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Masanobu Fukuoka from the best-selling book, “The One-Straw Revolution,” once said that the ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. What better place to cultivate and perfect people than the College of Agriculture at Auburn University.
No one knows the story quite like the young men and women who live it, and that is why, in 1983, the College of Agriculture established a program to choose some of the best students to be representatives of the college and agriculture. Those students became known as Ag Ambassadors.
The Ag Ambassadors program was the brainchild of the late Robert Voitle, the College of Agriculture’s dean from 1981 to 1985. Voitle wanted a way to inform high school students about the many agricultural programs offered at Auburn University and recruit them to the college.
The program became a success in improving the image of agriculture, and interest among prospective students increased. The Ag Ambassadors soon became official student representatives of the College of Agriculture.
Today the Ag Ambassadors are running strong. They can be found recruiting at War Eagle Days, Career Day and student visits. They tailgate with the dean, hang out with alumni at Ag Roundup and participate in student social events such as graduation breakfasts. The ambassadors can also be found speaking on subjects such as science, agriculture and natural resources to school assemblies, at banquets and to agriculture-minded groups.
You only have to talk to a couple of the ambassadors to get the feeling of closeness they have with the College of Agriculture and agriculture itself. Kira Chaloupka, this year’s president, says, “I wanted to be an Ag Ambassador because I love our college and wanted to give back any way I could. It’s all about family here in the College of Ag, and as an Ag Ambassador I have the opportunity to promote that to future students.”
“Being an Ag Ambassador is definitely an honor and a responsibility, but the experiences I’ve had as one, meeting alumni who have loved Auburn for many years and students who are excited to join the family,” says last year’s President Emily Brennan, “are what have made me understand why it is such an amazing place to call home.”
While the college uses Ag Ambassadors to recruit new students and get the word out about agriculture, the Ag Ambassadors get much more in return. Brennan says that being an Ag Ambassador helped her communicate and present herself well in many different situations.
One of her favorite accomplishments as an Ag Ambassador was being asked to present information about Café Citadelle, a coffee grown in Haiti, to an Academic Affairs gathering. Profits from the coffee, which was sold by Ag Ambassadors last year, are returned to Haiti to help the country rebuild following the earthquake of 2011. Not only was she able to talk about the coffee, Brennan was also able to visit Haiti and see the co-op where it was grown and meet the people who were benefiting from the coffee’s sales.
“It really changed my life, and now I might even be able to teach as a volunteer at one of the schools this year,” Brennan says. “This all happened as a result of being an Ag Ambassador.”
And it is not easy to become an Ag Ambassador. The late Bill Hardy, former professor of agriculture economics who served as Ag Ambassador adviser for several years, described the Ag Ambassadors as being the “cream of the crop.”
“I love working as a team with some of the best and brightest the College of Ag has to offer,” says Ashley Culpepper. “My fellow Ag Ambassadors really are amazing people.”
To be considered, students must have a 2.75 or higher grade-point average at Auburn. When applying, they must include letters of recommendation, background information and an interest essay.
Students selected for an interview must give a five- to 10-minute presentation on the College of Agriculture and Auburn University and then answer questions from a panel of faculty and Ag Ambassadors.
Megan Ross, student services adviser to the Ag Ambassadors, sums it up nicely.
“These students truly exemplify what it means to be a part of the Auburn University family,” Ross says. “We are fortunate to have them representing the College of Agriculture, Auburn University and the agriculture industry.”
Being an Ag Ambassador is the perfect way to put down roots in the College of Agriculture and be cultivated into a fundamental leader who is full of character, strength, courage and confidence.