who have a deep knowledge and understanding of these welfare issues was still very demanding,” Espina said. To prepare for competition, the team read relevant scientific literature and met weekly to summarize and discuss information. They also reviewed possible scenarios that the judges could present them with and learned to be swift, precise and confident.
The competition pushed the students out of their comfort zones and encouraged them to think on their feet. One of their presentations was a group format during which students were driven to a live scenario and had only the time on the drive back to prepare. “Understanding a groups strengths and weaknesses helps to alleviate the work for the group as a whole,” said Dolfi. “It was important that we identified our individual strengths so that we can use them to execute our presentation perfectly.” Another scenario involved keeping an octopus in an aquarium tank, which surprised senior Carmen Burner, whose background is primarily in dairy welfare.
Though the students did not place, the judges walked the students through the scenarios after the competition. The judges emphasized what welfare concerns stood out to them for each scenario and informed the students of points they had emphasized that other students had missed. “It was beneficial to hear the judges explain the scenarios to us,” said Burner. “I learned a lot about animal welfare while preparing for and competing in the Animal Welfare Assessment Contest”
While reflecting on their experiences, each student emphasized the strong team dynamic they developed and their determination to compete. “It was a moment in my life that I will not forget as our team worked together to do the best we can to represent our university,” Dolfi said.
The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.