Wanda has been heavily involved with the Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge since 2003, which was also the first year that she took a team of University of Vermont students participating in the Advanced Dairy Management Program at Miner Institute to the national competition. In addition to the national competition, there are four regional competitions annually – the Northeast, the Southeast, the Midwest, and the West. Miner Institute was the host site for the 2013 Northeast Regional Dairy Challenge.
Students have the opportunity to meet students from other universities with similar interests and network with professionals in the dairy industry during the interactive competition. At the regional competition, students are on aggregate teams and at the national level they represent their school. Students get to meet with representatives from companies they may one day work for – some even walk away from Dairy Challenge with jobs lined up. The skills developed through the prep and the competition itself, Wanda says, will be useful to them once they are in the workforce. They learn about benchmarking, how to prioritize, finances, the science and technology of agriculture, she said. “Dairy Challenge puts to use what they’re learning in the classroom.”
More than 550 students participate in Dairy Challenge annually, between the four regional competitions and the national competition. The Dairy Challenge events are funded by the dairy industry. Industry professionals have the unique opportunity to watch students problem-solving in situations which could be replicated on the job. The industry recognizes that Dairy Challenge is bringing together tomorrow’s dairy leaders, which serves as the event slogan.
The networking is a huge asset for the students, but is also beneficial for Wanda. Through Dairy Challenge she has dramatically increased her network of contacts within the industry and has recruited students for summer experience and graduate programs. ADM students who represent the University of Vermont are prepared and do well at Dairy Challenge because they have exposure to all the staff at Miner, the guest lecturers, area farmers, and industry professionals that they interact with while participating in the program, Wanda said. “You can’t do well at Dairy Challenge if you only have one way of thinking.”
Congrats on your new challenge, Wanda!