Global Experiential Learning Creates Career Opportunities for Students

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By Mary Shelley-Snell

Herbert College of Agriculture study abroad programs provide students with exposure to global career opportunities within more specialized agricultural fields. Two examples of this include the Ireland Equine Industries course and the Argentina Agricultural Resource and Economics program, both of which launched this year. The Ireland program, led by Jennie Ivey, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science and the University of Tennessee Extension equine specialist, and Lacey Johnston, senior lecturer in the Department of Animal Science, took place in May. During their eight-day adventure, the group of ten students traveled across Ireland visiting stud farms, universities, racetracks and marketing agencies amongst other equine-focused businesses. The Argentina excursion, led by Chris Boyer, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, and John Walton, senior lecturer in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, took place over spring break. This course allowed a group of thirteen AREC students to learn about the importance of beef, dairy, and row crop supply chains up close in Argentina. Learn more about how these two new specialized experiences create valuable opportunities for UTIA students. 

Argentina AREC Study Abroad at the ACA Port.
The Argentina AREC study abroad group pictured visiting the Rosario Stock Exchange.

Summit Wright, a sophomore at the University of Tennessee double majoring in food and agricultural business and supply chain management, recently explained her initial interest in the Argentina course. “I wanted to learn more about the international side of production and exportation in other countries. My family grows a lot of soybeans, cotton, and rice, so the chance to compare production here to other countries piqued my interest,” she said. “I was also curious about the supply chain side of things and how the coronavirus pandemic impacted it. Overall, I was excited to learn more about the connections between countries and how exports play a major role in economies across the globe.”

While in Argentina, students visited the Argentine Cooperative Association Port (ACA), Rosario Stock Exchange, Adecoagro Dairy, Buenos Aires Board of Trade, Villa Maria Cheese and Dairy Cluster, Bio4 and the Argentine Association of Regional Consortiums for Agricultural Experimentation (AACREA). They also toured livestock, dairy, corn and soybean farms and processors.

“I thought it was a great chance to answer some of my questions in a completely new environment. Seeing the ag industry there and noticing how different it was compared to the United States was very neat,” Wright explained. “It was interesting to see what went into trade policy and exports. I was amazed that even with a vastly different economy, Argentina is still able to produce so much.”

Equine Industries group pictured after a visit to Irish Thoroughbred Marketing.
The Ireland Equine Industry Tour group pictured visiting Irish Thoroughbred Marketing.

In Ireland, students traveled around the country to meet with a variety of equine industry professionals. These visits included the Irish Thoroughbred Breeding Association (ITBA), Irish National Stud, Alltech Ireland, Connolly’s Red Mill, Ballylinch Stud, Wexford Racecourse, University of Limerick Equine Science Department, Clonshire Riding Academy, Kildangan Stud, Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, TRI Equestrian Superstore, Horse Sport Ireland and UC Dublin Vet School. The students also had time for cultural immersion, like touring the Cliffs of Moher. 

“I really enjoyed attending the Wexford races on the trip; I think it was a great way to see everything we were learning about racing in action and also get to learn about the culture of attending races on the weekend in Ireland,” Baylor Winecoff, a UT business management alumnus, described the impact of his experience in Ireland. “My time abroad taught me that starting a career in logistics could open different opportunities for me in the equine industry. I used to think that there were not many job opportunities in the industry, but I was totally wrong.” 

The Smith Center is working to create more international experiences like these study abroad programs in an effort to create global change agents across UTIA. “Experiential learning opportunities are key for students’ personal and professional growth. They allow students to increase knowledge, develop skills and clarify values in a way that a classroom setting cannot provide. For instance, students gain far more depth of understanding of the differences in equine industry between Ireland and the U.S. when they are actually on the ground in Ireland,” Gracie Pekarcik, study abroad coordinator for the Herbert College of Agriculture said. “When students are able to apply what they are learning through purposefully developed experiences, supported by reflection and critical analysis, their comprehension drastically improves.” 

Seeing potential career opportunities firsthand can open students up to career choices they may not have even been aware of before going abroad. “Programs like this one are essential for opening up doors for the future. I think our students have been surprised at the potential next steps that exist in the equine industry,” Ivey explained. “It’s exciting to see their goals change as they become aware of the possibilities.” 

“As a father, I watch my children learn by experience. Reading books about animals helps them learn about animals, but they learn and remember so much more when I take them to the zoo or farm,” Boyer added about his experience leading the Argentina course. “Going to Argentina with college students showed me it is not just young kids who learn best by experience, but also college students and their teachers. This trip enhanced their knowledge about global agriculture and Argentina in ways a book or class just cannot.”

UTIA is working to make global experiences as accessible as possible for all students as well as building awareness that more specialized programs are available. Not only are there existing programs relevant to the average student in the agriculture and natural resources field, but the Smith Center is working to expand that even further. We believe that these key experiential learning opportunities create more well-rounded and dynamic graduates and enhance future employment opportunities.

“Access to international education for Herbert students has never been more attainable than it is at this moment. The Herbert College of Agriculture recognizes these benefits and has made it a key point to support their students in studying abroad by promoting the development of new program topics and locations, as well as rolling out a brand-new study abroad scholarship for undergraduate students,” Pekarcik explained. “Remember, study abroad is for everyone; we want to provide you with the opportunity to do so.”

If you are interested in studying abroad, come visit our study abroad coordinator in the Smith Center. We are here to help you learn how you can use studying abroad to #GrowGlobal within your field of study.