Collegiate Academy; Learning through Adversity

Blog post by Zoe Schultz, Kansas Corn Intern and Collegiate Academy Class 3 participant

Students each day look for ways to capitalize on industry opportunities and leadership development experiences. For six Kansas State University students, the Class 3 Kansas Corn Collegiate Academy gave them the opportunity to dive deeper into the corn industry by learning about issues in agriculture and future career paths. Even during the pandemic, Class 3 Kansas Corn Collegiate Academy members were able to learn about ethanol, policy, trade, livestock, and advocacy. A select program of the Kansas Corn Growers Association (KCGA) and the Kansas Corn Commission (KCC), the Collegiate Academy gives college students in-depth learning experiences and provides insights into the opportunities and challenges they may experience in their future careers in agriculture.

Collegiate Academy Class 3 members are Shelby Hattrup, Kinsley (Agronomy, K-State) ; Austin Hobbs, Fredonia (Agronomy, K-State) ; Ellie Katzer, Louisburg (Agribusiness, K-State) ; Reile Meile, Ulysses (Agribusiness, K-State) ; Zoe Schutz, Grainfield, (Ag Communications and Journalism; Agronomy, K-State)  and Kourtney Weingartner, Topeka (Agricultural Economics, K-State).

Emily Koop, Kansas Corn’s Market Development Coordinator and Eastern Representative, led the Collegiate Academy in three sessions beginning in the Kansas City area in January where the group met with representatives from the U.S. Grains Council, BNSF Railway, Roots & Legacies, John Deere, Compass Materials, Guetterman Brothers Farms, Bichelmeyer Meats, Kansas Corn Commission, and Kansas Corn Growers Association. Ken McCauley, Kansas Corn leader and past president of the National Corn Growers Association,  met with the group for dinner and gave insight on his own operation and his experiences with Kansas Corn. Throughout the session, collegiate academy students learned about direct trade, consumer education through advocacy, and agronomic practices. Austin Hobbs  reflected on the first session.

“The experiences we learned during our trip to the Kansas City area really opened my eyes to how many components agriculture has and how critical each role is in our industry,” he said.

In late March, students were scheduled to participate in a day at the Statehouse in Topeka. Even though the policy day was moved to a virtual format due to the pandemic, students were able to connect with individuals directly involved in policy and learn the important role that government plays in agriculture.  Kourtney Weingartner, enjoyed meeting Anne Thompson during the Statehouse Zoom calls. Thompson works as the Director of Political Strategy for NCGA in Washington D.C along with serving as the director of NCGA’s CornPac. Wiengartner and the rest of Class 3 truly believe that Collegiate Academy is just the start to the many opportunities they will have within the industry.

“Anne made me realize that often times one doesn’t know where they will end up, but once you broaden your horizons the opportunities you will be met with are unmatched,” Wiengartner said.

The third session was held in Western Kansas in June, where students learned in-depth information on livestock, ethanol, and water issues. Academy members met with High Plains Farm Credit in Hays, Innovative Livestock Services, Western Plains Energy Ethanol Plant, Northwest Kansas Technical College, and KCGA President Brent Rogers. Rogers spoke on his leadership roles, farm practices, water technology, and Groundwater Management Districts (GMDs).

 In a time of adversity and learning, the Collegiate Academy helped students discover leadership, engagement and opportunities within the corn industry. To wrap up the Class 3 Collegiate Corn Academy, students will create a capstone project to recap the program and hope to reschedule the academy’s final session in Washington D.C. Any college student enrolled in a two-year or four-year post-secondary school is eligible and encouraged to apply for Class 4. Visit for updated information on the collegiate academy and other collegiate programs.