The author was the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.
A unique trait of World Dairy Expo is that it may be the world’s largest gathering of students of all ages with an interest in dairy. In addition to youth competitions, several schools exhibit in the trade show to promote their programs and connect with potential future students.
While at Expo, each college or university has the opportunity to reach students who may be interested in attending their school someday to participate in their agricultural programs. Even if a student is unsure what they might be interested in, or if they want to attend college at all, they still have this chance to discover majors and schools they may not have heard of before.
When visiting these booths at last year’s World Dairy Expo, the staff at the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) booth described, “Expo provides a rich community of students who are already interested in agriculture.” Not only can schools teach youth about their programs, but Expo also provides the chance to meet with parents.
“We offer hands-on classes within several of our programs,” the team from Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) said. “We make sure to tell students that our goal is to teach them essential skills and enter their chosen field quickly.” Some youth might not even know that a two-year program is an option until meeting with a school like FVTC.
Since these colleges often have well-known agricultural programs, many alumni have the chance to reconnect with their past at Expo.
“I will be approached by several parents saying ‘Hey, I went there!’,” a representative of UW-River Falls mentioned. Having a deep and ongoing connection to the dairy industry is a good recruiting tool.
Schools also benefit from interacting with their alumni, especially those working in the industry. Colleges can gain more insight to how their school impacted the course of an alum’s career and how they can continue helping students succeed.
“It’s really neat to meet with alumni to learn what they are doing in their careers, maybe how their farms are doing, or even to catch up with their personal and family lives. It is a really rewarding moment to hear about these things,” said the group from NICC.
Expo may be about the cows, but it is definitely rooted in family tradition for many. That shows when colleges are talking with attendees.
“This is clearly an incredible family event,” the team from the South Dakota State University (SDSU) booth said. “Maybe in the future a family will be passing through South Dakota and will be encouraged to stop in to visit SDSU after meeting with us at Expo.”
In addition to alumni and families, FFA and 4-H members are also vital for schools to meet with. Contests going on throughout Expo means many youth members are circulating the grounds ready to learn.
“We have been attending Expo for many years mainly because of the contests happening here for FFA members,” said the group from UW-Platteville. “Not only are these contests valuable for the kids to learn through, but the other opportunities here are incredibly rich.”
With so many dairy professionals in one place, it becomes the perfect grounds for networking. No matter the age of a youth, meeting new people can turn into valuable connections for their future.
Crafting their presence
How the colleges present themselves is just as vital as being there. This means setting up an interesting booth to draw folks in.
“We work with a lot of old school recruiting methods like postcards, but having a modern booth set up is also important,” the SDSU team described. “Our TV playing the video is a fun way to get people curious about us and will maybe help them generate questions.”
Tried and true methods are certainly still used to draw people into more in-depth conversations.
“We know that maintaining strong eye contact and having a list of questions ready to go is important,” the group from UW-River Falls said.
Sometimes a booth might have a fun activity to keep Expo attendees engaged, which has worked for FVTC. “The spinning wheel game is a great ice breaker to get things going, and from there we might start a fun conversation,” they mentioned.
“We really try to stay up and in front of the table to encourage people to approach us,” the NICC representatives added.
While colleges across the nation might disagree about who has the best school colors or mascot, they can all agree that World Dairy Expo is a great place to meet with people, be involved in the dairy industry, and encourage more students to participate in agricultural programs.
“This is one of our favorite chances for people with similar interest and backgrounds to get together,” the UW-Platteville team described.