Ag Sciences students to join Agricultural Future of America virtual conference

Kelly Jedrzejewski
November 05, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Sixteen students from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences will hone their leadership skills by attending the annual Agricultural Future of America Leaders Conference, which is being held virtually Nov. 11-14.

Agriculture Future of America, also known as AFA, is a national organization that provides personal and professional development programs to college students and young professionals in agriculture.

Its annual Leaders Conference brings together about 900 students from across the country to bridge the gap between academic, leadership and work experiences while helping students understand the impact of their decisions. Additionally, students partake in an opportunity fair, which allows them to connect with organizations to discuss internships, full-time employment and continued education.

College of Agricultural Sciences undergraduate students selected to attend, and their majors, are Mindy Beam, Matthew Eyre, Brooke Kline, Adrianna Mowrer, Madison Over, Anna Reyburn, Patrick Rush and Amy Wampler, animal science; Jacob Heeter and Clayton Wagner, agribusiness management; Shelby Hammond and Leah Welk, agricultural science; Lindsey Schoch, plant sciences; Nina Coolidge and Nicole Guise, agricultural and extension education; and Michael Gilligan, community, environment, and development. The students were recruited by Rush, who is Penn State’s AFA student ambassador.

“We’re grateful — and proud — that our students were selected to participate in such a prestigious national conference,” said Lori Connelly, director of Experiential Learning and Career Services for the college. “Their participation speaks to the caliber of our students and to the high level of student engagement opportunities that are available in the agricultural sciences. We are appreciative of AFA and its industry partners for their commitment to growing talent in this essential sector.”

In addition to attending sessions on topics such as networking, career pathways, sustainability and conservation, food waste, climate change pollution, and international trade, the students will hear from industry leaders, including keynote speaker Ted McKinney, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.

For Wagner, AFA represents an incredible resource that is helping him begin to build a portfolio, set goals and prepare a strong foundation for his future career. He is looking forward to the Leaders Conference, especially the sessions that foster networking and leadership development.

“They don’t hold back when it comes to the speakers — they bring in some of the best industry professionals to talk with students,” said the sophomore. “It’s called a Leaders Conference, rather than a leadership conference, because AFA believes you’re already a leader. The goal is to help us grow our leadership skills.”

Wagner also has been selected as an AFA Academic Scholar for 2020. Scholars are selected based on an application that highlights their past leadership experience, work and/or internship exposure, service to their community, academic credentials and answers to essay questions regarding their desire to grow professionally in the agriculture industry.

In addition to its leadership offerings, AFA also offers a Fellowship Program that connects students with an industry coach to provide practice and application of the organization’s six leader competencies. As part of the program, students build a professional portfolio and personal board of directors, as well as choose a trained coach to help guide them through the commitment.

AFA is “thrilled” to have such a large group of Penn State students accepted to attend conference, said Ashley Collins, director of collegiate relations for AFA. The organization saw a more than a 20% increase in applicants this year, she noted.

“The increase demonstrates the desire students have for opportunities to grow professionally and to connect with top leaders as well as peers in agriculture and food,” Collins said. “AFA is excited about an agenda that includes a mixture of live and on-demand sessions as well as small group breakouts that will foster networking and topic dialogue opportunities that come at a premium during this unprecedented time.”

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, noted Connelly. 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, contact the Office for Undergraduate Education at 814-865-7521 or visit

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Last Updated November 05, 2020