CFAES student takes top position in National FFA

2019-20 National FFA Officers

COLUMBUS—Kolesen McCoy, a second-year student in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), is now leading an organization of 700,000-plus members after being selected 2019–20 National FFA Organization president on Nov. 3 in Indianapolis.

The Clark County, Ohio, native is an agribusiness and applied economics major. He graduated in 2017 from the Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield, Ohio, where he was a member of its FFA chapter and received the American FFA Degree.

McCoy is only the third Ohioan to hold the youth organization’s top leadership position. In 1933–34, Bobby Jones, from Radnor in Delaware County, Ohio, served as National FFA president. Mark Sanborn, from the Grand Valley Chapter in Orwell, Ohio, held the top position in 1978–79. 

With 34, including McCoy, Ohio can boast the most National FFA officers over the years of any state.

Bruce McPheron, executive vice president and provost of Ohio State and former CFAES dean, tweeted his congratulations to McCoy saying, “This National FFA leadership position is a great testament to our student, Kolesen, and to our CFAES programs. Congratulations!”

McCoy served as the 2018–19 State FFA president for Ohio before becoming the national president. The Ohio FFA Association has 25,439 members in 312 chapters throughout Ohio.

To capture the national president position, he underwent an arduous and competitive multiday process during which he and 43 other members were evaluated through seven rounds on five national officer competencies: character, influence, areas of knowledge, communication, and being a team player.

All rounds provide candidates the opportunity to show who they are on a personal level. Specific rounds are also designed to enable candidates to show their skills in preparing and delivering speeches, facilitating workshops, advocating to stakeholders, and creating quality written content.

Matt Reese, assistant editor of Ohio’s Country Journal and CFAES agricultural communication alumnus, had a chance to talk with McCoy the day before he was named president. They discussed the challenging interview process and, specifically, the “crying round.” Watch the video here.

This was a great year for many other CFAES students, as the Ohio FFA Association had the most finalists in its history. In addition to McCoy, two CFAES students were recognized for some of the biggest awards in the National FFA Organization.

Todd Peterson, a current CFAES student studying agribusiness and applied economics, was a finalist for the American Star Farmer award. He is from the Miami Trace FFA Chapter in Washington Court House.

Olivia Pflaumer, a current CFAES student studying agriscience education and a CFAES Ambassador, was a finalist for the American Star in Agriscience award. She is from Chillicothe.

Of the 11 Ohio FFA state officers who represented the Buckeye State during the National FFA Convention, four are current CFAES students. Bethany Starlin, Ohio FFA vice president, is an agricultural communication major from Logan; Noah Smith, Ohio FFA secretary is a plant pathology major from Amanda; Alec Ogg, Ohio FFA vice president at large, is an environmental science major from Upper Sandusky; and Wyatt Kissell, Ohio FFA vice president at large, is an agronomy major at Ohio State ATI and is from Mt. Vernon.

Additionally, 22 Agriscience Fair projects from Ohio qualified for the National FFA contest; one of Ohio’s finalists won in his division. Ohio FFA members also had an impressive showing in National FFA Proficiency Awards, with a state-record-setting 27 recognized as finalists and six winning in their award areas.

Each year at the National FFA Convention, six students are elected by delegates to represent the organization as national officers including a president, secretary, and vice presidents representing the central, southern, eastern, and western regions of the country.

McCoy’s national officer team will include five students, one each from Montana, Virginia, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, and Oregon.

National officers commit to a year of service to the National FFA Organization. Each officer travels more than 100,000 national and international miles to interact with business and industry leaders; thousands of FFA members and teachers; corporate sponsors; government and education officials; state FFA leaders; the general public; and more. The team will lead personal growth and leadership training conferences for FFA members throughout the country and help set policies that will guide the future of FFA and promote agricultural literacy.

Numerous CFAES faculty, staff, alumni, and students also provide support to the National FFA Convention. Tracy Kitchel, associate dean for faculty and staff affairs, assists National FFA with the state delegate process, while alumna Katy Endsley, agricultural communication major, serves as the advisor of the Ohio FFA Officer Team. Faculty including Dee Jepsen, associate professor specializing in agricultural safety; Emily Buck, professor of agricultural communication; and Kris Boone, director of Ohio State ATI, attended the event to provide their support.

CFAES Academic Programs had an interactive booth at the convention's career expo to showcase bachelor degree programs, as well as associate degree programs on the Wooster campus. The booth was a partnership between the CFAES Columbus and Wooster campuses. Students from both campuses helped staff the booth and talk with prospective students.

Sherrie R. Whaley