College of Ag Sciences student invites peers to grow their leadership skills

By Kelly Jedrzejewski
August 20, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Dylan Schoemaker's desire to grow as a student and a leader served as the springboard for him to dive into the many opportunities provided through Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

One of those pursuits — his appointment as campus ambassador for Agricultural Future of America — is not only honing his leadership skills, but also is helping him to make important connections in the industry, and the junior plant sciences major wants other students to benefit from the program, which he describes as a "best-kept secret" on campus.

As campus ambassador, Schoemaker helps foster the relationship between the organization often referred to as AFA — a national group that provides personal and professional development programs to college students and young professionals in agriculture — and the college. He also raises awareness of the programs available to students.

"Dylan’s enthusiasm for the agricultural industry and his desire to help others make him a great campus ambassador for AFA at Penn State," said Ashley Collins, AFA director of collegiate relations. "He strives to help a greater number of his peers get connected with the leadership development training we provide at AFA."

AFA cultivates student leaders through high-level programs on professional development, career exploration and networking. The organization hosts several "Leader Institutes" throughout the year in different parts of the country, allowing students to more deeply explore specific areas of interest within agriculture, such as food science, technology and policy. Institutes are sometimes held in conjunction with major industry events to maximize the exposure and networking opportunities for students.

Another opportunity is the organization's "Leaders Conference," which Schoemaker attended last year. Collins said the conference, held annually in November in Kansas City, Missouri, brings together about 800 students from across the country to bridge the gap between academic, leadership and work experiences while helping students understand the impact of their decisions. Students also have the opportunity to network with peers and leaders in the agriculture industry.  

"At the conference, students are exposed to trainings such as managing personal finances, time management and leading across generations," Collins said. "This is what makes AFA unique and a differentiator for students who have the opportunity to experience our programming." 

Schoemaker agreed, adding, "It was four days of intense and valuable professional development, networking and training, an experience that I believe all students in our college can benefit from."

Schoemaker credits his participation in AFA — as well as the college's annual Ag Sciences Career Day, his involvement in student activities including Ag Advocates, and undergraduate research opportunities — with helping him to secure not one but two internships with Corteva Agriscience, the agricultural division of DowDuPont, formally known as DuPont Pioneer. The company focuses agricultural science research to produce a number of advanced agricultural products such as hybrid corn seed.

Last summer, Schoemaker worked in New Holland as a research support intern at one of the company's corn research stations. This summer, he is working as a seed science intern at the company's Johnston, Iowa, facility. There, he assists with data collection and evaluation for most of the projects in his division, focusing on corn hybrids and studying stress emergence in the plants.

"It's really cool because I know the data we collect is going to directly impact growers some day," Schoemaker said. "Without my involvement in AFA, I might not have headed down this path of opportunity." His time at Corteva Agriscience has solidified his goal of working in the research and development side of the seed industry.

"We're grateful not only for our partnership with AFA, but also for the many industry supporters that make this exciting program a reality for our students," said Lori Connelly, director of Experiential Learning and Career Services. "The agricultural sciences are brimming with career opportunities. AFA combines exposure to these career paths with the skills necessary for success and brings them into focus."

AFA is one of the many experiential learning opportunities available to the college's students to help them develop skills and experiences outside of the classroom. Other opportunities include study abroad courses, undergraduate research, clubs and organizations, and internships and work experiences.

To learn more about involvement in AFA or internship and career services provided by the college, visit the Office for Undergraduate Education.

Those interested in attending the AFA Leadership Conference — set for Nov. 1-4 — are invited to fill out an online application, which can be found at www.agfuture.org. Deadline to apply is Sept. 10.

  • Dylan Schoemaker headshot

    Dylan Schoemaker is campus ambassador for Agricultural Future of America.

    IMAGE: AFA

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 30, 2018