Clemson, S.C — The Clemson University Agribusiness Club’s close-knit relationship and hard work propelled them to success despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Clemson’s club was recently awarded the Outstanding Club of the Year award from the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), an international non-profit organization that promotes student leadership and professional development. This is the second time that the club has won this award, the first being in 2016. The club also won the national Quiz Bowl competition at the AAEA’s meeting.
Criteria for the club of the year award includes improvement from last year, regional and national recognition, membership numbers, undergraduate student involvement in the AAEA, and fundraising activities.
Founded in 2013, the Agribusiness Club at Clemson University connects its members with one another and to different career opportunities and is under the AAEA.
One AGRB member, Emily Wilson, a May 2020 graduate from Hampton, was especially proud.
“Our club isn’t that old, so it was just kind of a big moment for us to finally get awarded for our work,” Wilson said.
Wilson had been a part of the club since she was a freshman. During her years in the club, she has served as the event coordinator for the AGRB as well as the secretary for the student section of the AAEA. She believes that the club members’ closeness is what allowed them to stand out for the award.
“The one thing I can say about our club is everybody knows everybody, and everyone is friends. I think that is a big thing. It was just definitely a community. Friendship was the number one thing,” she said.
Along with Wilson, Addie Stone shared similar feelings. The Dallas, Texas, native graduated in May of 2020 and, like Wilson, got involved with the club as a freshman. During her time with the club, she served as both treasurer and president, as well as the public relations manager for the AAEA.
Stone says the award shows that the club has progressed from when she first got involved.
“When I came into it four years ago, it was about midway from when the club had been started. There were only about four or five people. Now our annual membership is about 40-50 people,” she said.
Like Wilson and Stone, Gracie Herrin was excited that the club was awarded such a prestigious achievement. Herrin is a senior from Ridge Spring and believes the achievement shows how every person in the club is a hard worker.
“[It] shows that the club, advisor, and members are doing a good job with bringing in people and funding. It shows that we have good people in our major and a strong leadership team,” she said.
Herrin also believes that the club’s professional development goal for students is what allowed it stand out for the award.
“We have a lot of people coming in each year saying ‘Hey, this is what we do and here is an internship to apply to,” she said.
The AGRB Club not only won Outstanding Club of the Year, but also managed to win the AAEA quiz bowl for the first time. The winning team consisted of Stone, Herrin and Liza Wilson. Although the girls had prepared, the win didn’t come without a fight
During the final round of the quiz bowl, Clemson was up against LSU, a longtime competitor of Clemson University. Each member of Clemson’s team was in a separate location with different internet connections, while the LSU team had the advantage of being together in the same space.
“It was definitely intimidating because they had all competed before. The LSU team (2 out of 3 were) all together, whereas we weren’t. They had the advantage of being in person. But I was confident because we were the only team who hadn’t lost [a round] so far,” Herrin said.
Herrin’s confidence proved true. After a 60-minute face off, Clemson managed to win against their longtime rival, turned AGRB friend, according to Stone.
“We know one of the players from LSU pretty well. It was good to play someone that we respected and were familiar with, but it was kind of like payback for the national championship (football game). They are very gracious and very good competitors,” Stone said.
Stone also said that winning gave her a good feeling.
“It felt pretty good. I have been doing it [quiz bowl competitions] since my sophomore year. We did really well, but it’s not easy. Some teams would blow us out of the water. So, to come and win was really exciting (and) just a great way to round out my Clemson experience,” she said.
Herrin felt the same and wanted everyone to know what the club was up to.
“I knew not a lot of people would know about [the club] because it is a small thing. I wanted to get the word out there and to say, ‘Hey this is what agribusiness is doing.’ Not specifically for me, but for Clemson and the club as a whole, to show our academics off,” she said.
The students strongly feel that they couldn’t have won without their advisor, Michael Vassalos, associate professor of agribusiness.
“We can’t take all the credit for this,” Wilson said. “Dr. Vassalos made himself involved with each student. He held the glue together and made sure that we stayed on top of things.
Vassalos has been the advisor of the AGRB since 2013 and says he has seen the students grow in many ways.
“I’m really proud of them. It’s amazing because we’re a new program and relatively small. We have to compete against bigger schools so what they did is amazing,” he said.
Vassalos also believes that it’s not only the hard work the students put in, but the close relationships that students form with one another that keep them motivated. He hopes for the future that they continue to bond with one another.
“The freshmen don’t know anyone when they come, but when they come to the club, they can talk with the seniors and learn what to expect,” he said.
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