An all-star lineup of industry experts set to coach competitors.

On Monday, September 28th, the Animal Agriculture Alliance will launch its annual College Aggies Online Scholarship Program (CAO). CAO is designed to help college students with an interest in agriculture become confident, positive and proactive communicators. The Alliance is excited to welcome a team of industry experts to advise and mentor students throughout the eight-week program.

"This year's College Aggies Online participants are really in for a rewarding experience," said Alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. "We are looking forward to helping connect future leaders in agriculture to our expert panel, which consists of experienced and renowned individuals in diverse fields, including online engagement, consumer communications, public policy and digital media."

Program mentors include:

  • Kristina Butts is a Texas native and alumna of Texas Tech University. She has spent the past 12 years serving agriculture through roles on Capitol Hill and with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. As NCBA's executive director of legislative affairs, she leads the organization's legislative engagement on nutrition and food safety policy issues and leads a team who represent America's cattlemen and women on Capitol Hill.
  • Ilina Ewen writes at Dirt & Noise and is a seasoned marketer with 25 years of marketing, brand strategy, communications, and writing experience. Her experience on both the agency and client side of marketing communications affords her a keen understanding of both perspectives. She has an M.S. in integrated marketing communications from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a B.A. in history from the University of Virginia.
  • Lisa M. Frame is a freelance writer, social media strategist and blogger who currently lives just outside of Charlotte, NC. Blogging since 2002, Lisa has written on assignment for The Savvy Source, Intel, MomLogic, Home Made Simple, Safely, Life 360, Tech Savvy Mama and more. When she's not wearing the keys off of her laptop, she's behind a camera lens or obsessing over her Pinterest boards. 
  • Casey Hushon is an account supervisor with Charleston|Orwig, an integrated marketing communications agency in Hartland, Wisconsin. Casey has been with C|O for the past 8 years where she has held numerous roles in public relations and account service. She is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a degree in dairy science and a minor in professional writing. Casey hails from Maine where her family still resides. Her aunt, uncle and cousins own and operate Castonguay Ayrshires, a dairy farm that ignited her passion for the industry at a young age.
  • Rebecca Shaw is the dairy marketing specialist at Cargill Animal Nutrition. She grew up working on her grandparents' 200-cow dairy farm, and currently works on her family's calf and heifer raising operations. She is a 2014 graduate of Penn State with a degree in agribusiness management, and has since been very involved with social media and advocacy of the dairy an agricultural industries. Rebecca posts about agriculture on a blog, Facebook page and Instagram under the name "The Cow Chronicler."
  • Andy Vance began his career in farm media as a college intern in Columbus, Ohio, and spent ten years as a broadcast journalist at WRFD-AM, the Buckeye Ag Radio Network and ABN Radio. During his time behind the microphone, he became a noted authority on the use of digital and social media in agriculture.  In 2010, Andy made the transition to print media when he joined Feedstuffs as a contributor and blogger. Today, in addition to writing, podcasting and speaking, Andy designs multi-platform campaigns for advertisers reaching an agricultural audience via Feedstuffs, National Hog Farmer and BEEF Magazine.
  • Krissa Welshans works as a staff editor for Feedstuffs covering livestock and feed news. Krissa holds a B.S. in animal science from Michigan State University and an M.S. in public policy from New England College. Before joining Feedstuffs, Krissa worked for the National Pork Producers Council and the Animal Agriculture Alliance. Krissa and her husband live in Marlette, Michigan and are actively involved in the beef industry. 

The Alliance is also pleased to welcome Tyson Foods, Inc. back as a CAO sponsor for 2015. Tyson Foods has supported CAO each year since 2013.

"We are thrilled to have Tyson Foods involved with College Aggies again this year," said Hannah Thompson, Alliance communications director. "From inviting program winners to its Arkansas headquarters to donating a truckload of protein to the community on behalf winning club from the food drive challenge, the Tyson Foods team goes above and beyond to help make this program something very special."

This fall's competition will include new, creative assignments, increased participant interaction with industry experts, and a more comprehensive internship and career database. Individuals and collegiate agriculture clubs can compete in challenges ranging from writing blogs and engaging with stakeholders using social media, to volunteering at food banks and hosting events on their college campuses. 

The final points from the weekly challenges will be tallied in November 2015 and the club with the most points will receive a $5,000 scholarship, national recognition and a trip for two representatives to attend the Alliance's annual Stakeholders Summit in May. The first place individual will win a $2,500 scholarship and a trip to Summit. Scholarships and recognition will also be awarded to the first and second runner-up clubs as well as to the second and third placing individuals. 

To learn more about the competition and how to sign up, please visit the Alliance website