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Source: Agriculture Future of America news release

It is the beginning of a new fiscal year at Agriculture Future of America. The organization is beginning its new year with both new student and staff leadership.

In the month of January, AFA welcomed Traci Via and Ashley Collins to the team. Via is the new director of development and communications, and Collins is the director of collegiate relations. Together the two will work with Mark Stewart to coordinate AFA's external relations. Today is also Stewart's first official day as both president and CEO. This is the end of a leadership transition process announced two years ago.

In addition to this new staff leadership, AFA has selected 10 Student Advisory Team members and 19 Campus Ambassadors to serve for the 2017-18 year. These students represent 29 schools from 25 states. During their year of service, these students will interact with agribusiness leaders, campus faculty and fellow students as they represent AFA.

"It's an exciting time for AFA," said Russ Weathers, AFA chairman and former CEO. "Even while we celebrated AFA's 20th anniversary last year, we focused more on the future than the past. I am excited to see the progress both the students and staff make toward the future of AFA."
The student leader team plays a large role in AFA's external relations as well as program facilitation. All 29 students fill the Campus Ambassador role at their respective schools by serving as a liaison between AFA and university faculty, staff and fellow students.

Additionally, the 10 Student Advisory Team members are responsible for representing AFA nationally as well as planning and facilitating the 2017 AFA Leaders Conference, Nov. 2-5, in Kansas City, Missouri.

"As an organization, we value students as leaders," said Stewart. "The active role these student leaders play is evidence of this. These young men and women are our student voice and influence the direction of our programs. Our student leadership is made possible by AFA's strategic partnerships with ADM, Cargill, CHS, Farm Credit and Monsanto, and we are thankful for their investment."

The student leaders will kick off their year April 6-8, when all 29 students convene in Kansas City for training and to develop the 2017 Conference theme. Throughout this summer, the Student Advisory Team will visit corporate partners and potential partners of AFA, as well as develop plans for the 2017 Conference. They will have opportunities to discuss various facets of agriculture and business with leaders from partner organizations. These visits expand students' understanding of agriculture and add value to Conference.

Student Advisory Team

Brandon Barnett, University of Florida
Sarah Dreyer, California Polytechnic State University
Kate Likens, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Jaime Luke, University of Missouri
Jenna Maltbie, Oklahoma State University
Max Mielke, Washington State University
Xavier Morgan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Haleigh Ortmeier-Clarke, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
Tony Rice, The Pennsylvania State University
Paige Stevenson, Purdue University

Campus Ambassadors

Nakia Coit, University of Maryland Eastern Shore
Jacob Dailey, North Dakota State University
Morgan Dodson, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Kate Forro, Michigan State University
Zach Jacobs, Virginia Tech
Geriet Lenz, Texas Tech University
Stephanie McBath, Cornell University
Topanga McBride, Kansas State University
Alondra Meixueiro, West Texas AM University
Jessica Neal, Southeast Missouri State University
Monica Pennewitt, The Ohio State University
Jared Retzlaff, University of Wisconsin - River Falls
Madison Riley, Huntington University
Thomas Salentiny, South Dakota State University
Aleah Shook, University of Arizona
William Singer, University of Tennessee - Martin
Ashley Smith, University of Georgia
Michael Tupper, Iowa State University
Larencia Williams, Tuskegee University

About AFA
AFA builds bridges for young leaders to foster engagement and innovation in food and agriculture. With program participation increasing 73 percent in the last five years, AFA leader development programs have impacted 13,000 college leaders and young professionals from more than 200 colleges and universities throughout 43 states since its inception in 1996. AFA has awarded more than $9 million in academic and leader development scholarships. For more information about AFA, visit or contact Megan Karlin at

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