Teaching, leading and FFA: How Alyssa Smith is gaining real experience in the business world
Students of the University of Oregon’s business school learn about how to lead effectively in the business world through lectures and classroom activities.
However, sophomore business major Alyssa Smith is already leading in the business world.
Smith spends her summers and weekends gaining real-world experience running conferences for the National Future Farmers of America organization, or FFA — an established club focused on agriculture and leadership.
Smith is working as a convention facilitator for the National FFA Organization. In high school, she was an FFA state officer in Oregon from 2015 to 2016.
The National FFA organization is “an intra-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership,” according to its website. The organization has over 700,000 members nationwide, and its goal is to prepare high school students for professional success.
The organization changed its name in 1988 from “Future Farmers of America” to “The National FFA Organization” because not every student in the organization is going to be a farmer, Smith said. Many students go on to work in the business side of agricultural companies, while some pursue farming or technical occupations.
Students get involved in FFA by taking an agriculture class in high school, where the option to join FFA is presented. The teacher of the agriculture class connects them to the leadership conventions and more broad involvement in the national FFA organization.
Smith got involved in FFA during her first year of high school at Elkton Charter School when she took the class “Introduction to Agriculture.” Within the course, students were introduced to FFA and able to join the statewide competitions and attend conventions. The teacher of the class encouraged Smith to participate in a job interview competition, which is a career development event within FFA. Smith won the competition as a first-year.
“I’m really competitive, so doing the job interview — and doing well — motivated me to get more involved,” Smith said.
Smith became the treasurer for the National FFA organization in March of 2015 and took a year break between high school and college to focus on the position. As the treasurer, Smith served as one of six members of FFA that represented national FFA. In 2016, she became a convention facilitator and started her first year at UO.
Last summer, Smith facilitated the Washington Leadership Conference in Washington DC. FFA students from across the country attended the convention each of the seven weeks it was offered.
As a convention facilitator, Smith was taught curriculum from the national FFA to teach students.
“At these conferences, high school students are taught ways to interact with their communities and make a difference,” Smith said. “It’s very high energy. Some of the conferences are as small as 70 students or as large as 900 students.”
At the end of the convention, the students created their ‘living to serve plan.’ “They have a very detailed plan of how they are going to serve their community,” Smith said. For example, according to Smith, a student from Elkton Charter School, Grace Whitley, created a plan called “project love,” which raised money to send care packages to U.S. soldiers.
This is the last year that Smith will be a conference facilitator for the National FFA Organization.
“Though it is a great job to have, I don’t think I’ll be doing it for a third year,” Smith said. She went on to say that in order to perform her duties as conference facilitator, she has to miss school several Thursdays and Fridays out of the year.
Smith applied to become the director of the Washington Leadership Conference this fall, which she worked over the summer. As the director of the conference, Smith said she would manage the staff of the event and make sure the event ran smoothly.
If she receives the position, Smith will take spring term of 2018 off from school.
In the future, Smith hopes to either become a business consultant for small businesses and startups or get involved in corporate leadership, which is similar to what she is doing in FFA now.
“Not everyone is super smart or athletic, but there’s something in FFA that every student can do and be really good at,” Smith said.