Auburn Family

Auburn junior competes in scholarship competition to win $5,000

When college students hear of an opportunity to earn some extra cash for tuition, they jump on the chance before it's too late. That is exactly what Michelle Bufkin, a junior majoring in agricultural communication, did. 

The Competition

Michelle is competing in Animal Agriculture Alliance's 2014 College Aggies Online (CAO) scholarship competition this semester. The competition is nationwide and aims to help college students network and spread knowledge about agriculture through social media. 

The online competition is open to any college student who is interested in agriculture, which is what led Michelle to participate.

"I am passionate about agriculture and wanted to learn how to better 'agvocate,' which is what this is all about," Michelle said. "Plus who does not love scholarship money?"

Participants are given weekly homework assignments called "aggies homework," which get them to engage with the general public through their personal social media platforms. Each assignment is focused on a specific social media platform or sector of the agriculture industry. 

"For this contest we are focusing on using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram mainly, although we will also have blogs and use Pinterest every now and then," Michelle said. 

Michelle not only gets to interact with the public about agriculture, but the competition allows her to learn more about her passion from experts in the field.

"So far, I have learned more about agriculture in general, especially about ag in other states," Michelle said. "I am also learning how to better spread the knowledge I learn in the most effective ways."

(Photo right: Michelle and her cow, Billy)

Participants receive a certain amount of points for every post, like, share, retweet and more on their social media accounts when they follow guidelines for the assignment and use the hashtag "CAO14." As of three weeks ago Michelle was in 4th place out of about 50 students across the country. The competition is scheduled to conclude the week of Nov. 24. 

"I would be honored and excited to teach other students about how to advocate for agriculture," Michelle said about winning. 

The top three winners will receive money along with a paid trip to Animal Agriculture Alliance's annual stakeholder summit in Washington, D.C. to learn more about agriculture and meet industry leaders. 

Passion for Agriculture

Michelle described her passion for agriculture as a "semi-new found one," but through participation in on-campus clubs while she was an animal science major, she decided to switch to agricultural communication and pursue her real passion. 

"I realized that I absolutely love agriculture, especially beef cattle," Michelle said. "So I recently started a cow- calf operation, called Bufkin Family Farm, with my father. I know that my passion for agriculture, while young, will stay with me forever."

(Image left: courtesy of animalagalliance.org) 

Future Plans

Along with starting a cow-calf operation, Michelle has started preparing herself for future career possibilities by getting involved in jobs and projects that foster her professional development and communication skills.

She is currently a freelance writer for AFC Farming News magazine, works part-time with Alabama Cooperative Extension System as an assistant social media manager and is a photographer with Village Photography.

As for the future, Michelle hopes to continue spreading the word about agriculture. "After graduation I am interested in continuing my agriculture advocacy through educating students and consumers about agriculture," Michelle said. "Whether I do that through teaching, public speaking or writing I am not sure, but any of them would be my dream job."


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