Three of the busiest college freshmen in Arkansas have two things in common: they hold the three FFA at-large state officer positions and they all chose to become Southern Arkansas University Muleriders.
Arkansas FFA (Future Farmers of America) State President Taylor McNeel comes to SAU from Vilonia in the Northwestern FFA District. FFA State Reporter Caleigh Sue Moyer is from Prairie Grove in the Northwestern District. FFA State Secretary Sunni Wise represents the Southern District, and is from Bismark.
The three had only met at FFA conferences before they all came together in college. Now they room side-by-side in a residence hall at SAU as they plan a year of representing all the Arkansas high school FFA chapters through next June 2014.
“We are so excited to have three of the six state FFA officers at Southern Arkansas University this year,” said Shelly Whaley, SAU assistant dean of advising and transfer recruitment. “These young ladies are wonderful ambassadors that are well-respected among high school FFA members and members of the agriculture community. They will be true leaders within the SAU Agriculture Department.”
After a busy summer where they joked that they were home a mere six days between trips to the FFA State President’s Conference in D.C. and weeks of training in Arkansas and Michigan, the trio have settled in to balancing their classwork at SAU and their FFA responsibilities.
They are currently visiting county fairs and are getting ready for the upcoming Arkansas State Fair, which starts October 5 in Little Rock. They said they will visit with FFA members at the “Ag in Action” Ark. FFA booth and the Arkansas Farm Bureau booth.
From October 30 through November 2, they will head to Louisville to serve as delegates for the National FFA Convention and Expo, which is expecting to attract 55,000 FFA students. Taylor will also be competing in the Prepared Public Speaking competition, as she is the reigning Arkansas FFA champion in that category.
“I came to SAU because I knew I wanted an Agriculture Business degree. When I came here for my college day, I saw how big the Ag Department was and how much support the University gave the Ag Department,” said Taylor. “I felt I could really shine here. A lot of our state FFA staff and state agriculture education teachers also graduated from SAU.”
“The faculty and staff at SAU know that we are doing worthwhile activities,” said Moyer. “We are dedicated to our education and to FFA, but we strive to let them know that our education does come first. They made it clear that they will support us.”
They are also excited about being on campus when SAU hosts the Southern District’s FFA leadership conference and career development events (CDE’s).
Wise spent her four years of FFA CDE’s at SAU as a high school student, so she is particularly looking forward to spring.
“This is home. I didn’t apply to any other schools because I knew this is where I wanted to be,” said Wise. “I’m excited to see the FFA members and be able to see it from a different perspective.”
Dr. Jeffry Miller, chair of the Department of Agriculture at SAU, is happy these three leaders chose SAU to be their home for college.
“When I visit with a prospective SAU agriculture student, I look for these intangibles: the desire to learn, the ability to communicate and a commitment to excellence. These three students understand their leadership role and they share the drive and determination to be successful and to become career ready. They also understand the level of commitment that the SAU agriculture faculty has for each individual student, as well as the commitment the University administration has for agriculture,” said Miller.
Moyer expressed the girls’ positive feelings about the atmosphere and faculty at SAU. She said that she has already felt welcome to go and talk to faculty members about anything and everything. The girls agreed that the faculty member’s doors are always open on the second floor of the new Agriculture Center at SAU.
Miller is optimistic that his faculty and the facilities at SAU will continue to get the attention of up-and-coming leaders of agriculture.
“The addition of the new Agriculture Center, along with the horticulture complex, is just the beginning of many good things to come and students understand this.”