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'Sponsor a student' program fosters mentoring and learning

New partner-driven program brings post-secondary students from across Alberta to the Livestock Care Conference

Posted: April 5, 2013

One of the clear highlights of the 2013 Livestock Care Conference was the participation of students who are pursuing post-secondary studies in fields related to farm animal welfare.

This strong representation of the next generation of leaders in livestock care was supported by a number of industry partners as part of a special Sponsor a Student program initiated by Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC).

"Students are the future and they are an invaluable part of a successful conference," says Dr. Angela Greter, AFAC Program Manager. "The event offers a range of excellent learning and networking opportunities for the students, including two sessions that are tailored specifically for them. Their participation in the general sessions adds fresh viewpoints and contributes greatly to the quality of discussion.

"We are extremely grateful to all of the sponsors who supported the participation of the students as part of the 2013 program."

Along with AFAC, sponsors of the program included: Alberta Turkey Producers, Alberta Chicken Producers, Alberta Lamb Producers, Alberta Equestrian Federation, Alberta Milk, Alberta Hatching Egg Producers, Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, Alberta Pork and Egg Farmers of Alberta.

Supporting mentorship

The program is designed to support student mentorship with the Alberta livestock industry, by providing the opportunity for interaction and networking during the conference. Students earned the opportunity to participate in the program by submitting a two-page essay on "What does engagement with the Alberta agriculture industry mean to you?" which included sharing professional goals and viewpoints.

Students with successful submissions were paired with sponsors who they joined and interacted with throughout the conference. "There are benefits for both the students and the sponsors," says Greter. "By connecting personally with a student, the industry sponsors create a tremendous amount of good will. Students develop knowledge from the interaction that they may never have acquired another way."

The Alberta livestock industry recognizes that early engagement with young people in agriculture may have far-reaching benefits, she says. "The Sponsor a Student program allows industry to tangibly show this commitment to future growth by providing the student with the opportunity to discover career prospects in agriculture and providing the sponsor with the opportunity to mentor the student."

Key student sessions

The students involved with the program were also invited to participate in two special student-orient sessions at the conference. The first, titled "Meet the Experts" was facilitated by Greter along with Dr. Clover Bench, Professor of Applied Ethology and Animal Behaviour at the University of Alberta. This session included several different exercises that encouraged group discussion, sharing of perspectives and experiences and new ways of thinking about today's livestock welfare challenges and opportunities.

Students were joined by a cross-section of livestock industry stakeholders including producers, veterinarians, consultants, academics and others in these activities, which also included a speed-networking Q&A exercise designed for the students to learn and share one-on-one with these established industry players.

Dr. Clover Bench, University of Alberta

A second student-oriented session, "Talking Posters," featured the academic work of a number of these students. Research posters were showcased in the main conference room with the students on hand to field questions from conference participants. Two students also formally discussed their research by delivering a presentation at the front of the conference room ahead of the AFAC AGM. Two posters and presentations that were then selected as award winners.

In all, over 20 students were in attendance from University of Alberta, Olds College, Lakeland College and University of Calgary.

"The student involvement and participation at the Livestock Care conference is very positive and adds a lot to the event," says Bench. "The students who attended are an indication that animal welfare and animal care is becoming a big focus of interest among our post-secondary students here in Alberta."

Stepping up to the plate

Sponsors of the student program included:

  • Alberta Turkey Producers
  • Alberta Chicken Producers
  • Alberta Lamb Producers
  • Alberta Equestrian Federation
  • Alberta Milk
  • Alberta Hatching Egg Producers
  • Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
  • Alberta Pork
  • Egg Farmers of Alberta
  • Alberta Farm Animal Care

Reprintable with credit. This article is available for reprint, with acknowledgement of the source as Meristem Land and Science, www.meristem.com.

Meristem is a Calgary-based communications firm that specializes in writing about western agriculture, food and land use. More articles at www.meristem.com.




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