students at NAMA conference

No Stage Fright for N.A.M.A.

The relationship between agricultural business and improv is intensifying, and thanks to SUNY Cobleskill, the Institute for Rural Vitality, some creative thinking, and Charles Gushue, program coordinator for Aunt Karen’s Farm artist incubator residency, a new course called “Improvisation as a Life Skill”  has launched this fall. The idea emerged out of the Institute’s ongoing collaborations with Aunt Karen’s Farm, and Gushue’s background in performing arts.

“Improv is about presentation, confidence, leadership – all those things,” says Dr. Jason Evans, executive director for the Institute for Rural Vitality. “We are constantly looking to find creative ways to mimic structured, real-world audience presentations for our students, and to build communicative and improvisational skills. Communication is probably the most transferable skill there is.”

Given the need for agribusiness professionals to present before loan officers, government officials, and financial officers, Dr. Evans sees a logical tie-in. Gushue is providing instruction, and while the course is open to all students, it is constructed to enhance the verbal and oratory skills of members of the College’s National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team. One of fewer than 40 collegiate teams nationwide, and the only based at a college in New York, SUNY Cobleskill’s NAMA team presents and competes annually at the organization’s national conference.

“In the past [students] have been thrown to the sharks,” says Dr. Evans. “It has traditionally been sink or swim. [In 2019] we will be reaching out to all programs on campus to put our NAMA team together, so that the expertise/skill-diversity is broadened.” He says few, if any of his students, take stagecraft or performing arts courses.

The approach is creative. It also promises to be entertaining, says Dr. Evans. “At the very least, this will be a lot of fun.”

Feature photo: SUNY Cobleskill’s 2019 N.A.M.A. Team poses at the organization’s national conference and competition in Kansas City, Missouri. 

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