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Poultry Science program earns grant to promote career opportunities

Poultry Grant 2014
Linda Purvis with the $6,550 grant check that will help UNG's poultry science program to continue and grow its student recruiting tools and opportunities.

For the third year in a row, the poultry science program at the University of North Georgia (UNG) has received a student recruiting grant from the U.S. Poultry Foundation. The $6,550 grant is more than double the previous year's award of $3,100.

"We gained several recruitment tools this past year with our grant funds, and I was able to visit six high schools this spring to speak to students about UNG and our poultry science program," said Linda Purvis, biology and poultry science instructor at UNG. "I have visited two more this fall, interacting with approximately 200 students, and have several more visits planned for this month."

The grants also support student opportunities like career fairs and sponsorship to Avian Adventures, a summer course for high school students interested in poultry science that is held by the University of Georgia's (UGA) College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.

"Our spring Agricultural Career Fair was a huge success — we had more than 10 companies and more than 150 students in attendance," Purvis said. "I also spent time there speaking about UNG, our program and career options."

Jake Perry, who completed UNG's poultry science course in 2012 and now works as a manager in shelled egg processing at Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., said he began the course with poultry science in mind for a career, but didn't yet know what he specifically wanted to do.

"The program and especially Linda Purvis really helped me narrow down my choices," Perry said. "I decided that being in a lab wasn't the right fit for me, so I pursued a more hands-on option in processing."

Purvis said another agricultural career day will be held in spring 2015 in conjunction with the introductory poultry science course, a three-hour lab science elective open to all majors. The program will also offer an internship course in the summer, giving students a hands-on chance to explore careers in the industry while gaining college credits.

UNG graduate Michelle Stewart said an internship through the poultry science program motivated her to specialize as a poultry veterinarian. Currently enrolled in UGA's College of Veterinary Medicine, Stewart plans to graduate in 2018.

"Linda Purvis spoke to my calculus class about internships for school credit, and at that time I'd had no intern experience," Stewart said. "I ended up interning in the poultry diagnostic laboratory network in Oakwood. During the internship I learned more about the industry and about how many opportunities there were in this field, so I decided to pursue a related position."

Purvis attended a poultry leadership conference in July to speak with companies, universities and colleges about UNG's program, and said she has gained great support from the poultry industry, including donations to fund scholarships. The first two scholarships from this fund will be awarded in spring 2015 to students in UNG's poultry program.

"We also will have students participating in the College Career Program at the International Processing Expo in Atlanta in January, where they can interview with companies from all over the world in various agriculture positions," Purvis said. "Some will gain internships and others full-time jobs, depending on their current college status."

Michael Garrett, who is pursuing an associate degree in poultry science from UNG, said he had no idea how much he would enjoy the subject until beginning it.

"The intro to poultry class made me realize how fun this field of work is, and highlighted all the job options I will have coming out of school with a degree in poultry science," Garrett said. "If it weren't for the poultry class at UNG, I might have chosen something else as my major and missed out on all the great opportunities that poultry science will bring me."

The U.S. Poultry Foundation supports recruitment and training of poultry science students, funds scientific research, fosters student scientists, and promotes careers in the poultry and egg industry.  The foundation provides annual recruiting funds to colleges and universities to attract students.

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