Challenges to focus on mastering social media tools, learning from industry experts and proactive outreach to college peers.
 
The Animal Agriculture Alliance’s fifth annual College Aggies Online (CAO) agriculture advocacy scholarship competition will kick off on September 9, 2013 with new, creative assignments, increased interaction with industry experts, and a more comprehensive internship and career database. The program, which originally launched in 2009, is designed to equip college students interested in agriculture with the tools to become confident, proactive and creative communicators using social media.  
 
In years past, participants have posted blogs, photos, and videos directly to the CAO website and have interacted with other participants using that forum. This year, students will network and engage with other participants solely using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, with more emphasis on outreach initiatives.
 
The program will additionally focus on more clearly differentiating between club and individual assignments and challenges. Students can choose to participate in the competition either as an individual, as part of an agriculture club, or both. Last Spring, approximately 980 students from more than 75 universities participated in CAO.  
 
“Based on the feedback we received from CAO’s Spring participants, we are moving the competition to the fall semester to increase the engagement with and impact of the program,” said Alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. “We’re excited to have agriculture clubs and students from across the country compete in CAO this fall.”
 
Each week, individual participants will receive assignments, called “Aggies Homework” that will focus on a specific social media platform and a specific protein. Industry experts, including agriculture journalists, food bloggers, and representatives from each of the protein trade associations will host webinars, tweet-ups or Google hangouts to help educate participants about the pertinent issues facing each species and how to communicate with the public about those issues.
 
While the individual participants will be assigned tasks week by week, participating clubs will be able to pick and choose from a variety of challenges including visiting their state legislators, hosting a “Meet your Meat” event on their college campus, or reading agriculture-related books to local elementary school children. Each "Aggies Homework" and club challenge is assigned a specific points value depending on difficulty and the time required to complete. Individuals and clubs compete to rack up the most points during the 11-week program.
 
“The Alliance staff has really worked hard this summer to make this year’s CAO program the most exciting and engaging to date,” stated Johnson Smith. “We can’t wait to see the impact the clubs and students, who are already passionate about agriculture, will have in discussing agriculture with their communities at large.”
 
The final points will be tallied in November 2013 and the club with the most points will receive a $5,000.00 scholarship, national recognition and a trip for two representatives to Washington, D.C. for the Alliance’s annual Stakeholders Summit. The first place individual will win a $2,500.00 scholarship and a trip to D.C.  Scholarships and recognition will also be awarded to the second place club as well as to the second and third place individuals.
 
All 2013 scholarships have been generously sponsored by Lallemand Animal Nutrition. Industry stakeholders interested in additional program sponsorship opportunities should contact Emily Meredith at
[email protected].