Uniting education, industry

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

From Feb. 14 to 16, students from Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute and SDSU will be competing at the Postsecondary Agricultural Students (PAS) State Conference on SDSU’s campus.

Approximately 71 agricultural students, including about 39 members of the SDSU PAS chapter, will participate in contests throughout the conference for a chance at a state title and the opportunity to go to nationals in Dallas on March 12 through 15.

Some of the many contests include: general livestock, dairy, equine, agricultural mechanics, business management, career planning, prepared and impromptu speaking and horticulture.

According to Brittany Nussbaum, a fourth-year agricultural business and dairy production major at SDSU and the PAS national president, competition is a large part of PAS. “We’re here to motivate young professionals in their majors to compete against each other to improve themselves in their area of study,” she said.

When not competing, the students will attend seminars and workshops and take tours. Three tours will be given on the morning of Feb. 15; the first will feature the S.D. Soybean Processors and Schadé Vineyards; the second, the VeraSun Ethanol Plant and Midwest Seeds; and the third, the SDSU cow/calf, sheep, dairy and horse units and the meats lab.

During the afternoon on Feb. 15, the PAS students can attend several seminars with speakers such as Brian and Darren Hefty of Hefty Seed Company and Kelly Bruns, a professor in the animal science department. Later that evening, a banquet will be held to announce the winners of the contests, and after the banquet, the contestants can participate in a paintball tournament. The convention will conclude with a board meeting on Feb. 16.

Both Nussbaum and Vanessa Pooch, a sophomore agricultural business major, hope the convention will have long lasting benefits for the PAS students who attend.

“Our main motto is to unite education and industry,” said Nussbaum. “We try to make sure that any of the judges or people that are helping out with the conference are industry leaders or representatives, so that the students get to meet those people and create a network so when they get out of college they have connections that they can use to start their careers.”

Pooch, who is the state registration coordinator, said, “Maybe [the PAS contestants] will find a career path that they want to take after graduation. A lot of students ? want something to do with agriculture but not necessarily farming. This is the opportunity to learn about other careers within agriculture.”

According to the National PAS Web site, “The National Postsecondary Agricultural Student Organization provides opportunities through a collegiate educational process that promotes individual growth, leadership and strong personal ethics for individuals who are pursuing careers in agriculture.”

Nussbaum described PAS as much like FFA, and she said that PAS offers opportunities for leadership development, travel and friendships with students who are agricultural majors.

Students interested in joining PAS should contact SDSU Chapter President Betsy Steckel. Students can still sign up for the South Dakota PAS Convention, though they will have to pay a late registration fee.