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Alabama’s most profitable agricultural industry is the focus of a new partnership between Auburn University and Wallace State Community College in Hanceville. The partnership is designed to open more career doors in a part of the state where much of the poultry industry is concentrated.
Students in the program will complete their freshman and sophomore years at Wallace State and their junior and senior years at Auburn, completing a bachelor’s degree in poultry science.
“This is an excellent opportunity not only for Auburn and for Wallace State but for the state of Alabama,” said Dr. William Batchelor, dean of Auburn’s College of Agriculture. “Poultry is our state’s leading agricultural resource. It’s an industry of great economic importance to us, and it’s an industry offering excellent career paths for students. We’re grateful to our friends at Wallace State for helping make this partnership possible.”
The poultry industry in Alabama generates more than $3.1 billion each year and accounts for more than 65 percent of the state’s annual farming revenues.
“Wallace State values this partnership with Auburn University, which recognizes the strength of our poultry industry in Cullman County and surrounding counties, and which provides a ringing endorsement of the outstanding education Wallace State offers,” said Wallace State President Dr. Vicki Hawsey. “Thanks to the work of the Auburn University poultry science program, and the graduates we are pleased to now produce together, there is growing demand from around the world for our state’s expertise in this area.”
Hawsey credits Fred Cespedes, recently retired vice president of American Proteins and Wallace State Future Foundation Board member, with helping to spearhead the partnership. Fred and his wife Holly have established a scholarship for Wallace State students interested in entering the field.
“As important as poultry is to our area, it has made sense to me for a long time that Wallace State should have this program and that a partnership with Auburn would be a proverbial ‘match made in heaven’ – a win for both institutions,” Cespedes said.
He helped Dr. Hawsey round up industry support for such a program, and garnered endorsements from Randall Ennis, chief executive officer at Aviagen; Ricky Walker, complex manager of Tyson Foods Inc.’s Alabama Operations; Jason Spann, general manager of American Proteins’ Hanceville Division; and Bill Ingram, president of Golden Rod/Ingram Farms, among others.
“As a former student of a similar 2+2 program, I can speak first hand on the amazing benefits a program like this allows students,” said Spann, who oversees the Hanceville division of American Proteins, the largest poultry rendering complex in the world. “Not only does this program provide students with a quality education, it offers students an opportunity to live and work at home, or closer to home, gaining knowledge and experience before facing the challenges of life at a large university. The 2+2 program between Wallace State and Auburn University is a benefit to our students and our industry.”
Ennis and Walker discussed the breadth of opportunities in the field, which may come as a surprise to the uninitiated, and the healthy job market available to graduates.
“As poultry is the No. 1 agricultural commodity in the State of Alabama with over $3 billion in sales, the job opportunities are endless and compensation packages are very competitive,” said Ennis, of Aviagen, which supplies day-old grandparent and parent stock chicks to customers in 130 countries worldwide under the Arbor Acres, Indian River and Ross brand names.
Ennis said opportunities are not limited to the state of Alabama but can be found throughout the United State and internationally. “Countries such as Brazil, Thailand, Australia and Europe have thriving industries and are always seeking qualified individuals trained in poultry science.”
“As one of the largest poultry-producing states in the U.S., the poultry industry in Alabama provides career opportunities for a diverse population of workers. While traditional careers in poultry production and management remain important, a degree in poultry science could offer a wide variety of career fields,” said Ricky Walker, Alabama Complex manager for Tyson Foods Inc.
Some of those areas include sales, food science, nutrition, veterinary support, quality assurance/meat quality, feed milling, quantitative genetics, and genomics as well as multiple aspects in poultry production.
While at Wallace State, students enrolled in the partnership program will complete their core curriculum as well as an introductory agriculture course. The agriculture course will be streamed live from the Auburn campus.
Dr. Don Conner, head of Auburn’s Department of Poultry Science, said the program will also offer “early and local internship experiences.
“Hanceville is right in the middle of a heavy concentration of poultry industry and a heavy job demand for students with a degree in poultry science,” Conner said.
Summer internships are available with most of the poultry companies in Alabama, which offer students a look at different disciplines to help determine the area they may want to pursue upon graduation.
Conner said that Auburn’s poultry science program has held a 100 percent job placement rate for several years due to its quality as well as the demand for well-trained business leaders, scientists and producers in the industry.
Scholarships are available to poultry science students at both Auburn and Wallace State, including the Fred and Holly Cespedes Endowed Scholarship Fund, available to Wallace State students studying agriculture, horticulture production, poultry science or a related field. Wallace State students are also eligible for the Allied Scholarship offered by the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association and other scholarships through the Wallace State Future Foundation.
For enrollment information, contact the Wallace State Office of Admissions at 256-352-8238 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Auburn Department of Poultry Science at 334-844-2881 or email@example.com.