Fifteen undergraduates made the trek from Florida to Kansas City, Mo., for the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference in November 2022. These UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students were selected for industry sponsorships based on their academic and leadership abilities. Additionally, they received support from the college for travel through the VP Promise initiative. Selected students represent six CALS undergraduate majors:
- Maegan Beatty, agricultural education and communication;
- Emma Biggers, food and resource economics;
- Andy Brantmeyer, agricultural operations management;
- Maddie Dvorak, food and resource economics;
- Lana Guzman, agricultural education and communication;
- Amber Hatch, food and resource economics;
- Miranda Holder, family, youth and community sciences;
- Brent Long, food and resource economics;
- Rebecca Lyons, animal sciences;
- Elanie Mason, agricultural education and communication;
- Willie Ortiz, agricultural education and communication;
- Angie Rivera-Benavides, agricultural education and communication;
- Gina Tran, animal sciences;
- Faith Twinamaani, horticultural sciences; and
- Ashley Wilder, food and resource economics.
The AFA Leaders Conference is a 4-day event during which attendees develop professional skills, make connections with fellow students, and hear from leaders in the agriculture industry. Attendees participate in an opportunity fair that provides connections to potential employers for internships or full-time work. “I actually got the opportunity to interview with John Deere after speaking to one of their sales representatives at mocktail hour and with their representatives at the opportunity fair,” said senior Gina Tran.
The conference offered workshops with topics ranging from effective communication to how to read body language. “I found the workshops to be extremely informational, and they truly allowed me to reflect and deepen my understanding of myself in a professional context,” said sophomore Rebecca Lyons. Another session focused on the transition from college to the workplace and what professionals did in their first years of working, which senior Ashley Wilder said was very useful.
Students were able to connect with their peers, industry professionals and corporate representatives. Junior Emma Biggers secured an internship as a direct result of networking at the conference. “I connected with a regional manager with Archer Daniels Midland and was offered an internship in commodity trading on the spot,” she said. Senior Amber Hatch also secured a summer internship with BASF Agricultural Solutions as a result of her networking efforts.
While reflecting on their experiences at the AFA Leaders Conference, each student emphasized the tremendous value the conference provided for their future career outlooks. “The leadership skills I have learned and the relationships I cultivated made this conference one of the best I have attended,” said senior Elanie Mason.
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.