Reflections from MFU interns Brianna Opdahl and Emily Pliscott
By Brianna Opdahl
This October, I had to chance to once again attend the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind. This was my eighth convention and as always, I had a blast. Throughout high school, I had the opportunity to attend as a chapter and region officer to better develop my leadership skills and expand my horizon. For the past four years, I have attended with the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Education, Communication and Marketing Club and competed at the Alpha Tau Alpha Conclave (ATA), an event similar to the National FFA Convention for agriculture education leaders. The ATA Conclave is held at the same location and during the same time in order to give college students a chance to work their college career booth at the FFA convention. I was joined by MFU camp counselors Katie Brown and Winona Johnson, who are also students at UMN.
The ATA Conclave hosts multiple competitions for students to compete in, including parliamentary procedure, individual and group essay, quiz bowl, debate and the Program of Excellence, a presentation of the club’s accomplishments throughout the year. I competed in the group essay, writing on how agricultural education college prep programs can help shape the agriculture teaching profession in ways to help alleviate burnout and loss of teachers to other careers. Together, my group discussed how there needs to be more transparency for students before they enter the career field and earlier time in the classroom. With the way things are currently set up, students don’t get to spend any time in the classroom for hands-on experience until their senior year when it’s too late to switch career paths.
When I wasn’t busy with the ATA Conclave, I spent time at the University of Minnesota booth at the college and career expo center. Here, I staffed the booth and spoke with students interested in attending the University of Minnesota. I had some great discussions with high school students about what the U of M has to offer and why I believe it is such a great school and state to live in.
I also got to cheer on fellow University of Minnesota students that were receiving their American Degree, the National FFA’s highest honor. I received mine in 2016 and am always so excited to watch fellow peers hard work pay off as it’s no small feat to accomplish.
As a senior in college, this was my last convention and I sadly closed the chapter of my life of being an active FFA member. But I will certainly be continuing my involvement by being an FFA alumni member and encouraging FFA members to take every opportunity available. Without the strong support I received, I never would have been an active member and got to experience everything I did. I wouldn’t have made friends across the state and nation, nor would I have gained half the skills I have today. I quite simply wouldn’t be the person I am today without the National FFA Organization. I want to ensure that students receive that same support for generations to come so they too, can develop into the bright and skilled individuals they’re meant to be.
By Emily Pliscott
At October’s National FFA Convention, I attended the Alpha Tau Alpha Conclave with the University of Minnesota’s parliamentary procedure team. To demonstrate our knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order and the proper method of running a meeting, the U of M’s five-person team completed a mixture of main and subsidiary motions during a mock business meeting with five other colleges from around the county and completed a written test. We placed second in the national contest, and a University of Minnesota student was selected for both the Outstanding Chair and Outstanding Secretary Awards. The Robert’s Rules of Order are the same rules that govern MFU meetings and conventions, for reference.
I also received my American FFA Degree, highlighting the end of my FFA career with the highest degree the National FFA Organization can bestow upon a member. This cumulated seven years of a supervised agricultural experience program where I raised goats and learned about both corn and soybean breeding. Less than one percent of FFA members receive this award, as it requires at least three years of agricultural education classes and service hours combined with a gross $10,000-worth combination of income and unpaid hours. Others involved with MFU received their American FFA Degrees as well, including camp counselors Nick Aarsvold and Andrew VanDerPol.
Overall, the National FFA Convention was a great experience and a chance to successfully promote both the University of Minnesota and opportunities for FFA members to continue in agriculture. This year’s trip to Indianapolis left me with a lot of hope for the ever-expanding opportunities in our industry and in the ability of Minnesota students to successfully bring agriculture forward.