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AMSA Students Gain Experience in Communication Techniques and Product Development at the 2015 Leadership Conference

Mar 26, 2015

Media Contact, Deidrea Mabry, 773-913-2021

Champaign, IL, March 26, 2015 - Are you interested in how product formulation and development happens in our industry?  Do you ever walk through the grocery store or watch television ads and wonder how thoseSLC Sponsors products made it in to the retail markets?  Well, 83 students from 13 universities found the answers to these questions at the 2015 AMSA Student Leadership Conference in Springdale, AR March 13th and 14th.  This two-day conference was sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc., AMSA Student Membership, AMSA Educational Foundation, American Society of Animal Science, and Merck Animal Health. “This is a great opportunity to help students become familiar with the research and development roles within Tyson Foods as well as careers throughout the industry” stated Macc Rigdon, AMSA Student Board, University of Georgia.

Traveling from all over the United States, students began the leadership conference with tours of the Tyson Poultry Processing Facility and the Cryovac Sealed Air plant. Students were taken through both plants and given a behind the scenes look at the day to day operations of both facilities. Many of the students attending the tours shared with other students and their tour guides that this was their first time in either a poultry processing facility or a packing plant. After a morning of tours, the students headed over to the Tyson Discovery Center for the remainder of the day.

SLCteams2015Students were divided into 10 teams and given the tasks to generate a brunch entrée utilizing protein and bakery items provided by Tyson Foods. Each team was assigned a Tyson Team Member to assist them in developing a theme, identifying ingredients that would work well together, understanding the importance of plating, utilizing white space on a plate and the concept behind a hero plate to be submitted for the judging process. Students were given four hours on Friday to discuss the concept and generate a plan with their fellow team members before their evening of fellowship and bowling. The Student Leadership Conference is not only a great opportunity for students to come together and learn more about the industry but it also gives students the opportunity to engage and network with their peers as they prepare for their careers in the industry.

“The real value of the Student Leadership Conference for the students is just being able to get together and hone their leadership skills and abilities, this is such a great opportunity for them to interact and network with each other during the conference,” stated Amy Steward, Tyson Foods, Inc.

Saturday morning at 7 a.m., all 10 teams were in their kitchens to begin the final preparations for their products that would be judged later in the day. Watching the students come together to conceptualize a product, generate a plan and to complete the task at hand in preparing a product that not only looks fabulous but tastes amazing is inspiring to watch. Each team had a unique approach and process to engage each SLC2015Winningitemteam member into the conversation and selected one team member to stand with their product and answer questions that the judges might have. The judges spent time tasting and deliberating over the different “brunch” items prepared by the 10 different teams. After the scores were tallied, only .64 separated 1st -3rd places. Frist place was awarded to the team consisting of Greg Springer, Iowa State University; Caroline Davenport, Auburn University; Michael Yeater, Texas A&M University; Aeriel Belk, Colorado State University; Clay Bendele, Texas Tech University and Landon French, Texas Tech University.  This team created a Tempura Monte Cristo, a Maple Pancake Trifle and a Sweet and Savory Canadian Bacon cup under the advisement of their mentors Adonna Vardeman and Dale Altemier from Tyson Foods, Inc.   

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Students were in for a treat as they entered the afternoon portion of the 2015 SLC, walking into the auditorium they were greeted by Donnie Smith, President and CEO of Tyson Foods.  His energy and excitement had the students sitting up in their chairs and asking questions faster than he could write them down.  During this hour, Donnie SLCDonnieSmith2015challenged the students to think outside the box and to really understand that we need to find ways to educate consumers about what we do on the farm and the way we do it. “As an industry our biggest challenge is to educate people how valuable food production is” Smith said. Concluding his discussion, he challenged the students to share their message and educate the consumers using hash tag myAgstory in less than 140 characters, because no one else can tell our story like we can.

This set the stage for the afternoon discussion on Communicating to Lead and Handling Mistakes led by Scott Dutile from Dale Carnegie. Many students within our industry will have some type of Dale Carnegie training a few years into their career, but the AMSA Student Board thought this was a great way to give AMSA students the competitive advantage of really understanding how to communicate with people and handle miscommunications before they begin their careers and leadership roles. The students spent the afternoon listening and understanding how important it is not only to be a great communicator but to be an even better listener.  All too often we try to make the conversation about us and relate it back to a personal experience. Scott had the students pair up and complete different exercises to understand how to not change the conversation and make it about themselves but to listen and respond accordingly.  This was a valuable opportunity for students to understand these two skill sets, giving them the competitive advantage they need to understand that it is always a people business no matter where your career takes you. 

The 2015 SLC was a tremendous success thanks to the help from the AMAS student board, all the volunteers at Tyson Foods who dedicated countless hours preparing for and facilitating the conference and to our amazing sponsors whose generous support is greatly appreciated. 

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