Submitted by Courtney Heiser
In early November, a group of CFAES students, representing both Ohio State University’s Wooster and Columbus campuses, traveled to Kansas City, MO to participate in a very unique opportunity known as the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. This program is intended to offer college students different personal and professional development opportunities specific to their year in college. Students had the privilege to network and learn about opportunities in the agriculture industry with both peers and industry professionals from across the United States. As a college freshman, I was fortunate to have been able to participate in this unique program that allowed me to break out of my comfort zone and appreciate different viewpoints and ideas from peers across the country.
For four consecutive days, the program kept us on our toes with many different professional- development, leadership, and team-building sessions that allowed us to engage with others and express our ideas in a welcoming environment. The theme of the conference was “Fuse: Better Together.” To me, AFA’s theme translates to this: leaders within the agriculture and food industry must be willing to listen to others’ viewpoints and be open to transforming their mindsets by listening to others’ ideas, realizing their talents, as well as respect their backgrounds and experiences to strengthen our agriculture and food industry. The next generation of agriculturalists will create a strong bond that will fuse the industry and make it so much better together.
Every moment I spent at this conference was productive and an opportunity to connect with new people, hear different viewpoints, and express my ideas as well. As a 1st year student participating in the Track 1 program of the Leaders Conference, I was able to become more self-aware of my personal talents, skills, values, and motivations.
In Track 1, I was able to explore and enhance my personal strengths and skills that I bring to the professional playing field. Every session I participated in was very beneficial and increased my self-awareness. Specifically, participating in the Balancing Personal Priorities Session, hosted by a former OSU student, Emily Peters, helped me to realize the things holding me back from progressing from good to great.
One of the most unique experiences offered at the Leaders Conference was the Opportunity Fair. Personally, this was my favorite part of the entire conference. There were nearly 100 agricultural businesses, organizations, and associations that were in search of qualifies students to fill internships and many offered other employment opportunities. The opportunity fair allowed me to speak to future employers, allowing me to get my foot in the door for future employment opportunities.
All in all, it was an honor to represent Ohio State ATI at the AFA Leaders Conference. I enjoyed every moment I spent networking with peers and professionals. There are many opportunities to stay involved with AFA including major-specific institutes, AFA fellowship program, the campus ambassador program, and even the student advisory team. I hope to return to the AFA Leaders Conference next fall and participate in the Track 2 Program and eventually apply to be a campus ambassador to continue to promote these outstanding opportunities!