While on faculty at South Dakota State University, I was tasked with developing a “Beef Industry Center of Excellence”, a concept derived to engage students seeking careers in the beef industry. I have taken many of the underlying principles of the Beef Industry Center of Excellence to develop a course in beef industry issues at Texas Tech University.
The beef industry of the future promises opportunity for those who seek it. Along with these opportunities are challenges to navigate as the industry faces changes in environmental, welfare and global trade issues, along with high production costs and competition for resources. The innovative Beef Industry Leaders Course through the Department of Animal and Food Sciences at Texas Tech University aims to prepare students for those opportunities and challenges.
Whether a student is pursuing a career in the beef industry or plans to carry on the legacy of a family farm or ranch operation, the Beef Industry Leaders Course is designed to help individuals gain the communication, critical thinking and networking skills to enable them to be successful in their future beef industry endeavors. Throughout this process, students will be trained to become advocates for animal agriculture.
Major objectives of the class are to expose students firsthand to issues facing the industry, to facilitate interaction with industry leaders, and to share the message of the beef industry with other audiences. Many of the issues that the industry faces are a result of consumer misinformation and lack of education; students in the class learn the facts about the issues and learn how to speak to non-agriculture audiences regarding these topics.
Engaging students with industry affiliates and leaders is achieved by taking the class to NCBA and Texas and Southwest Cattle Raisers conventions. These opportunities are pivotal in providing students with firsthand perspectives of the roles that NCBA and state affiliates play in the industry as well as provide tremendous networking experiences. In addition to the networking that students are able to do while walking through the tradeshow at NCBA, meetings with industry affiliates are also set-up, in an effort to further the opportunities for interaction. Students agree that this is one of the most impactful aspects of the class.
To culminate the semester, in conjunction with Agriculture Awareness Week, students make a presentation to the College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources to advocate the beef industry. It is the goal that in future years, this presentation will expand to a broader audience.
Past students have indicated that: “The Beef Industry Issues Class offered us a truly unique experience to meet industry leaders, travel to conventions and to educate others about the current happenings in the beef industry. These opportunities would not have been available to me without this class and I thoroughly enjoyed the class” Tressa Lawrance, Senior in Agriculture Communications and Education from Buffalo, WY. Nellie Hill, a graduate student in Agriculture Communications also reflected on the class: “The class brought together many different perspectives on the beef cattle industry, allowing the content to create dynamic discussion about key issues. As an agriculture communications major, I enjoyed the opportunity to work with people outside of my department and share what we learned throughout the class through our presentation to the college.”
Throughout the semester, teamwork, critical thinking and communication skills are fostered among students in the course. Moreover, by attending state and national beef industry events, students are exposed firsthand to issues facing the industry – many of which are addressed throughout the course. Most importantly, the course aims to aid students in developing leadership skills and a network of personal connections with industry leaders, giving them resources to utilize as they return to a family farm or ranch or pursue careers within the beef industry – and inspiring them to support and serve in industry organizations in the future.