Iowa State University hosts online poultry internship programme

Iowa State welcomed participants for the Midwest Poultry Consortium Centre of Excellence online internship programme.
calendar icon 26 July 2020
clock icon 5 minute read

2020 was a year of firsts for the Midwest Poultry Consortium’s Centre of Excellence Scholarship and Internship Programme - the first year it was hosted by Iowa State University, and the first year the program was held in an online format, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences virtually hosted 29 students from 14 Midwest universities for the virtual summer educational program. The 25-year-old program was formerly hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Iowa State was selected to host the programme because of its college and industry programmatic support, facilities for teaching, and existing poultry faculty support, said Elizabeth Bobeck, assistant professor of animal science at Iowa State and on-site coordinator of the summer programme.

“The Midwest Poultry Consortium Centre of Excellence courses began in 1996 as a way for 13 Midwestern states representing 14 universities to pool students and teaching resources, and continue educating university students for future employment in the poultry industry,” Bobeck said. “Many universities were discontinuing poultry science departments, and by bringing together industry and universities, a poultry education programme was able to continue.”

Students complete the programme over the course of two consecutive summers. Each summer, students take three, two-week-long classes to learn more about poultry science, earning up to 18 credits that can be transferred to their universities. This summer’s courses were moved online and taught by Iowa State animal science and veterinary medicine faculty, as well as others from poultry centres throughout the US Following completion of their coursework at the end of June, students began industry internships with consortium members.

The consortium consists of 117 industry members. Membership is open to any poultry company that has an interest in helping educate the next generation of poultry industry employees, said Beth Nelson, Midwest Poultry Consortium president and CEO.

Before the pandemic hit, the plan was to host classes at the new Robert T and Arlene Hamilton Poultry and Research Teaching Farm at Iowa State, as well as in Kildee Hall and the Meats Laboratory. Bobeck said they still were able to make use of the new poultry facility for the programme by filming laboratory videos for nutrition and physiology courses.

“Students commented that although they missed the hands-on and networking component common in the Centre of Excellence instruction, the courses were among the best-run online courses they had taken,” Bobeck said.

Dawn Koltes, adjunct assistant professor in animal science at Iowa State, co-taught the online avian physiology course with Zac Williams, poultry outreach specialist at Michigan State University. She said the course typically involves a lot of hands-on activities that help build camaraderie among the students. To make up for this, she assigned group projects and a virtual debate about current issues or topics within the poultry industry, pairing students to work together and get to know each other.

“It was a unique perspective with it being my first time teaching a course for the programme and the first time the programme was offered in a virtual format,” Koltes said. “I think it went fairly well.”

As a result of her efforts, the students voted Koltes to be named this year’s runner-up for the “Pullet-zer Prize Award.” The award recognises faculty for their efforts in teaching students in the programme.

Iowa State will again host the scholarship and internship programme next summer, reverting to an in-person format.

“We hope to continue bridging the education gap for undergraduates throughout the Midwest interested in poultry by offering the poultry-focused courses here at a world-class agricultural institution with brand new poultry facilities, in the heart of the laying hen industry,” Bobeck said.

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