Old Mutual National Agricultural Student of the Year competition

Invitation to the University of Pretoria to participate in the Old Mutual National Agricultural Student of the Year competition, presented by Plaas Media.

The students of today are going to be the leaders of tomorrow. Thus, it makes sense to invest in this group of individuals. Modern-day students are faced with the challenge of proving their worth to potential employers on academic merit only. It is with great pride that Old Mutual, ALFA and Plaas Media carry out this project as name sponsor, organiser and media partner respectively.

The purpose of this competition will be to identify as many deserving students as possible, over and above the winners from each faculty of agriculture at the different universities. This will help students to secure good jobs while allowing employers to identify top candidates for future opportunities. The very successful Varsity Cup concept has set a precedent for competitions among universities, also at other levels.

Since universities are academic institutions at which students are preparing to take their place in a certain industry, an academic competition presented in a commercial context makes sense. Although it is fairly common practice across the rest of the world, this has never been done in South Africa. Considering the negative effects of the #Fees must fall campaign in 2016 and 2017 and the political pressure on free tertiary education this year, such a competition will create a constructive environment and neutral (non-political) focus, especially for students who are in the process of completing their degrees.

We aim to grow and develop this competition to the extent where it will form an integral part of the local academic environment. The long-term goal is for the competition to include all universities, including technical universities and colleges. For the initial phase, we have decided to start out with only three universities and undergraduate students for 2018. Over time we would also like to include post-graduate students.

Categories, subject sections and qualifications:

The focus will be on students across the entire spectrum of agricultural academic study at academic universities.

Undergraduate student of the year per subject category:

  1. Undergraduate students in their final year of study.
  2. Students that maintained an average academic performance of 70% in their studies before their final year.
  3. Students to be chosen by their associated head of department.

 In all of the above scenarios, students are also invited to enter themselves.

Subject categories for the competition

Agricultural students in South Africa can be broadly divided into three groups (fields of study), each of which will be handled as a separate section:

  • Animal sciences.
  • Agricultural economics.
  • Crop production.

 A winner will be announced per university in each category.

For the initial phase of the competition (2018), we will start with three universities

  1. University of the Free State.
  2. University of Pretoria.
  3. University of KwaZulu-Natal.

 

Execution of the project

The project is presented in two phases:

  • A faculty day will be hosted at each of the respective universities. The entire faculty is involved in the day, from first-year to post-graduate students and lecturers. The programme will include a speaker line-up, lunch and an evaluation of students who entered the competition. Each university will be responsible for its own faculty day. The name sponsor (Old Mutual) has budgeted for a R5000 sponsorship per university towards these faculty days.
    • Students receive an industry-oriented subject relating to the relevant subject section and must write an essay of no more than 5 000 words. The subject requires the student to maintain a certain viewpoint and support this point of departure by way of an academic argument. The same subject is used at all universities.
    • These subjects are compiled by a committee consisting of the name sponsor (Old Mutual), Plaas Media, academics and industry leaders. Numerous industry organisations will also be involved in this process.
    • The essays are evaluated by the relevant faculties and three to five semi-finalists are selected, who must then deliver a 15-minute presentation to his/her fellow students.
    • A panel of judges, consisting of lecturers of the relevant faculty, the name sponsor (Old Mutual), industry leaders and Plaas Media evaluates the presentations. A winner per subject section, per category is selected by determining the average mark of the presentation and the essay. The total of three winners per university will be invited as semi-finalists to represent their respective universities at the national championships in September.
    • Each of the nine semi-finalists (each university delivering a winner in each subject section) will receive a certificate of recognition.
    • The three category winners from each univercity will each receive R500 cash as well as a green Old Mutual prestige jacket with an “agriculture student of the year finalist” badge.

 

  • The national championships will take place during ALFA in Parys (18-20 September 2018):
    • The nine semi-finalists attend the last two days of the expo.
    • Here the different category winners of each university will compete against each other to determine the ultimate winners per subject category. The travel cost and accommodation of each student will be subsidised by the competition.
    • Each participant is evaluated as follows:
  1. The updated essay is judged by a panel of experts.
  2. Each participant presents a poster exhibition and delivers a five-minute presentation.
  3. Each participant has a 15-minute interview with a panel of experts on the application of their essay in the industry. General and applied agricultural and subject knowledge is assessed.
  4. An unprepared debate around new industry techniques will also take place in front of an audience.

The final winner in each category per subject category is the student with the highest average in the four categories. Three national winners will thus be crowned.

General

This is a considerable project that will most likely achieve a permanent status within agriculture, even in its first year. Within five years these students will be employees and leaders in agriculture, where their influence will be felt. Each following year, the competition’s stature will grow as new winners are added and former winners and participants build their own careers within our industry.  Participating in this competition will be one of the best value adds to any job seeking agricultural student’s curriculum vitae. Plaas Media will ensure that through media coverage, the winner will be successfully exposed to the agricultural community.

More than 2 000 agricultural students, from first years to post-graduate students, as well as lecturers and management at more than eight different universities, will be impacted by this competition annually once the competition covers all universities presenting agricultural courses. The organisational exposure for all the different sectors of agriculture involved, will be extensive and permanent. Besides the investment in our agricultural youth, the agricultural student of the year competition has the potential to become one of the most prestigious competitions in agriculture. An “Old Mutual student winner” can potentially become the “Rhodes scholarship holder” of the future.

Many thanks for the support we have received thus far. We realise time is running out leading up to ALFA 2018 and will therefore need the following to be completed as soon as possible:

  • A letter from each participating university confirming their involvement.
  • A letter discussing the three subjects to be sent out to all participating universities. The subjects must then be given to all interested students who qualify for participation, before the winter break. 
  • Confirmation of a date in August or September 2018 during which the universities would like to host their individual faculty days.

Please make sure that all parties are available for ALFA 2018, from 18-20 September 2018.

With thanks

 

Albert Loubser

Director: Plaas Media

Published by Melissa van der Merwe

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