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WIU Ag Students Win National Competition 4th Year in Row
Illinois Ag Connection - 12/07/2018

For the fourth year in a row, a group of Western Illinois University School of Agriculture students have won the College Aggies Online (CAO) competition and $2,500 in scholarship funding for the WIU Agriculture Club.

A group of 60 WIU agriculture students participated in the yearlong competition, which included numerous educational components on campus and around the region. The students also won two smaller challenges within the competition, which will bring in another $500 in scholarship funding.

The WIU club is made up of students in the Communicating Agricultural Issues class at Western, taught by School of Agriculture Instructor Jana Knupp.

"One of my favorite aspects of this contest is that it shows students they can have a conversation about agriculture anywhere," said Knupp. "People are genuinely curious to know more about agriculture; we just have to be ready to provide factual information."

Projects completed as part of this year's competition included:

- Handing out 800 cartons of chocolate milk through the Homecoming 5K and the Fallen Soldiers 5K at WIU to promote drinking chocolate milk after a cardio workout

- Visiting four grade school classes to teach lessons about agriculture

- Hosting two preschool student field trips to the WIU Farm

- Hosting two WIU farm tours

- Meeting with legislators

- Dispelling common agricultural myths on campus

- Collecting nearly 3,000 pounds of food for the WIU student-run food pantry

Over the last four years, nearly 260 WIU students have participated in the competitive events, which provide the real-life application of communicating agricultural topics with the general public.

School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said this year's recognition solidifies why the University has competed in this event for the last four years.

"We are always looking for positive ideas to enrich the educational opportunities within our curriculum," said Baker. "National competitions are a great way to benchmark the value of a particular activity or assignment, especially when it is integrated into the curriculum."

Baker added that the national event allows WIU students to "practice and apply a specific skill set sought by the industry, which is advocacy."

"This event has enhanced the marketability of our students in securing future employment in the agriculture industry," he said. "Our students have worked incredibly hard to secure national recognition for the last four years, which has created a lasting legacy within our department. Special thanks is given to Ms. Jana Knupp for her guidance and expertise, as well as the students who competed in this year's event."

The CAO program is an initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, which connects college students from across the country interested in the promotion of agriculture. For more information about the program, visit collegeaggies.animalagalliance.org. For more information about the WIU School of Agriculture, visit wiu.edu/agriculture.

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