By Echo Martin
What sparked your interest in a career working with plants? Many people can trace their interest in plants back to one or two people. Sometimes it’s a parent or grandparent, but it can be as simple as someone taking the time to share an experience or show you something interesting. Now you have a chance to get the next generation interested in horticulture. CFANS has started an exciting opportunity called the Alumni Ambassador Program, which invites alumni to share their professional and collegiate experiences with students who are looking to explore careers in the food, agricultural, and natural resource sciences.
CFANS Alumni Ambassadors represent CFANS across the country by attending local college or science fairs, STEM summits, and recruitment events. For alumni outside of Minnesota, this is a great opportunity to stay connected with the University even from a distance. That was what inspired Alison Leathers (B.S. Environmental Horticulture, ’09) in Tennessee to sign up for the program. “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that if there were interested students I wanted to help them learn more,” says Leathers. “Being farther away, it’s nice to still feel that connection to the U.”
Alumni participants aren’t expected to know everything about the U and CFANS. They’re given training to keep up to date on what majors are offered and admission requirements, but what is really valuable is their passion for the U and their real experience, both here and in the field. For Leathers, what really stuck with her were the experiential learning opportunities. “We’d take Saturday field trips to wineries, taste apples that professors are working on, and walk around campus to ID plants. You really get to be immersed in what the professors are working on, which is something you don’t usually get at other universities that size.”
It’s experiences like yours that can lead a student towards a career in the plant sciences. No one can answer questions about what makes the University of Minnesota a great choice better than its alumni. If you’re interested in learning more or applying to become an ambassador in your area, visit z.umn.edu/cfansaa.