Spreading misinformation and wedging themselves between consumers and the animal agriculture community is common for animal rights groups to reach their goals, and college students are often a key target. That’s why the Animal Agriculture Alliance launched the College Aggies Online (CAO) scholarship program eight years ago as one way to help bridge the communication gap between farm and fork.
This year’s competition begins September 10, 2017 with the goal of developing life-long advocates for agriculture. Registration for the competition is open to individuals and clubs through October 1.
“Animal rights groups are prevalent on college campuses spreading misinformation about America’s farmers and ranchers using ‘undercover’ video footage, Meatless Mondays petitions, and other tactics,” said Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO at the Alliance. “CAO is a way to ensure agriculture students have the tools they need to share factual, science-based information with their peers about how our food is produced.”
Each week students competing in College Aggies Online will complete assignments and participate in webinars to help enhance their communication and advocacy skills. Assignments include: writing a blog post, designing an infographic, surveying fellow students about agriculture issues, and much more. Students will also create social media content to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #CAO17.
“College Aggies gives students the skills and confidence to speak up against misinformation and set the record straight,” said Casey Whitaker, communications manager at the Alliance. “The clubs and students involved will not only learn how to communicate about animal agriculture, but have the opportunity to network with college students and industry leaders from across the country.”
The Alliance has a put together a strong lineup of industry professionals to offer advice and answer questions throughout the competition. Mentors will also judge assignments and social media posts and give tips and feedback on how students can improve their strategies.
2017 program mentors include:
- Casey Whitaker, communications manager, Animal Agriculture Alliance
- Josie Peterson, communications manager, Biotechnology Innovation Organization
- Don Schindler, senior vice president of digital innovations, Dairy Management Inc.
- Chloe Carson, manager of digital communications, National Pork Producers Council
- Kourtney Determan, manager of strategic and digital communications, National Chicken Council
- Allison Devitre, regulatory information management and communications manager, Monsanto
- Eric Mittenthal, vice president of public affairs, North American Meat Institute
- Charmayne Hefley, manager of organizational communications, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
- Tim Hammerich, agribusiness recruiter and founder, Ag Grad, LLC
At the end of the competition, the top three individuals and clubs with the most points will win the following scholarships:
- First place: $2,500
- Second place: $1,000
- Third place: $500
In addition to the overall winners, a weekly winner will be selected from the individual competition to receive $100 for submitting the best assignment. For the club competition, a winner will be named for each challenge to receive $250 at the end of the program.