Auburn ag students operate AgHill Communications to gain experience, serve clients

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Auburn University's agricultural communications students have the opportunity to gain real-world experience in a way few other students can.

AgHill Communications, or AHC, a student-operated communications firm begun in 2016, allows students to learn while practicing their communications skills on actual clients.

"The hope is that students in this program can get a better understanding of some really complex issues that we face in agriculture today and that they are well prepared to discuss those issues and also communicate those issues to the broader public," said Paul Patterson, dean of the College of Agriculture.

AHC offers services such as social media management, photography/videography, coordinating special events, website management and design, writing news/press releases and graphic/print design. It is located adjacent to the College of Agriculture Office of Communications and Marketing on the basement floor of Comer Hall, which houses college administration and sits prominently on what is commonly known as "Ag Hill."

The idea for AHC came from Emily Thompson, now an Auburn University alumna who majored in agricultural communications and a senior when the firm began. "I didn't want AgHill Communications to be just another class or internship but instead provide an environment for students where their creativity isn't limited and the work they produce has a higher purpose than a test grade," said Thompson, a native of Cullman.

Students majoring in agricultural communications should leave the undergraduate program with a portfolio large enough to impress potential employers, she said.

"I want them to have experience, unlike an internship, under their belts so that when they graduate, they can go confidently into the work force and handle whatever is thrown at them," Thompson said. "Students can learn from each other and find a passion they can take into the workplace long after graduation."

Students involved in AHC have gained experience by working for clients such as the Alabama National Fair in Montgomery and the College of Agriculture and Alabama Cooperative Extension System's annual Ag Discovery Adventure.

"Working with the Alabama National Fair showed me just how detailed event planning has to be," said AHC Senior Director Morgan Graham from Brundidge.

Graham, a senior studying agricultural communications, said being in AHC has benefited her and other members of the organization in numerous ways. "I've seen a lot of people in our group branch out of their comfort zones and work in areas where they would not have worked otherwise," Graham said.

In addition, Graham said being a part of the firm has helped her make several connections throughout the state of Alabama.

Because of the knowledge she and other members have gained, Graham believes AHC allows students to "get hands-on experience that a lot of college students lack when they get out of college."

The organization has grown rapidly since its inception, and that's all due to the hard work and dedication of the students involved, said Paul Hollis, advisor for the group and instructor in agricultural communications.

"AgHill Communications was created by students, and the success it has enjoyed is due solely to their enthusiasm and the quality of their work product," said Hollis. "It provides a true work home for the students in our major and allows them to expand their skills beyond the classroom."

The firm would not have been possible without the commitment and encouragement of Dean Patterson and the College of Agriculture's administrative staff, he said. "Without their help, our students would not have the workspace or the equipment that allows them to offer their services in a professional setting."

AgHill Communications is an example of Auburn students delivering real-world benefits through the principles of hard work.

Follow the group @aghillcommunications.

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