Beef scholars program gives students solid background in industry |

Beef scholars program gives students solid background in industry

Animal science professor Merlyn Nielsen teaches students who are a part of the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program. Courtesy photo.

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LINCOLN, Neb. – For the first time in its four-year history, the Nebraska Beef Industry Scholars program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has freshmen, sophomore, junior and senior members.

The program, which has about 50 members, delivers intensive training about all aspects of the beef industry, said Matt Spangler, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Science in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

The first students to enter the program are now seniors, said Spangler, who coordinates the program. No other university has a similar program, in which students are taught by not only UNL faculty members but by representatives of the beef industry.

“The beef industry is extremely important in the state of Nebraska,” Spangler said, noting that about 55 percent of the state’s agricultural receipts are from beef. “It’s just natural an undergraduate program like this exists at UNL.”

All students entering a degree program in CASNR are eligible to apply for the scholars program. Of those in the program, five are seniors. Not all are animal science majors. Other degree programs represented include agricultural economics and agricultural leadership, education and communication.

Students in the program are required to take courses created specifically for the scholars program in addition to their regular degree program coursework, Spangler said. The courses focus on all aspects of the beef industry and provide students opportunities to meet up to 20 experts in the industry each year.

Those industry representatives, from agricultural-related companies as well as organizations like the Nebraska Cattlemen, do not get paid for their teaching, Spangler said. They are offered reimbursements for travel expenses, but many decline.

“The beef industry sees this as an opportunity to help educate their replacements,” Spangler said. “Because of that, we’ve had tremendous industry support.”

The goal of the program is to better equip these students for work in the beef industry. Many industry representatives specifically ask for internship applications from participants in the program, Spangler said.

The seniors in the program traveled to San Antonio in January for the National Cattlemens Beef Association National meeting, where they participated in discussions on beef policy.

One of those seniors was Alex Wolf, an agricultural economics major from Albion, Neb., who grew up working on his family’s ranch and feedlot. Participation in the scholars program has helped him learn a lot about current issues in the industry, he said.

“It gives me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the cattle industry and helped me develop a lot of contacts in the beef industry,” Wolfe said.