Maddi Neff, Johnstown, Ohio, will graduate in May 2014 with a degree in agribusiness management and rural development and a minor in equine management. She’s used her time in WVU’s Davis College to study subjects she loves while focusing on her specific career objectives.
How did you choose your major?
I was finishing my sophomore year as a fashion merchandising major when I decided to change routes and pursue Agribusiness Management. I loved the fashion industry and still do, but I was looking for something a little less urban and a little more rural. I enjoy working with fabrics, designs and displays, especially western apparel. The design, construction and details of cowboy boots is what intrigues me the most, so switching to a major a little more focused on agriculture definitely felt more “me.” I wanted to pursue a degree that could take me in whatever direction I decided to go, whether it was fashion, agriculture, or business- so choosing to combine the three was the smartest decision I have made regarding my degree.
What have been some of your most memorable experiences at WVU?
There are way too many awesome experiences I have had at WVU to narrow it down to one or two. I accepted a job offer to work in Colorado on the largest horse ranch in North America after reading about the opportunity on equine management teaching assistant professor Crystal Smith’s Facebook page and worked my tail off learning all I could about the equine industry. My brother, Steve, and I threw an incredible Halloween party last semester where everyone rocked awesome costumes and line-danced in our yard. Regarding classes, I have made the Dean’s List, and have enrolled in very thought-provoking courses that taught me so much about history, psychology sociology, as well as classes in my agribusiness major and equine minor. My experiences at WVU have taught me so much about myself and about the world around me and my only regret is that I could not have done more.
What kinds of extracurricular and out-of-the-classroom activities did you pursue while you were a student?
While at WVU, I enjoyed working a full-time job at Cowboys and Angels Western Boots and Apparel, so my time for other activities was slightly limited. I did, however, enjoy attending a couple of Collegiate Horseman’s Association meetings, as well as speaking to the CHA in regards to my internships at two ranches in Colorado. I also enjoyed volunteering at On Eagle’s Wings Therapeutic Riding Center in Fairmont and attending Fashion Business Association meetings regularly to keep my foot in the fashion industry.
What advice would you give for a student who wanted to pursue your major at WVU?
If you love two different industries, don’t let anyone tell you that you have to pick one or the other. Find a way to combine them. Do you love fashion and agriculture? Design cowboy boots. Construct show apparel for riders and their horses. Look into working for a company like Ariat, Tony Lama, or Panhandle Slim. I have gotten many strange looks over the years when I tell people that I switched from a fashion career to an agriculture career, but when it comes down to it I am completely happy living and working in both worlds.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I will be moving to Fort Collins, Colo., to pursue my dreams in agricultural retail sales. This industry is booming in Colorado and I intend to be a part of a company that has made a name for itself in agricultural-related outdoor gear, all the while building a cabin in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with my incredible boyfriend, Kyle. Once the home is finished, I am sure there will be some horse-adopting and barn-building in my future as well!
In the long term, what’s your dream job? If you could look at your resume in, say, 10 years, what will it say you’re doing?
My dream job would be to own and operate a retail store that caters to the men and women who, like me, enjoy a great pair of cowboy boots and well-tailored jeans. It really cannot get any better than that.
My resume will indicate plenty of agricultural and equine retail sales experience and possibly a graduate degree in equine science from Colorado State University. I also look forward to taking classes in American Sign Language and continue my certifications in CPR/AEP as well as American Red Cross First Aid.
Harold Vass, a graduate student in agricultural and resource economics, and Alan Davis, an environmental and natural resource economics major, won the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) category in the 2014 West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition (BPC) for Weld Safe Technologies.
Vass and Davis, both students in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, are patenting a device to increase welder safety in the workplace. By coupling gas sensing devices with hot work machines, the technology has the ability to shut down equipment that could otherwise lead to an explosion when volatile gasses are present in the environment. The team sees their device as one of the next big things in the safety instrumentation industry.
We asked them some questions about their experience in the competition and about their next entrepreneurial steps.
How did you decide to participate in the Business Plan Competition?
Harold Vass: I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. Early in my senior year of undergrad in mechanical and aerospace engineering in the Statler College, Fonda Holehouse [teaching associate professor of agricultural and resource economics in the Davis College] inspired me to reach for my dreams. This BPC is actually the second one in which I’ve placed. (I was a second-place winner in the Davis College-sponsored West Virginia Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge last year). Winning the BPC has been a dream of mine since I saw the first flyers for it my freshman year. It really is one of the most prestigious awards a young West Virginia entrepreneur can achieve as a student, and the sense of community shared by the winners is something found rarely elsewhere. In addition to the prize money and recognition, the contacts my team has made because of the competition will surely benefit us as we move towards creating a West Virginia business.
Alan Davis: I participated at the suggestion of one of my professors, Fonda Holehouse, who was very supportive throughout.
Can you talk a little about the process of how you arrived at your idea? Did you have it in mind before you decided to compete?
AD: I have had the idea in my head for a while. I worked in related fields and from my experience, I saw an opportunity for a product that fills a void in industries such as oil and gas, mining, manufacturing, etc.
HV: Alan approached me with a problem (that welders in unsafe environments generally operate without necessary equipment required to react to a hazard) and a loose idea of the solution he had in mind about two months before the competition deadline. My interest in the problem peaked immediately and I realized (I think more than he did for a while) that not only was this a great idea but that this could be the next big idea for an industry that hasn’t seen new technology in a long time. We spent the next two months formulating the feasibility study and creating industry contacts. The BPC was on our minds from day one.
By all accounts, the competition is a lot of hard work. How were you able to build it into your regular life as a student?
HV: As a graduate student, my time (prior to the competition) was reasonably allocated between school work, assistantship work, sleep, and a couple hours each week for a social life. Once the gears were turning with Weld Safe, fitting in the additional work was just something that had to happen. I found myself staying up later than usual to work through ideas, waking up earlier to get a head start on the day, turning the television off more often, and generally allocating my time more efficiently. My girlfriend was incredibly supportive throughout the process; often times trading dinner dates and dancing for carry-out pizza and an evening of pouring through supporting documents online. At times, managing everything was difficult, I think it is for anyone, but starting this business was one of the most fun things I’ve done over the past six months.
AD: The competition was very time consuming. Thankfully, I had a lot of time between stages of the competition and a strong support team to help meet goals.
What advice would you give for a student who wanted to pursue the Business Plan Competition, or just try and turn an idea into a business of their own?
AD: I would say that a lot of people are going to try to put your idea down or pick holes in it. Learn from these people and take their advice but at the same time, be positive and persistent.
HV: Believe in your idea. Eat, sleep, and live knowing the idea will work. There will be plenty of people that doubt you and will try to convince you otherwise; it is now your job to prove them otherwise. There is help everywhere, from Small Business Administration organizations to dedicated students and faculty; there are countless opportunities to make your business better than it was the day before. Don’t underestimate the power of market research. Get a whiteboard and keep a journal as well as a schedule and fill your day. Most importantly, just start doing something and don’t start until the job is done. Lastly, the job is never done.
What are your next steps for your business? How would you like to see it develop?
HV: Over the summer we plan to work closely with our patent attorney out of Princeton, W.Va., to file full patents for each device we plan to bring to market. We’re also working with the Robert C. Byrd Institute, CART Inc., and other manufacturers across the state to redesign our initial prototype into a market-ready design. As the design finalizes, we will meet with safety and operations managers as well as industrial supply stores for our initial customer base as we prepare to pitch license agreements in the summer of 2015. If you would like to know more about our product line or investment opportunities you can reach me at Harold.email@example.com.
AD: I would like to continue to explore avenues of funding for this business while working on further development of the business and intellectual property.
The 2014 Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association (NAREA) Workshop on Unconventional Shale Gas and Oil Development will be held at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, West Virginia immediately after the NAREA Annual Meeting. The NAREA Workshop will take place on June 3-4, immediately following the Annual Meeting on June 1-3, 2014. The workshop may be attended either alone or in combination with the NAREA Annual Meeting.
The workshop will include addresses from recognized experts in the field, selected paper presentations chosen on the basis of submitted abstracts, and in-depth working sessions. A special issue of the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review (ARER) will be published from workshop papers accepted after an expedited version of the journal’s peer-review process. Depending on the availability of funding, the Workshop Committee seeks to provide a stipend to the presenting author of all selected papers.
Authors wishing to have a paper considered for the NAREA Workshop must submit an extended abstract by Friday, February 14, 2014. Click here to download the full Call for Papers . Abstracts may be submitted online at www.narea.org/2014/. For additional questions please contact Wesley Burnett, Workshop Chair (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org). Abstracts may be submitted at any time prior to 2/14/14.
Paul Kinder, a research scientist with the WVU Natural Resource Analysis Center, said the Center has been using manned aircrafts for several years to map natural resources around the state from coal to oil and gas to wildlife and now is exploring drone-based technologies.
“We are working to better understand the dynamics of water temperatures in mountain streams that have trout. High temperatures are lethal to trout, but with a drone and thermal sensor, we can map surface water temperatures and identify danger zones of warming as well as areas where springs and ground water offer cooler temperatures as refuge to trout especially in the summer months,” Kinder said.
– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/12/06/drone-conversation-necessary-to-further-research-wvu-experts-say#sthash.KWWfyTgE.dpuf
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Fred King, vice president of research at WVU, will moderate the second annual energy forum roundtable discussion from 10 a.m.-noon Monday (Dec. 9) at the Mountainlair Ballroom. The roundtable is open to the public and will feature lawmakers, industry leaders and energy experts.
The big picture question for the forum is “How do current and proposed energy policies impact the economic climate in the United States?”
“West Virginia is an energy rich state,” Burnett said, “and the coal is one of the State’s primary economic resources. Because WVU is West Virginia’s land-grant, flagship university, we can provide the perfect public forum for a discussion like this.”
– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/12/06/wvu-congressman-mckinley-to-co-host-public-energy-forum-monday#sthash.Lu9oEEnw.dpuf
Wesley Davis had a characteristic reaction to learning that he had been elected Eastern Region Vice President for the National FFA organization.
The West Virginia University student was sitting in a Louisville auditorium with thousands of his peers at the FFA national convention, meeting the organization’s new leadership roster.
“As soon as I heard, ‘From the State of West Virginia?’ I just started running.”
Running is Davis’s natural state, whether in the literal sense for exercise or in the metaphorical sense suited to a multitasking high achiever. And, for the next year, he’ll be racking up some serious mileage.
“The FFA expects that we’ll travel about 300 days out of the next year,” Davis said. Some destinations include Wisconsin for training and Japan to check in with the emerging Future Farmers of Japan group that the U.S. FFA helped form.
“It gives me chills to think about it,” Davis admitted. But the chills are of anticipation rather than anxiety. “I want to work with members to create opportunities and meet challenges.”
Davis, of Point Pleasant, W.Va., is pursuing a dual major in agribusiness management and rural development and agricultural and extension education in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design. He’ll have to put his WVU education on hold for his year in office, but he expects the experience to be akin to “another degree tacked on to the ones I’ll earn on campus.”
– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/11/26/wvu-student-wins-national-future-farmers-of-america-office#sthash.umSXxPbf.dpuf
As a Fulbright Specialist, D’Souza received this opportunity after being chosen based on need by the Fulbright Foundation.
“I met with various faculty members, with college students and even gave a weekend talk to high school students who were learning English through the U.S. Embassy in Paraguay,” he said. “The purpose of the trip was for them to understand how we in the U.S. deal with issues like environmental equality, energy and sustainability.”
While in Paraguay, D’Souza presented a series of nine different lectures on various topics including environmental economics, sustainability, water quality and agribusiness. Those presentations were put together with the help from six students and young professionals from Paraguay that D’Souza calls Team ParagUSA. The seven have stayed in touch through Facebook since D’Souza’s return to the U.S.
– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/11/19/wvu-professor-director-enjoy-fulbright-experiences#sthash.dp0mFn9h.dpuf
West Virginia University continues to strengthen its position as a key place for energy research and education with the development of a new undergraduate degree, a bachelor’s of science in Environmental and Energy Resource Management.
The new degree, which will begin accepting students immediately, will build upon efforts already under way with other industry partners and institutions of higher learning that are helping to pave the path for research in the energy industry. It will also provide a fast track into the region’s rapidly growing energy industry.
WVU is moving aggressively in the energy research sphere through partnerships with The Ohio State University for shale energy research, outreach and education, and with Northeast Natural Energy for projects between business and academia.
“These partnerships enhance the university’s ability to fulfill the land-grant mission of teaching, research and service,” said Provost Michele Wheatly. “As a driving force shaping our country’s energy future, we are working to benefit not only WVU, but our state and country.”
The objective of the degree is to provide a strong foundation for those students interested in pursuing a career focusing on the business and entrepreneurial aspects of the growing energy and environmental sector.
“Students completing this major will be prepared for employment in the private sector, governmental agency employment, consulting, and for entrepreneurial ventures of their own design,” said Fonda Holehouse, teaching associate professor of agricultural and resource economics in WVU’s Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design.
– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2013/11/19/wvu-continues-energy-push-flips-switch-on-new-energy-degree#sthash.XptOaFbu.dpuf
Decision-makers in energy producing nations on opposite sides of the world will need nimble skills to navigate complicated intersections of intertwined issues if they hope to develop sustainable clean energy industries for the rest of the 21st century.
A team of West Virginia University researchers has been given the green light to research and build models that can help by examining two important energy rich regions of the world West Virginia and the Shanxi Province of China.
The project is a collaboration among key experts in the WVU Regional Research Institute and the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design including Principal Investigator Hodjat Ghadimi, Wesley Burnett, and Jerald J. Fletcher, all of the Davis College, and RRI Director Randall Jackson.
They may have spent more than 30 hours rattling through the air in a twin-engine aircraft and traveled almost 3,500 miles roundtrip, but for West Virginia University researchers Paul Kinder and Adam Riley their most recent data-gathering excursion was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
The duo, researchers with the Natural Resource Analysis Center in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, recently traveled to the Midwest and Southwest to collect high resolution airborne light detection and ranging data of several sites in Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico.