WIU program connects ag students with alumni hoping to build better local workforce

WGEM News at Ten
Updated: Nov. 4, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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ROSEVILLE, Ill. (WGEM) -- A new program at a local college is growing more informed graduates and a better workforce at the same time.

The Western Illinois University Agriculture Advisory Board designed a program to connect students in ag studies with alumni who work in the field they’re interested in.

Emma Lowe is a freshman pre-veterinary student at WIU who wants to care for large farm animals.

“Like that’s just kind of something I’ve always been passionate about,” Lowe said.

Lowe said during class she goes to farms and learns how to treat animals.

Through the WIU School of Agriculture mentoring program, she goes to the Roseville Veterinary Service for a mentorship with an alumna who is now a doctor.

“It’s been really great because I’ve gotten this extra experience and this extra exposure, and she’s been showing me things that I hadn’t been shown before and that I’m not going to get unless I’m working in a vet clinic,” Lowe said.

Roseville Veterinary Service Doctor Ashley Whiteside said this program gives students hands-on experience, that’ll push them further in the industry.

“Hands-on experience is going to add to your experience base but also help you as an applicant when you go to apply to veterinary school, to have all of these hours under your belt and experience in real practices,” Whiteside said.

White said said after students graduate, higher-educators and employers look for past hours of training and commitment.

“The connections are definitely very important and for her. To be establishing those early is really good,” she said.

Lowe said the program has also helped her network and inspired her to bring her skills back to the place where she honed them.

“I want to return to this area after I get my, like, that degree and go out through all that. And so now I have connections at this vet clinic and I’m getting connections with the clients here in this area. So, if I come back to this area to do my practice, like, people will already know of me.”

WIU Instructor of Ag Communication Janna Knupp said this is the first year for the program. She said it’s built into freshman agriculture curriculum where they survey student interests to best match them with mentors in those areas.

Knupp said this program is currently being offered for students in agriculture studies, but they look to adapt it for older students as well.

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