MTSU Raider Roundup Draws Hundreds, Shows Growing Female Interest in School of Ag

An MTSU School of Agriculture and Collegiate FFA annual event bringing 555 high school students to campus has expanded to include multiple university departments — and everyone’s noticing a trend of more young women attending the event with an underlying goal: recruiting future Blue Raiders.

MTSU ag faculty and students, along with various campus partners, recently conducted the fifth Raider Roundup — 20-plus activities for the students from East, Middle and West Tennessee to choose from during their field trip to the Tennessee Livestock Center and other facilities. The event was sponsored by MT Engage, which helps students become more engaged in their campus, and hosted by the MTSU Collegiate FFA.

Activities included veterinary science, dairy cattle and horse evaluations, land and meats evaluations and floriculture, where that group had to name 50 plants in 30-second intervals.

“What makes this experience different is that students are placed in smaller groups, and they have an opportunity to interact with MTSU faculty to learn about academic programs and they also get interaction with multiple current MTSU students,” said Chaney Mosley, event coordinator and assistant professor.

Along with campus partners Data Science, MTeach, Math and School of Concrete and Construction Management also leading workshops with the ag department, the Tennessee STEM Education Center’s pet (cat and dog) nutrition event featured an appearance by Eskie, an American Eskimo spitz.

Jenesis Valdivieso, 16, of Murfreesboro, a Blackman High junior, wants to be a veterinarian and operate her own clinic.

“I’m grateful I was allowed to come here and learn about pet nutrition, have a comfortable environment to learn about it and I get visuals, I get a good representation of what everything is,” she said.

Strong recruiting tool

Raider Roundup “has more than doubled in size,” Mosley said. “Anytime you can bring students on campus is an opportunity for recruitment. … I think it’s a pretty big recruiting tool.”

In a bag with other freebies, students received an Admissions brochure about all things MTSU during the Wednesday, Sept. 21, event.

At a fermentation cheese-tasting event, senior Ellie Richter of Eagleville High admitted “MTSU is my first choice. This is where I’ll probably go (to college).” Raider Roundup “allows you to understand the school and the agriculture part,” she said.

College of Basic and Applied Sciences Dean Greg Van Patten pitched his college and MTSU. “If this is the pathway you want to take, there’s no better place to do it than right here at MTSU,” he said. “We have a dedicated, student-centered faculty and you’ll meet some of them. They’re knowledgeable, leaders in their field, connected to leading officials in the ag industry and state government, and they are here because they are passionate about helping students succeed.”

Van Patten said Raider Roundup “is a wonderful event for learning, for making connections and to have a great time.” He reminded the teenagers “there are people who do this for a living, and you can be one of them. You can do this, you can make a great living at it, and you can have a big, positive impact on the world around you doing it.”

Van Patten also shared about more than 900 acres of farm facilities — dairy farm and plant and soil research area, swine and beef units and Horse Science Center — plus fermentation research and industry partnerships.

Growing numbers of young women

Valdivieso and Richter were two of many girls attending. Most of the schools have women who lead the ag programs. MTSU senior Alana Messick (president of student ag organization) and freshman Faith Cook (FFA) hold prominent positions. Both welcomed the students.

Mosley estimates 70-plus percent of MTSU’s ag students are female. Nearly half of the faculty are women. The department’s led by Director Jessica Carter.

“These high school students have excellent role models,” Mosley said, adding when he was an MTSU student, most students were males. “It’s interesting to see the shift.”

Scholarships, awards

From a drawing before the students headed home, four received $500 scholarships. Recipients included William Farris of Franklin County High School in Winchester, Mikayla Ramsey of McGavock High School in Nashville, D.J. Moore of Cannon County High School in Woodbury and Emma Baxter of Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro. Admissions and Student Affairs assisted with funding the scholarships.

Numerous students also received plaques for winning or placing in contests held with each of the activities.

Participating schools included McEwen, Culleoka, Green Hill, Livingston, Giles County, Lincoln County, Cascade, Mt. Juliet Christian, Lebanon, Sequatchie County, Greenbrier and Jo Byrns. Rutherford County also was represented by Eagleville, Rockvale, Blackman, La Vergne, Oakland, Siegel and Stewarts Creek.

Agriculture Raider Round-Up
Sponsored by MT Engage, which is focused on enhancing MTSU student academic engagement, Raider Roundup brought nearly high school students to campus to help prepare them for state Future Farmers of America competition.
From MTSU faculty, staff and students during a two-hour timeframe, they learned about agriculture mechanics, agronomy, dairy judging, equine science, veterinary science, floriculture and farm business management; and livestock, meats, poultry and soil evaluation.
A fermentation science activity tests high school students’ knowledge with cheese-tasting in the Tennessee Livestock Center. The students from East, Middle and West Tennessee visited campus Sept. 21 for the fifth annual Raider Roundup, which was sponsored by MT Engage. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
Students from dozens of Tennessee high schools rotate from table to table, labeling equipment related to horses as part of the fifth annual Raider Roundup Sept. 21 outside the Tennessee Livestock Center. The event was sponsored by MT Engage. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)
As students enjoy petting Eski, an American Eskimo spitz owned by Casey Penston with the Tennessee STEM Education Center, they complete an assignment regarding pet nutrition in the Stark Agriculture Center Sept. 21. It was one of 20-plus activities high school students participated in during the fifth annual MTSU School of Agriculture Raider Roundup, sponsored by Mt Engage. (MTSU photo by J. Intintoli)

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