Topanga McBride, a student at Kansas State University studying Ag Communications and Ag Economics and the 2016 individual winner for College Aggies Online shares why college students should sign up for this year’s program!
Back in June of 2016, I was sitting at my internship finding as many different agricultural organizations as I could. In my searching, I stumbled upon the Animal Agriculture Alliance and their College Aggies Online contest. Always one for a good newsletter, I signed up, not realizing I had just put my name in the hat for a 9-week challenge to tell my story. It didn’t hit me until I started getting emails and even a tweet from College Aggies Online saying they were glad I had signed up. I scrambled to figure out what I had just gotten myself into, to conclude that this was a great opportunity. One competition, a trip to the Animal Ag Alliance Summit, countless connections, and one scholarship later, I’m so glad I mistakenly signed up for the contest. If you’re still not sold, here’s five reasons to get yourself involved in the College Aggies Online contest.
1. Do it for the vine (or the followers).
Old reference, right idea. This contest allowed me to make all sorts of connections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I interacted with the hundreds of other college students in the contest, discussing strategy and learning each other’s experiences. On top of that, the contestants had a mentor each week who was a communicator in the industry we were focusing on. They gave us insight on their experience and advice both through presentations and personal conversations. Because of all this networking, I not only gained hundreds of followers and friends, but also valuable network connections as I pursue a career in the industry.
2. If you’re into strategy and competition, this contest is full of it.
There is not another competition that compares to College Aggies Online. Strategy is one of my top strengths and this competition gave me the opportunity to exercise it. The contest runs on a points system – whoever has the most points wins. While placing the top posts and entries is up to the judges, simply completing all the tasks is half of the battle. Each week, I’d scan over the score sheet to see who was leading and took the time to learn from their entries to understand what was successful. If you like some healthy competition, College Aggies Online has it.
3. Give your social media some purpose.
We all use our social media differently. This contest helped me understand how I wanted to use each platform with the audiences I already had. My tweets were no longer just about whatever funny hashtag was trending, my Instagram featured less pointless selfies, and my Facebook allowed me to feature stories of my friends instead of just me. I see my social media very differently, and continue to use these platforms more as a tool and less as an online journal and photo album.
4. Meet #AgChat celebrities in real life at Animal Ag Alliance Summit.
The top three finalists and a representative from the top club get to attend the Summit, wherever it may be. This was the first conference I went to where I recognized people all over the room because I’ve interacted with them on #AgChat, or read their blog. Everyone came from different industries and it was exciting to see poultry farmers and beef producers work together over the challenges that face them. I walked away from the Summit abuzz with all sorts of new information and a motivation to keep working towards my career in this industry.
5. Agriculture needs more voices. It needs your voice.
You’ve heard before that agriculture is a small industry, an aging industry, a necessary industry, etc. You may not think you as a college student have something to offer. That’s where you’re wrong. We each have unique networks we are a part of and unique stories of our experiences in this industry. I can tell you a lot more about how a cow gets milked than I can tell you about row crops and the seasons. I have great reach in Northern Colorado with my environmentally-conscious peers, but I don’t have any connections to comfort food lovers in the South. For people outside of agriculture to feel comfortable with the food that they eat and the practices that make it possible, they need to be able to find a person in this industry they identify with. By telling your story, there is someone out there that will see part of themselves in you that they will never see in me. This contest trains you how to best tell your story in the most personal way possible to make the biggest impact.
If you’re still not convinced, reach out to the Animal Ag Alliance, another previous contestant, or myself. We all can help you understand if this contest is an opportunity for you. Hopefully you’ll get involved by choice instead of by accident, but I’m sure glad I did. Thank you for the opportunities and the experiences, Animal Ag Alliance. I cannot wait to see what stories are shared this coming fall.