Leadership On A Global Scale

World president – that’s the title Genna Tesdall held as a 21 year-old student at Iowa State University.

As world president of IAAS – the International Association of students in Agricultural and related Sciences – she helped bring the organization’s annual World Congress to Iowa State in July. It was a first. The event was the first congress to be held in the United States since IAAS began 57 years.

Tesdall, a senior in global resource systems, worked with Rebecca Clay, a junior in agronomy and director of the World Congress session, to lead Iowa State’s efforts in hosting the visiting students for 19 days. The 53 students from 18 nations spent time exploring Iowa, discussing the future of farming and conducting IAAS business.

IAAS is focused on sharing information worldwide about agriculture through conferences, seminars, exchange programs and internship opportunities. The international student group is based in Leuven, Belgium. Its mission is to promote the exchange of ideas at the international level and improve understanding between students in the fields of agricultural and related sciences.

As part of their visit the students held the general assembly business sessions for five days in Iowa State’s Memorial Union. If you listened you could hear accents from around the world. If asked, students would excitedly share their impressions of Iowa and the United States.

Damien Tschopp, a co-leader for the IAAS Switzerland exchange program, arrived in New York and explored the western National Parks before taking a bus ride through the Midwest to Iowa. Tschopp said each country has a different approach to agriculture.

“I saw two farms in Iowa with several differences,” Tschopp says. “That’s what’s great about IAAS. I can share what I discovered at this World Congress with students in my country.”

Several students were amazed by the size of Iowa’s farms and machinery. Tschopp pointed out that an average farm in Switzerland is 44 acres compared to farms in Iowa averaging thousands of acres.

Hai Le Van from Vietnam said Iowa’s gross domestic product is equal to his entire country. He said he could see returning to Iowa State to get his doctorate degree or working with manufacturers in Iowa to import machinery to Vietnam.

Seeing Iowa State and Iowa from the international viewpoint is what Tesdall enjoyed.

“It was special for me having it here,” Tesdall says. “I could see Iowa with a sense of wonder through the eyes of my dear IAAS colleagues.”

Clay was proud to show off her home state Iowa and organize tours at Iowa State, Iowa farms, industry locations and Iowa’s park system. The tours included the Hy-Vee distribution center, the Iowa State BioCentury Farm, the Des Moines Farmers’ Market, a winery, the Story County Conservation Center, Monsanto, Syngenta, Wassenaar Grain Operation and Vermeer manufacturing.

“These students came away with a new perspective about Iowa farmers and farms. We showcased a wide diversity of agriculture in the Midwest,” Clay says.

For Samuel Navarrete, who was elected the World President for 2014-15, the Des Moines Farmers’ Market was a highlight. He said they have markets in Mexico, but not farmers’ markets.

“You get to know the people who produce the food and you can appreciate their work. It’s a personal connection with food,” Navarrete says.

The experience, Tesdall says, helped her learn about international project management. She said it also helped her understand how to be flexible, holistic and the rewards of working with her international peers.  It also changed how she looked at her education.

“This experience took my education from the theoretical to the practical and applicable,” Tesdall says.

Experience with international management and managing the youth Non-Governmental Organization for IAAS has given her the confidence to choose careers that could include starting her own international agriculture company or working in the international agriculture sector.

Iowa State Students First to Engage International Group

Iowa State University hosted the first IAAS World Congress in the nation this summer, but it also was the first university in the nation to join the group in 2005.

IAAS is the International Association of students in Agricultural and related Sciences. Along with those two firsts, Emma Flemmig was the first from the United States to be the IAAS World President in 2007.

Shelley Taylor, Iowa State Global Agriculture Programs assistant director, says IAAS is an international group run by students for students. She added that the group has offered numerous leadership and travel opportunities since Iowa State joined.

Students have attended most of the IAAS World Congress sessions since Iowa State formed its own chapter in 2005.