Students expand their career horizons through gifts of travel  

AFA Leaders Conference
Passionate donors helped 11 undergraduates from Washington State University take part in the Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference in Kansas City, Mo. Travel experiences like AFA are made possible through the CAHNRS Excellence Fund, which is supported this spring through CougsGive.

Thanks to travel experiences made possible by gifts from passionate Cougs, students at Washington State University are on track to become future leaders in business, agriculture, education, and technology, and a host of other life-changing careers. 

This academic year, the donor-supported College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences’ Excellence Fund allowed 11 undergraduates to visit Kansas City, Mo., for the annual Agriculture Future of America (AFA) Leaders Conference. A bridge between college and careers, the conference helps students connect with their peers, grow their professional skills, and meet the people guiding today’s industries.  

“The Excellence Fund directly impacts our trajectories,” said Collin Rovey, an AFA participant studying agricultural technology and production management. “Because of the people I met at the AFA conference, I’ve been able to dramatically narrow down how I want to use my WSU degree to contribute to the future of agriculture. It’s affected the course of my life, and I am grateful to all who made it possible.” 

Created in 1996 through a gift from 1931 WSU alumnus Roy Hansberry, the Excellence Fund benefits student travel and learning experiences, recruitment and scholarships, team awards, and other projects deemed by the dean to enhance the college. The fund covered a portion of students’ AFA travel costs. 

“I’ve very appreciative of Excellence Fund donors for allowing me to take part in AFA for the past two years,” said participant Sydney Kish. “They have contributed to my development and personal growth, as a student, as a young adult entering the agriculture workforce, and as an individual.” 

Miguel Inzunza, director of student recruitment and retention for CAHNRS, accompanied the group to Kansas City. For Inzunza, professional engagement from both students and industry members stood out during the experience. 

“For students, it’s their chance to learn about the diversity of opportunities in agriculture,” he said. “For industry, they have the chance to be in front of tomorrow’s ag leaders.” 

The conference helps students meet peers from across the country with similar interests and goals. From professional leaders, they learn about new trends, technologies, and developments in their focus areas. Workshops them grow skills in time management and goal setting and may change their viewpoint on how to solve a problem. 

“Attending conferences like AFA is about much more than just sitting and listening,” Inzunza said. “It’s about conversation, thinking, critically analyzing problems, and developing networking and interview skills that help students start their careers.” 

Kadi Compton, an agricultural and food business economics major, put herself outside her comfort zone during the event, networking with leaders in industry. 

“It allowed me to see what options are out there and learn what I want for my future career,” she said. 

Kish, an animal sciences major, is already entertaining interviews and potential offers with companies she linked with through AFA. 

“Having connections who know your name, face, and background is a serious leg up in the interview and hiring process,” she said. 

“AFA has changed my life and that of so many other students,” said Della Paloy, a senior in ag economics and ag and food business economics. For the past three years, Paloy has served as an AFA Ambassador, representing the organization on campus while encouraging peers to take part in its conferences and institutes. 

“If we could send 10 or 15 students every year, think of how many lives we could change and how many young people whose career courses we could affect,” Paloy said. “To donors, I say, thank you so much for any support that you can provide!” 

To support this fund, visit the CougsGive CAHNRS Dean’s Priorities website and become a CougsGive Ambassador. You can provide a gift on April 17 and help share the word to support deserving WSU students and life-changing Cougar experiences.