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As a result of placing in the top few of their individual and team contests at Illinois Postsecondary Agricultural Student (PAS) Organization competitions in November (2011) and January, these agriculture majors qualified to compete at the National PAS Conference in West Des Moines (IA) in March. Pictured are, front row, L to R: Daniel Mitchell, Dayna Staggemeyer and Kyle Wood. Back row, L to R: Wyatt McGrew, John Roskamp, Greg Kirlin, Riley Hintzsche, Trent Taber and Kaylyn Schiber.
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Stephanie Nelson is among the ten WIU ag students who qualified to compete at the National PAS Conference in West Des Moines (IA) in March.
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Ten WIU Ag Students Qualify to Compete at National PAS Conference

February 17, 2012

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MACOMB, IL – Ten Western Illinois University students qualified to compete at the National Postsecondary Agricultural Student (PAS) Organization Conference in West Des Moines (IA) next month. According to WIU School of Agriculture Professor and WIU PAS Chapter Co-Adviser Andrew Baker, the students' qualification for the national-level competition is a result of their individual and team performances at the Illinois PAS fall and annual conference contests in November and January, respectively.

Baker said this is the second year WIU agriculture majors competed in the state-level contests. He also noted Western's PAS chapter was only started three years ago, and that participating in the state and national PAS Organization conferences, events and student competitions provides practical networking and career preparation for the student members.

"Our students who qualified for the national competitions did so in a number of areas, including competitions in ag education, ag sales, ag industry job interviews, career planning in animal science, ag equipment, impromptu speaking and quiz bowl teams," Baker explained. "To have this number of our students qualify to compete in contests at the National PAS Organization Conference level not only demonstrates the quality of their work, but also the diligence of their preparation."

The WIU students who qualified to compete at the National PAS Conference are: Ryan Hintzsche (Lindenwood, IL); Greg Kirlin (Camp Point, IL); Wyatt McGrew (Prairie City, IL); Daniel Mitchell (Colchester, IL); Stephanie Nelson (Good Hope, IL); John Roskamp (Sutter, IL); Kaylyn Schiber (Livingston, CA); Dayna Staggemeyer (Carlinville, IL); Trent Taber (Atkinson, IL); and Kyle Wood (Claypool, IN). According to Baker, Growmark, a supplier of agricultural equipment and supplies, is sponsoring the students to help fund the trip to the national competition.

PAS Prep

Baker noted that helping the students prepare for their interview contests was Michelle Howe, interim assistant director in the WIU Office of Career Services. Howe, who earned her bachelor's degree in agriculture in 2009 and her master's degree in college student personnel in 2011 from Western, has also served as an Illinois PAS officer and is the WIU PAS chapter co-adviser, along with Baker.

"Michelle has been a blessing this year working with the students getting them ready for the state- and national-level PAS competitions," Baker said.

Trent Taber said he was grateful for the support and resources that Howe and the Office of Career Services provided him.

"Michelle not only helped me in developing an impressive résumé, but she was also great moral support throughout the competition, always encouraging us to do our best and have fun. Career Services also provided me with guidance about interviewing professionalism through their resources and workshops," Taber added.

Howe noted the services and resources provided by Western's Office of Career Services are available to both Western students and alumni.

"To help the students prepare for the employment interview competitions, we critiqued their résumés and cover letters, as well as facilitated mock interviews with them. During these mock interviews, the students received constructive feedback based their interview answers, attire, professionalism, attitude and overall appearance during the interview. Hopefully, the assistance they received from our office will help prepare them for the actual job search and interviewing process," she said.

Both Daniel Mitchell and Stephanie Nelson noted, in addition to the support and services provided to them by the Office of Career Services, the prep for their individual competitions was included in their coursework.

"At the time I was preparing for the fall conference competition, I was enrolled in Dr. Baker's AGRI 320 class (Success Strategies in Agriculture). In this class, we learned how to apply for a job, compile the correct documents to accompany the application and interview. Along with Michelle's help, I believe that this was vital to my success," Mitchell said.

According to Nelson, during her preparation time for the job interview contest she was also enrolled in another section of Success Strategies in Agriculture, taught by WIU School of Ag Associate Professor Mark Hoge.

"Part of the requirement for the class is that we had to do a mock interview," Nelson explained. "On the day of my interview in the competition, I requested my interview time at 9 a.m. with Dr. Hoge, and he actually video recorded it. While we were watching my mock interview, he gave me good pointers like, 'Use this word selection, elaborate a little more in this area.' I did that at 9 a.m., and then I went to compete in the PAS interview competition at 3 p.m., so I was fresh. I was ready to go," she added.

The 2012 National PAS Conference will take place March 14-17. For more information about the PAS Organization or about the conference, visit For more information about the WIU PAS chapter, contact Baker at (309) 298-1246 or via email at

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Office of University Communications & Marketing