IC agribusiness makes first trip to state Professional Agricultural Student conference


Illinois College was represented for the first time at the Professional Agricultural Student state conference in November.

Three IC students joined nearly 250 agriculture students, collegiate advisers and industry representatives at Lincoln Land Community College in Springfield, said Michael Woods, agribusiness coordinator and assistant professor of agribusiness. The two-day conference and contest gives future agriculture industry professionals the opportunity to test out real-world skills and their knowledge of current industry issues.

Mazi Walker ’21 and Marshall Brown ’22, both majoring in agribusiness, and Jacy Castlebury ’22, an agribusiness and economics major with a minor in finance, participated in an employment interview contest. Walker placed second in the livestock production interview and was elected to serve as third vice president for the next year. Brown placed third in the crop production interview.

The student-led National Professional Agricultural Student Organization prepares participants to work in the wide range of careers in agriculture through competitive and real-life applications of their knowledge and experience, according to the organization’s website. In addition to the mock job interviews, Woods said the conference included agriculture-specific competitions in sales, quiz bowl, general knowledge exams, problem-solving scenarios and presentations. In a debate format, students argued real-world agriculture issues, said Walker, adding that she would like to participate in the debate next year.

"They tried to incorporate a lot about what's going on now, so students are better prepared because agriculture is always changing,” she said. “It's an ever-changing industry."

The conference’s activities incorporated skills and real-life issues students will need to understand in their careers. Castlebury said the employment interview was like a real job interview and was customized to the type of job the student would apply for. Castlebury plans to be a grain merchandiser after graduation and she appreciated the chance to practice applying for the type of job she will seek when she leaves campus.

"I thought that was really beneficial because it was so real-life and a lot of times we don't really get that experience until we're actually being interviewed for a job," she said.

Developing those skills gives students a leg up on their future careers, Woods said. Students submit a cover letter and resume, complete an application, and participate in a preliminary face–to–face interview for the contest. 

Castlebury, Brown and Walker plan to participate in the conference in 2020 and hope to take more IC students with them.

"I think next year we can hopefully recruit more students, because they kind of find it intimidating if they have never been in FFA or been to a contest like this,” Walker said. “So, I think that's really our next big goal."

To learn more about the agribusiness program at Illinois College, visit

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932, the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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