FFA Leadership Intern – Liz W.


Liz_week 4_1Mrs. Gayle had to go to Jackson to get ready for Dixie Nationals, so my office work was cut short (so sad). At the beginning of the week, we worked on organizing plaques and trophies for the FFA contests. That was a pain in the butt because Mrs. Gayle’s office was jam-packed with cardboard boxes that we had to unwrap and sort out. We separated the North, South, and Central awards, then the Junior and Senior, then the different events for each award. Then we had to take out all the trophies, which were huge, and make sure everything was spelled correctly and none of them were broken (a couple of them were). These trophies and plaques won’t be used until later in the year, but it was a weight off our shoulders to get the boxes out of the office and organize a little.

Since Mrs. Gayle left Starkville early, I got a good bit of the week off, but things picked up pretty fast once I got to Jackson. I got to the FFA Center on Friday night. Mrs. Gayle made us red beans and rice for dinner (love her) and I got to meet the senior officers. Some members from other counties came to stay at the Center, and everyone got settled in for the night.

Liz_week 4_2

Saturday morning came pretty fast. The first weekend of Dixies was the livestock shows, and I helped with weigh-backs for the hog shows. The judge would sort out a couple hogs that he didn’t want to place, would send them back, and we’d help guide them to the barns. Then he would pick three or four that were his top picks. He’d send those back and we’d have to guide them to the scales where they’d get weighed. If the animal didn’t weigh the class requirements or differed from what was originally recorded, it was automatically disqualified. We only had one animal get disqualified from weigh-backs. I met a lot of the extension agents for various counties while helping.

Liz_week 4_3On Sunday, I helped with random drug testing and drug testing the winning steers. This was…interesting. Basically I had to follow any randomly selecting or winning animal around with a pee cup and a clipboard with all its information. There were a couple perks of this job: I got to get up close and personal (real personal) with some of the steers in the sale of champions. I got to watch the steer show all day. Most importantly (to me), I got to network. I met a ton of extension agents and some teachers from all around the state. Coincidentally, I was paired with the extension agent from the county that I’d like to end up in, and she told me a lot of insightful things. I loved watching the steer show because the kids are so proud of their animal and all their little outfits are so cute.

On Monday, I decided to skip class (sorry Mom) and stay in Jackson to help out some more. I was given the job of taking pictures of all the champions and sending them to the Commissioner of Agriculture for Mississippi. This was awesome because I got to sit all day and watch the shows, then I got to congratulate the winners and take their picture under the 50th anniversary sign. I had to email all those pictures to the Commissioner. All those kids were so excited, and it was so cute! Frustrating though, because sometimes it took 20 minutes to get the animal to stand still for a picture.

All in all, it was a super busy, exhausting weekend, but it was definitely worth it. I learned a lot about the different shows and how much work it is to have a show animal. I also learned about some of the controversy that takes place at any livestock show.   I met a lot of people that had advice for me about finishing school (some dude said I should move to Texas..okay). I wish I could have stayed all week!


I am so fortunate to have this internship. It has led me to many other opportunities to further my understanding of agricultural education. During my spring break, I spent several days in an Ag classroom observing a teacher.

I have starting planting roots in Mississippi, and I’ve discovered that I would really like to live on the Gulf Coast. I’ve made several connections with people in that area, and my ideal teaching job would be in Jackson County. I reached out to a teacher at East Central High School, and he said he would be very happy to have me in his Ag classroom for a couple days.

Liz_week 5_1 I had so much fun this week! I learned a lot about teaching in general, and of course about teaching Ag. I realized that, even though I’m about to graduate from college, I’m really not a very good adult. I discovered that it’s probably going to be a challenge for me to be these kids’ teacher, and not be their friend. Some of the seniors were only two years younger than me! This reassured me that I definitely want to go to grad school. I want to become as good of a teacher as I can be.

The teacher that I shadowed was also the high school baseball coach, so he had a pretty busy schedule. I played volleyball throughout high school, and had considered being a high school coach, but he kind of changed my mind. I know that every school/teacher/person is different, but he opened my eyes to how time consuming being a teacher is, and coaching on top of that. Definitely something to think about.

Liz_week 5_2East Central has a pretty nice greenhouse, but that’s all they have. They don’t have any hands-on curriculum involving animals, and that’s something that this teacher wants to improve. He told me that one day he wants to have show goats that his students can practice with and take to local and state shows.

The curriculum in his lessons wasn’t really what I was expecting. I guess my background in ADS has taken over my brain because I was expecting everything to be about animals, which it wasn’t. He talked about soils and plants the week that I was there. It reminded that I still have a lot to learn about agriculture.

While most of my friends went to the mountains or the beach for spring break, I went back to high school. As lame as that is, I had an awesome time and learned a whole lot. I brainstormed how I would teach my lessons and decorate my classroom and what I would grow in my greenhouse. As this semester goes on, I become more and more excited about becoming and agriculture teacher.

FFA Leadership Intern – Liz Wardell

Liz WardellMy name is Liz Wardell and I’m a senior from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. I’m an Army brat, so I have lived all over the place. I came to Mississippi State not knowing a soul, and that’s something I would do a thousand times over again. I have truly enjoyed my past three years here, and I look forward to sticking around for a few more.

People always ask  what brought me to MSU from Kentucky, and the answer is vet school. I grew up always wanting to be a vet. I wanted anything and everything to do with animals. I was the kid that brought her cat to show-and-tell and had a legit funeral for her hamster. I wanted my own horse for as long as I can remember, and I finally got one my freshman year of high school. Animals have always been a huge part of my life.

Although I originally came here to pursue vet school, that’s not where I’m going to end up. It took me two years to decide that I didn’t want to go to vet school, and it was a really tough decision to make. After shuffling through a bunch of Plan Bs, I decided I wanted to stay in school a little longer and get a Master of Science degree. I have loved being a part of Animal and Dairy Sciences, but I was ready for a change of pace, so I started an application for grad school with Agricultural and Extension Education. This means that I will be a high school Ag teacher, and I’ll be part of an FFA chapter, potentially an advisor. This is something that is completely new to me, because I was never a part of FFA or 4-H when I was growing up. I’m really looking forward to learning everything I can about these programs.That being said, I’m doing an internship this semester with Mrs. Gayle Fortenberry, who is current the FFA Coordinator for the state of Mississippi. I met Mrs. Gayle at the State Fair last semester, when I volunteered with the Children’s Barnyard. Mrs. Gayle is responsible for getting all the FFA events together in the state, and she has very close relationships with Mississippi’s FFA advisors, chapters, and members. Over the next couple months, I will be helping her organize paperwork for events and assisting at livestock shows and FFA events. Since I have little to no experience with FFA and 4-H, Mrs. Gayle is putting me directly into the situations that I need to get used to for the career that I’m pursuing.

I’m super excited to finish up my degree here at State in ADS and continue my education in a different department. I can’t wait to spend the semester with Mrs. Gayle and share my experiences via this blog.

My First Week as an Extension Intern- Logan Hartson

My name is Logan Hartson and I am currently working as an intern in the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department with Dr. Brandi Karisch and Dr. Dean Jousan for the summer. I am from Texas and am a senior at Texas A&M University. I will graduate in December with a bachelor’s of science in agricultural leadership and development. As a child I was raised in a rural area on forty acres with horses and chickens and many other animals. I have been riding horses and competing in rodeos since I was five years old. With this as my background, I would like to work in the agriculture field. I am not decided on what career I will pursue, but after completing this internship I will have a basis to make my decision on whether this would be a possible career choice.

To say the least the first day of my internship was interesting. I had done a run-through with my mother a couple days before my job was to start so I would know how to get to work. Well as it turned out, my first day I left an hour early and was late anyway because I got lost. The day quickly turned around after I arrived for work. Dr. Karisch introduced me to Mrs. Graves, who is the undergraduate coordinator for the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department. Quickly after being introduced I helped Mrs. Graves set up a booth at the Colvard Student Union on main campus for the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department. This was to display information to the FFA students on campus that were here for FFA convention. After Mrs. Graves and I returned from the student union, I went with her to give a tour to a group of FFA students of the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department. After the kids saw the lab rooms, we took them to the horse unit and beef unit. The kids were given a hands-on activity by being able to feel the rumen of a cow. The cow was a cannulated cow as I learned, which means they have a permanent opening in their side where the rumen is located. This makes it easier for the veterinarians and researchers to study their digestive system. All the students were given the opportunity to reach in and pull foodstuff from the rumen. The tour was also supposed to include the dairy unit, but because of our time constraint we were not able to go to that location. The next day I actually was given the opportunity to judge an event for the FFA convention. I and two other students did the judging for juniors and seniors in the extemporaneous speaking competition. The kids were only given a short amount of time to pick a topic question and then write a speech answering the question. It was entertaining and fun to see how well these kids performed. On the fourth I traveled with an extension agent from Webster County, with Ms. Jennifer Williams, to Fulton for the 4-H Achievement Day. I was a volunteer for the cattle, sheep, swine, and meat goat category. There were four kids who had presentations in this area and were being judged, as it was a competition. Tomorrow I will be helping the livestock judging coach, Mr. Crow, with the day camp he is putting on at the horse park. I will assist him with the younger aged kids in helping them find their groups and where they are supposed to be, helping with the check-in booth, and also photographing the kids while they learn what the judges look for on different animals. I am looking forward to the vast number of activities that I will partake in over the course of the summer!

Update: Here’s a photo from the Livestock Judging Day Camp