Tennessee Tech is all about building leadership, especially in agriculture.
COOKEVILLE – For over two decades, Tennessee Farm Bureau and numerous county farm bureaus sponsored students to a leadership event in Arkansas. Last year the Farm Bureau leadership chose to discontinue that program.
Enter Tennessee Tech.
“Administrators, staff, alumni, students and community leaders from Tennessee Tech University convinced our leadership that Tech had the passion, desire and know-how to build a premiere high school leadership program,” said Jeff Aiken, president of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. “The timing and program offered by Tech could not have been better. Most importantly, Tech convinced us they would provide students an excellent leadership-building opportunity.”
That opportunity is coming to fruition this week as the Agriculture Leadership Summit began on Sunday and will run through Friday. More than 60 rising high school junior and seniors are getting the chance to build leadership skills as well as learn methods for effectively addressing issues of agricultural policy and food security on a global and local level.
“I want them to come in and, through our training sessions, take those leadership attributes and apply them to a group or team environment,” said Dennis Duncan, Summit Director and Director of Tech’s School of Agriculture. “I want them to come away with a better sense of who they are as a leader and how can they take those leadership attributes and apply them to a team environment. Through community service activities, they can take that skill set back to their community and be more engaged and help those in need.”
Students began the summit on Sunday afternoon with a dinner, speaker, group activity and a scavenger hunt. Each day is packed full of activities and sessions from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. A variety of speakers is lined up, culminating on Friday with a public servant panel discussion including Congressman John Rose, State Senator Paul Bailey, State Representative Ryan Williams, Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter and Cookeville Mayor Ricky Shelton.
“We hope through their experience they will become more aware of their own leadership strengths and needs,” said Aiken. “Of course, from a Farm Bureau perspective, the fact that Tech added a bit of flavor about agriculture and how it connects to everything we do in life is a huge benefit of the summit.”
The inaugural event wraps up around noon on Friday. When the students leave campus, Duncan says he hopes the summit and Tech has had an impact on their lives.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to showcase the university as well as the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology,” Duncan said. “It’s a tremendous recruiting opportunity. We plan to send them home with as much purple as we can.”