As the director of career services in the CAFNR Office of Academic Programs, Matt Arri dedicates his time to building networks and relationships between CAFNR students and industry professionals. Arri’s goal is to make sure those students are career ready – and he has introduced a variety of new initiatives to help them along the way.
One of those initiatives began just a few months after Arri joined CAFNR in August 2016 – the Agribusiness Career Connections Program. The program is designed to connect CAFNR undergraduates to various agribusinesses located throughout the Midwest. It is sponsored, in part, by the John Brown Scholars Fund.
“Our goal with this program is to take our students to organizations and businesses and showcase their talents and abilities,” Arri said. “We have some great programs that do an excellent job of connecting students and professionals, but they are more focused on specific areas and majors. We wanted to do something where any CAFNR student could make professional connections in numerous ag-related fields.”
Thus far, CAFNR students have visited businesses in Colorado, Illinois, Indianapolis, Missouri and Arkansas. The groups hear from businesses and organizations, with a focus on possible internships or future job opportunities. Along with interactions with industry professionals, Arri tries to connect the students with CAFNR alumni during the outings.
“We have some of the best alumni at Mizzou, and CAFNR our alumni association is one of the best on the MU campus,” Arri said. “Our graduates want to help out our students. They understand that they were in that position once, and they do such a great job of connecting with our undergraduates.”
It was an alum who helped set up the most recent Agribusiness Career Connections Program trip. Craig Bacon, senior vice president of technical services for Simmons Prepared Foods, was part of CAFNR’s Robert O. Reich Executive-in-Residence Program in October 2018. Bacon returned to campus in early 2019, and wanted to be part of the 2019 trip.
Along with touring Simmons Prepared Foods, students on the 2019 trip visited Tyson Foods and Schreiber Foods.
“This past program was really incredible,” Arri said. “We saw a variety of opportunities at each location. The overview at Simmons was particularly memorable. We spent six hours there, and a good portion of their senior management took us out for dinner later that night. Students don’t get to interact with that level of management often.”
Arri said nearly every part of the trip is paid for, including travel and lodging. He suggests students bring a little money for a couple of fast food meals.
The program generally lasts four days, depending on the travel involved. The trip takes place during Thanksgiving break.
“While the program is definitely professional, with a major focus on internship and job opportunities, we do have a day where we relax and get to know each other,” Arri said. “We have students on these trips from different majors and backgrounds, so it’s nice to network and develop relationships with fellow CAFNR students.”
All CAFNR undergraduates are welcome to sign up for the program. Repeat attendees are welcome as well. Arri encourages faculty to take advantage of the trips, too.
“We’ve had a handful of students attend more than once, and we definitely encourage that,” Arri said. “We try to visit different businesses and organizations, so you should see something different depending on when you go.
“These trips offer great opportunities for our faculty as well. There are chances for research collaborations and the opportunity to see what the job market looks like for current students. We always want more faculty involvement.”
There have been close to 100 students who have been involved in the program already. The 2020 trip is currently being planned. The Agribusiness Career Connections Program is one of several specialized programs available to CAFNR students.