University News

Courtesy Photo: U.S. Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Ashley Mason (Canton, IL), a senior agriculture education major at Western Illinois University. Mason was selected by the National PAS (Post-Secondary Agriculture Student) Organization to participate in its Ag Day Leadership Summit in March. Mason and the 33 other student agriculture leaders met with legislators' advisers, as well as with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, during their visit to Washington, D.C. during National Agriculture Week.
[Download Print-Quality Image]

Ag Ed Major Mason Chosen as Representative for National Ag Leadership Summit

April 1, 2010

Printer friendly version

MACOMB, IL -- Instead of heading to the beach over Spring Break like many college students, Western Illinois University senior agriculture education major Ashley Mason made her way to the shores of the Potomac in Washington, D.C. The Canton (IL) native traveled there as a selected representative of the National PAS (Post-Secondary Agriculture Student) Organization for its Ag Day Leadership Summit.

"When I received the original e-mail message about the request for applications," explained Andrew Baker, professor in Western's School of Agriculture, "I thought of Ashley immediately. It was a very short turn-around for the selection process, so time was of the essence. I knew she met the qualifications--in fact, her qualifications likely set Ashley apart from other candidates. For the last two years, Ashley has served as the National Collegiate Agriculture Ambassador, an appointment by the National FFA Organization. She has been living and breathing agricultural policy for the last two years as she has fulfilled her duties as Collegiate Ag Ambassador," he added.

Held during National Ag Week, the National PAS Organization's Agriculture Day Collegiate Leadership Summit provided the chosen group of 34 student ag leaders with an opportunity to meet with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, as well as to learn more about how legislators consider agriculture-related, as well as general, legislation and issues.

"I met with advisers to Senator Roland Burris and advisers to Congressmen Aaron Schock [IL-District 18] about the Carl Perkins Act, which provides national funding for secondary and post-secondary career and technical education programs and extends to 2012," Mason said. "After talking with the legislators' advisers, I realized that congressional visits are one of the most important ways that senators and congressmen receive information from their constituents. At one point, I asked Senator Burris' and Congressman Schock's advisers about how members of Congress keep up on all the issues they have to consider and know about in order to make decisions on legislation. Their answers, for me, affirmed that meeting with them and their advisers provides a very important way to make them aware of the issues that their constituents are concerned about," she noted.

Mason added she was proud to represent WIU and Western's School of Agriculture at the summit meeting. She also said that it helped her gain a better understanding of how participating in the political process can not only help students studying agriculture, but also help students studying in other areas.

"My experiences at the National Agriculture Day Leadership Summit have provided me with a better perspective of how decisions are made in our country. It is easy to feel like your voice is very small, just one vote. I encourage students -- no matter what their interests are -- to make an effort to foster a relationship with their local, state and federal representatives. There is more than one way to be heard," Mason said.

For more information about Mason or her selection to serve as a representative at the National PAS Organization's Agriculture Day Collegiate Leadership Summit, contact Baker at (309) 298-1246 or Contact Mason at

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (
Office of University Communications & Marketing