Nov. 28, 2011 – The Crops and Soils program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) is gaining national recognition thanks to nine of its members who recently participated in the Students of Agronomy, Soils, and Environmental Sciences (SASES) competition.
The SASES competition was held in conjunction with the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society, and Soil Science Society joint annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, last month. The conference attracted industry professionals, students, and academics from across the nation. Twelve schools were represented in the SASES competition.
Three UWRF students were very successful in their respective competitions, placing nationally. Lucas Rosen of Roseville, Minn. placed third in the research poster competition, with his presentation, “Mitigating Stormwater Runoff Using a Rain Garden: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Dynamics.” Jenny Druckrey of Cecil was awarded first in the nation in one of the two oral research competitions for her work, “Surviving Climate Change: Development of Heat or Drought Tolerant Crops Using Petunia as a Model System.” Peter Van Dyk of New Richmond placed third in the second oral research competition with his topic, “Development of a Tissue Culture Transformation Process for Prairie Cordgrass.”
Kristi Thompson, a senior from Chatfield, Minn., and vice-president of SASES placed fifth in the speech contest. The speech contest began at 9 a.m. when students drew topics about which they would speak for 5-7 minutes. Normally, contestants have six hours to prepare, however due to her position as a national officer, Thompson was required to attend various committee meetings and had only two hours to prepare her speech on “Who is the most affected by the global market economy?”
Other UWRF students who participated in the SASES event included Trevor Frank of Wisconsin Rapids; Tryston Beyrer of Colfax; Bradley Hartwig of Merrill; John Mugg of Plum City and Kyle Much of New London.
Loretta Ortiz-Ribbing, UWRF assistant professor of crop science, spoke with admiration about all the students’ performances at the conference. “We had an excellent group of students. They were very professional and I was very, very impressed,” she said. “They were professional young adults who took care of themselves and I was incredibly proud of them.”
William Anderson, UWRF professor of crop science, reiterated Ribbing’s sentiments. “I give the students a lot of credit because they are very good at what they do. I’m very proud of them. They always represent us tremendously well at the meetings,” he said.
The conference presented an opportunity for the students to network and practice interview skills as employers attended from all over the nation.
Anderson emphasized this aspect of the event. “They see people and professors from all over the country; if they want to get into graduate school, there’s no better way than to say hello to their face and talk about what they’ve done,” he said. Moreover, he stated that there are “opportunities to run for national offices and committees, too. For the past three years we’ve had a national vice president on our campus.”
“It is very important to become involved at a young age in organizations like this because it opens doors you will never imagine,” Thompson said. “Trips like this allow you to network with students and professors from other universities as well as industry partners, and truly emerge as a leader. They give you a great head-start above your peers and allow for a competitive advantage in the workforce right out of college.”
Anderson noted, “The UWRF crops and soils program is known around the country right now. We have industries that have not paid attention to us before banging on our door trying to hire graduates.”