OALP XX Seminar 1: Launch of OALP Experience

Wednesday, Aug. 19

Scribe:  Joy Alspach

Occasionally something happens to you that you reflect back on and realize that it’s the work of a higher power.  As humans we sometimes get in autopilot and forget to stop and be intentional in our actions.  The first session of the Oklahoma Agriculture Leadership Program was designed to allow the participants to get to know each other better, and much more.  It opened our eyes to the fact that not all those involved in agriculture come from and agricultural background but still care deeply about the agricultural community.  It was seeing that agriculture is not just wheat and corn – it is seed companies, chemical companies, mushroom growers, horticulture, education, federal programs, livestock growers, financial advisors, bankers, and much more.  Agriculture, as we know it, is changing and it is important as advocates for this field to learn, grow, and adapt.  The OALP Class XX has enormous diversity.  We have those both directly and indirectly involved in farming and/or ranching.   

OALP class XX learned that we have a lot in common, and we have a lot of differences.   We learned that not everyone communicates in the same way and that it is more challenging when everyone does not communicate the same way.  Therefore, it is important to ensure that we learn to communicate in multiple ways.  We also discovered our similarities and differences through a series of exercises that taught us the importance of learning about these traits so that we can appreciate the diversity of our group, build trust, and celebrate what is unique about each of us.

Meet Our Class

Maggie Adcock – She loves working with farmers and ranchers as a Farm Service Agency Program Technician.  She was raised on a farm with wheat and stocker cattle.  She is charismatic, fearless, and very kind.  This girl can rock red like no one I have ever seen!

Maggie Adcock
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Joy Alspach – She works for the Farm Service Agency as a Farm Program Chief and loves working with counties offices to service Oklahoma farming and ranching producers.  Joy graduated from OSU and adores her husband, children, and grandchildren.  

Joy Alspach
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Rosslyn Biggs – She grew up on a ranch in Grady County.  Rosslyn is currently the Director of Continuing Education and a Beef Cattle Extension Specialist at OSU.   She has 14 years of veterinary experience in large animal practice and public service.    Rosslyn has two beautiful girls who love horses.   She is hard working, intelligent, and will tackle any task with well-planned intention.

Rosslyn Biggs
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Alex Cox – She grew up on a citrus farm in California where they also raised chickens.  She was involved in FFA and 4-H and is now an OSU 4-H Extension Educator.  Alex is out tech-savvy person.  She is friendly, kind, and organized.

Alex Cox
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Caleb Cunningham – Caleb is from Blackwell and was not born into agriculture but has been involved with the Farmers Coop for many years.  He is currently a Grains Operations Manaager.  Caleb is kind, quiet, and athletic.

Caleb Cunningham
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Courtney Moyers – She was a Food Science major at OSU and has a very interesting career in Quality Control Assurance for a mushroom farm in northeastern Oklahoma.  She is recently married, loves dogs, and is an amazing cook.  Courtney is sincere, conscientious, and can make a mean Oreo ball.

Courtney Moyers
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Robbie Gilbert – She was immediately the life of the group.  Robbie has an amazing knack for making everyone feel welcome.  She worked in banking for 35 years and trains certified therapy dogs.  Her husband is a farmer/rancher and she is recently seeing his job from a more involved perspective.  She is hilarious, fearless, and has a huge heart.

Robbie Gilbert
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Ethan Green – Ethan is a member of the Cherokee Nation and serves in government relations for the Cherokee Nation.  He is involved in tribal politics and tribal elections.  He grew up on a ranch with Herford cattle.  Ethan is professional, kind, and accommodating.

Ethan Green
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Claudia Humphreys – She has been involved in agriculture most of her adult life.  Claudia has seen many different regions of the U.S. with respect to agriculture.  She is a business owner and describes herself as a serial entrepreneur.  Claudia is authentic, funny, and truly bleeds orange.

Claudia Humphreys
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Grant Mason – He was born in southwestern Oklahoma and now resides in Enid with his wife who is a teacher.  Grant’s background is in Rangeland Ecology and he now works for Wheeler Brothers Grain.  He and his wife have three dogs.  Grant is quiet, thinks before he speaks, and is a very hard worker.

Grant Mason
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Brandon Miller – His agricultural background includes custom harvesting and spraying, and he is now employed by Nutrient Ag Solutions.  Brandon was previously a crop consultant.  He has an Animal Science degree from OSU and has a three-year-old little girl.  Brandon is hard worker, can trim trees with a set of loppers with a great degree of accuracy, and could give Pistol Pete a run for his money on the mustache.

Brandon Miller
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Shelley Mitchell – She is a country girl born in the city.  Shelley is an Associate Extension Specialist for 4-H and Youth Programs at OSU.  She is involved with Ag in the Classroom, STEM Camp, and many other youth activities.  She loves horses, nature, and loves to teach children where their food comes from.  Shelley is funny, a self-starter, and is a self-proclaimed nerd.

Shelley Mitchell
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Robert Parrish – Robert is a land manager for the Commission of Land Office.  He was raised on the family farm consisting of no-till wheat and corn.  He is a drone operator, auctioneer, and volunteer with the local fire department in Garber.  Robert is thoughtful, inquisitive, and caring.

Robert Parrish
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Aaron Schantz – He is a fifth-generation farmer from Hydro.  Aaron’s family has raised anything from hot chili peppers to cilantro to the more traditional crops.  He graduated from Southwestern OSU with a degree in Parks and Recreation, and Law Enforcement.  Aaron was also in the National Guard and assisted with relief during Hurricane Harvey.  He has two children, a boy and a girl, and Aaron’s pride in his family shines through.  He is artistic, ambitious, and adventurous.

Aaron Schantz
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Emily Shuping – She is from northwestern Oklahoma and grew up on a ranch with a stocker and cow/calf operation.  Emily has a degree in International Agriculture.  She is involved with the Made in Oklahoma Coalition.  Emily is married and has a dog named Coco.  She loves to cook, hike, and is a health and wellness coach.  Emily loves yoga, is adventurous, smart, and very inclusive.  

Emily Shuping
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Meg Stangl – Meg currently resides in Kingfisher County, but her family ranch is in Osage County.  She farms with her husband Greg.  They raise no-till corn for feed only and run stocker cattle.  Meg graduated from OSU with an Agriculture Economics degree.  She has worked for Stillwater National Bank and was involved with IFMAPS program (Intensive Financial Management Planning and Support) at OSU.  She has three daughters, Molly, Amy, and Catherine.  Meg is an avid quilter.   Meg is attentive, inclusive, and kind.

Meg Stangl
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Thomas Walraven – Thomas was raised on a pig farm in northwestern Georgia and has a small cow/calf operation in Oklahoma.  He graduated with an Animal Science degree from OSU and is loyal OSU fan.  Thomas is a lender at BancFirst in Stillwater.  He is on the Payne County Election Board.  Thomas is a methodical thinker, creative, and caring.

Thomas Walraven
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

Edmond Bonjour – He is originally from Iowa, and initially came to OSU on an internship researching squash bugs.  He earned his degree in Mathematics and Biology at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa and his M.S. degree in Entomology at OSU.  Edmond was selected as the Director of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program in 2010.  He is married to Rose who is a phenomenal dessert cook.   Edmond and Rose have two children.  He enjoys gardening, photography, genealogy, and woodworking.  Edmond is an excellent facilitator of learning.  He is kind, caring, and smart.

Edmond Bonjour
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

The goal of the OALP is to help future and current leaders gain knowledge and skills for leadership.   These skills include communication, facilitation, and successful personal interaction with others.  The purpose is to foster a commitment from class members to be leaders in agriculture.  Through being involved in OALP, we will gain a better understanding of the role agriculture plays in our state and country.  By being class participants, we will expand our knowledge thus increasing our success in solving future problems in the agriculture community.  There are numerous companies and individuals that continue to support OALP.  As a class member, the magnitude of contributors that promote OALP is an indication of the success of the program.  Our role is to be engaged, grow, and learn, to show up on time, and be respectful and appreciative of the time and effort so many individuals and companies have or will in the future provide to Class XX.  We must take what we learn and practice it in our everyday life to promote agriculture.

OALP XX Class Members
Picture By: Todd Johnson – Ag Communications

On day one, we reviewed the schedule of seminars, and then took a poll of 16 questions.  The results of the poll showed that the majority of the class was excited to be involved in OALP, had graduated from OSU, were born in Oklahoma, were comfortable with having prayer at meal time, liked serving others in the community, and were comfortable meeting given the current situation.  About half the class was comfortable with technology, speaking in front of a group, asking presenters questions, and with leading a prayer before meals.  The class was all over the place with countries that they would like to visit, but the top three were Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.  

Sarah Stueber spoke to the class about the Agricultural Leadership of Oklahoma alumni group for which we are automatically become members upon graduation.  She explained how the group’s primary goals it to support the current OALP class.  We then discussed the benefit of research being conducted by Dr. Laura Greenhaw to discover how much participation in the class expands our interaction with each other on a professional level.  Then alumni of the OALP, Clay Burtrum, Sarah Stueber, and Dr. Adam Cobb, shared their experience with the program and what it meant to them.  Class XX asked questions and the biggest question was what advice you would give to the class that you wish you had when you were in the OALP.  Their advice was to not take anything for granted and to take notes so you can look back at them in the years to come because you might not remember every detail.

Thursday, Aug. 20

Scribe:  Alex Cox

On the second day, we headed to the Oklahoma State University Adventure Ropes Course where we were greeted by our instructor of the day, Nate, who works for the University’s Wellness Department.  We started by participating in several different team building activities. These activities were a great way to get to know one another on a different level. The first game we started with was a “What You Like” cone game. This game really gave us a sense of what we all like, such as our favorite season or movie genre.

From there we moved on to a few other games, but the game that really made us work together as a team was the tile game. This game featured a 5X5 tile square. The object of the game was to get from one side to the other by following a secret pattern. There was a catch – only one person could be at the square at a time and the rest had to be back at the main circle. We quickly went into action and Aaron came up with the idea to label and grid the square. Rosslyn then came up with a great idea on covering all the tiles with the bark that was already on the ground, and when someone got the right tile in the secret pattern, they were to brush it off. That way the next person knew which way to go. We also decided to use the white board provided by Nate. Shelley mapped out the pathway for those that are more visual learners. By using all of these methods, we ended up making it though the tiles. This game really made us work as a team and strategize together. 

Shelley Mitchell helping us figure things out during our games.
Picture By: Edmond Bonjour – OALP Director

Nate then had us gather in a circle and play a game where we had to point at someone in the circle, say their name and trade places with them. At the beginning of this exercise it was really easy, you just had to remember who called your name and who’s name you were to call next. Once we got the hang of that, Nate had us play a new game, where we were to shoutout a fruit and point to someone in the circle. This activity was a bit more challenging because we weren’t using names anymore and you had to say a fruit that hadn’t been said already. Once we got that down, Nate threw us a curve ball – we had to do both the name game and the fruit game at the same time! Talk about confusion! We kept focusing on one part and forgetting the other. Nate had us do this several times before we finally got the hang of it. 

After a morning full of team building activities and exercises, it was time for us to get suited up and in the air! We all seemed to be excited but nervous, since the majority of us had never experienced a ropes course before. Once we all got up to the top of the tower, it was like monkeys had been released in the treetops.  We all seemed to be having fun either on the course or watching from the tower. All you could hear was words of encouragement from and to one another. From ziplines to walking on the swinging stairs, we all made it to the ground safely with smiles on our faces!

Alex Cox was all smiles on top of the tower!
Picture By: Edmond Bonjour – OALP Director

That evening was devoted to community service. Edmond had set up a few projects for us to conduct. Some of the class helped prepare and serve a meal to community members, while the others helped do yard work for the elderly. Both of these projects were fun and very eye-opening to how fortunate we all are with our lives. 

We ended the night at Edmond and Rose’s house for dessert. This was a great time for all the class members to come together after a long day of hard work and have those connecting and bonding conversations. Some of us played cornhole and others sat and talked. We enjoyed a variety of delicious treats prepared by Rose. 

Overall, this was a great day of team building and bonding. We are all excited to see where this two year journey takes us.

Friday, Aug. 21

Scribe:  Caleb Cunningham

We started the day with Dr. Thomas G. Coon, Vice-President, Dean and Director of the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, DASNR. He taught us the core values of leading and also showed us lessons from a school of fish. He then told us about the three parts of DASNR which are the Ferguson College of Agriculture, Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station (OAES) and Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (OCES). Next we learned about land grant universities, The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 established the colleges, the Hatch Act of 1887 established agricultural experiment stations with land grant colleges, and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 established the cooperative extension services with the land grant colleges.

Dr. Thomas G. Coon
Picture By: Edmond Bonjour – OALP Director

Next Dr. Keith Owens, Associate Vice President of the Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station (OAES) took the stage. He told us about the different things going on at the research stations. These include the traditional research (e.g. wheat breeding, animal sciences, ag econ, ag engineering, and horticulture), recent research (e.g. natural resources, nutrition, and urban horticulture), and emerging research (e.g. microbiome, bioinformatics, genomics, probiotics, and rural broadband). He also told us how the program is funded with 47% from state, 12% from Hatch (federal), 36% from grants, 3% from royalties, and 2% from station sales. Additional resources include personnel and facilities.

Our third speaker was Dr. Damona Doye, Associate Vice President of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (OCES). She talked about the different partners that they work with – federal, state, and county. There are offices in all 77 counties in Oklahoma. They have an outreach program that consists of 4-H, family and consumer services, ag and natural resources, and community and rural development. The messages are delivered through meetings, workshops, publications, online, media, trials on farm, and through one-on-one contact. There is a great deal of community engagement with children, youth, and families. There are over 143,000 youth participants and over 1,300,000 face-to-face contacts each year. OCES funding comes from state 60%, federal 19%, counties 11%, and grants and contracts 10%.

Dr. Damona Doye
Picture By: Edmond Bonjour – OALP Director

Dr. Cynda Clary, Associate Dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, was our next speaker. She gave us a great overview of what is involved with the college. There are 3,136 students (2019) with 40% of them being from out of state. There are 46 states represented, 35 countries represented and a 14:1 student to faculty ratio. They offer 16 undergraduate programs, 15 master programs, and 11 doctoral programs.

Our next presenter was Dr. Jason Kirksey, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer at Oklahoma State University. He had a very powerful presentation that I believe everyone enjoyed. He talked about promoting a culture of inclusion, form a common bond, and goals. We also learned the rules of engagement – listen, learn, respect, have inclusive conversations, and that there is not always a right answer. He then gave a presentation on why diversity and inclusion matters. Diversity and inclusion require thinking outside of the box and requires us to step out of our “comfort zone”. Not every disability is visible. Micro-aggressions are another common problem that are not always intentional but still need attention. They happen every day. What can we do to help promote change? Broaden our knowledge, be aware, speak the language, learn to prioritize impact over intent, apologize sincerely, promote collective accountability, expand our comfort zones, and use the past as a reference.

After a short break, Dr. Lauren Cline, Lecturer in Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership, give a presentation. She asked us to define leadership, which consisted of breaking down into groups. We then ranked six different definitions of leadership, broke down each definition and talked about them, and created our own leadership definitions. The commonly used definition of leadership – leadership is a process where an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal (Northouse 2019). Diversity of thought is a large piece of leadership. The top 12 characteristics of admired leaders are broad-minded, competent, cooperative, courageous, dependable, fair-minded, forward-thinking, honest, inspiring, intelligent, straightforward, and supportive. When people are polled about what they think the best characteristics are, honesty is always number 1. The other characteristics fluctuate in the rankings. These are all things you should be or do to bolster your effectiveness as a leader.

Dr. Lauren Cline
Picture By: Edmond Bonjour – OALP Director

We then left the hotel conference room and drove to Meditations, which was right down the road. There we met Debby Strickland for a reception and dining etiquette. She taught us how we should properly eat and drink. The meal and atmosphere were wonderful, and it was a very informative meal.

After we ate, we gathered around in a circle with Edmond for announcements and seminar reflections. We were asked different questions that helped us reflect on all the different things we had experienced the past three days.  We had a great discussion and set forth our plans to get gifts and thank you cards ordered.