Everyone is involved in agriculture in one way or another – whether that is growing up on a farm or even just eating the food bought at the grocery store. To bridge the communication gap between farm and fork, college students from across the country come together each fall for a scholarship program that encourages them to do just that. More than $20,000 was awarded in scholarship money last fall as part of the College Aggies Online program!
College Aggies Online (CAO) is a scholarship competition hosted and run by the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The goal of the program is to engage with college students to provide them with the tools to become effective advocates for animal agriculture. Sharing the story of animal agriculture is a different journey for each person. By sharing personal stories or learning about other areas of animal ag you might not be familiar with, we can engage with the general public to show where our food comes from and how it’s raised.
The scholarship competition is organized in two different categories: individual competition and club competition. Last year, 160 individuals and 19 collegiate clubs participated, representing 34 states and 56 universities. Students reached more than 4 million people online with their social media posts and around 5,200 people in-person via campus events.
CAO is open to any college student in undergraduate, graduate, or pre-professional programs who has a genuine interest in agriculture, regardless of your background or experience in agriculture. Over the 9-week span of the competition, students have the opportunity to network with social media-savvy farmers and industry professionals while enhancing their communication skills. Previous mentors include:
- Tara Vander Dussen, also known as New Mexico Milkmaid
- Michelle Miller, known online as The Farm Babe
- Brandi Buzzard of Buzzard’s Beat
- Emily Shaw, owner of Dairy Girl Fitness
As they progress through the weeks, students grow in their abilities and learn relevant skills to boost their resumes when applying for future internships or job opportunities.
Each week, a food-animal species or sector of animal agriculture is highlighted and students are empowered to share about it on various social media platforms and/or complete challenges for the week. The selected mentors each week aid students and give them additional tips and resources to be successful. At the end of each week, the top five students are selected for mini-scholarships. The points for each week accumulate for a grand total at the end of the 9-week competition and the top three participants from each category (individual or club) are selected for the overall scholarships and an opportunity to attend the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s annual Stakeholder’s Summit.
“2021 was my second year participating in College Aggies, so I can say fully that this program is an amazing opportunity. My passion is agricultural communications, so being able to practice my skills, do what I love, and win scholarships was really great. I loved getting to connect with other college students from across the country and learn from some great mentors. With their help, I was able to learn new things and discover my style of advocating for agriculture. I would highly encourage everyone to sign up, regardless of their background. It is an amazing experience and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of College Aggies Online.” – Sydney Mitchell, South Dakota State University – Agriculture Communications, College Aggies Online 2021 Undergraduate Division 1st Place Scholarship Winner
In the student organization division, collegiate clubs and classes have the opportunity to host events on their campus to engage with peers about agriculture, along with virtual engagement options that provide flexibility in varying community and college health guidelines. In the 2021 CAO Competition, the top three clubs hosted events such as a Milk Drive for the community and bringing a dairy cow into the quad for students to interact with. Possible club events include:
- Hosting a campus event
- Organizing a food drive
- Providing a farm tour
- Having a movie night
- And much more!
While student organizations are provided with ideas of possible events to host, clubs choose the challenges they would like to focus on. The groups start by creating an action plan for the selected challenge to then host on campus, in the community, or virtually. By the end of the program, clubs must have hosted at least three different events and turned in the submission forms for each. Clubs are scored on a rubric for their hosted events and the top three clubs with the most points by the end receive the overall scholarships. Clubs also compete for name recognition and mini-scholarships for hosting the best event in that challenge category.
Interested in College Aggies Online?
Join us for this year’s competition which kicks off on September 12, 2022. Sign up here today.
“College Aggies Online was an invaluable experience that really opened my eyes to new opportunities both personally and professionally. This was my first year participating, and I came into this scholarship program with zero communications experience. With help from the Alliance and our weekly mentors, I learned so much about different areas of animal ag that I was not previously familiar with and was able to build the skills needed to effectively share our story. This program opened new doors and passions and provided so many great opportunities – I really encourage everyone interested to sign up for the 2022 competition this fall!” – Alexis Main, Oklahoma State University – Animal Science, College Aggies Online 2021 Graduate Division 1st Place Scholarship Winner