Nearly three dozen candidates vying for one of nine places on the National FFA Organization’s officer team will gather on the campus of Tarleton State University this weekend as part of an intensive, three-day workshop aimed at preparing them for the rigors of the national officer selection process.

Now in its fourth year, the National FFA Officer Preparatory Academy hosted by Tarleton’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, the Department of Agricultural & Consumer Sciences and Tarleton’s Collegiate FFA Chapter, will include 34 candidates representing their respective home state’s FFA Association.

In addition to national candidates, several state officers from Montana, New Mexico’s state president and a few Texas FFA officers plan to attend the workshop with hopes of seeking national FFA officer positions next year.

Students and faculty from the university begin welcoming the candidates—some traveling as far away as Alaska and Delaware—Thursday evening.

“The opportunity to have our Tarleton students work with these national FFA officer candidates is amazing,” said academy founder Dr. David Frazier, assistant professor of agricultural education and consumer sciences. “To see real-world application of the leadership skills we try to implement in our classes is a great experience for Tarleton students.”

Frazier, who serves as adviser to Tarleton’s Collegiate FFA Chapter, was a candidate for a spot on the national FFA officer team in 1986 after serving as the New Mexico FFA Association’s state president. Since then, he has provided advice and direction to other national officer hopefuls, helping to hone their skills ahead of the rigorous interview and selection processes.

Approximately 100 Tarleton students and faculty are helping facilitate the national FFA officer training workshop, serving as drivers to and from DFW International Airport and critiquing candidates’ speeches and presentations.

Candidates have the opportunity to fine-tune their interview, presentation and organizational skills as well as their interpersonal communication techniques. Agri-science students from several area high schools also are participating in the workshop and serving as audience members during a session designed to improve candidates’ abilities to facilitate group discussion and activities.

“We’re putting the candidates through the exact same process they’ll experience during national officer selection,” Frazier said. “These candidates have prepared for years for the opportunity to represent their states as the national officer candidate, and we are humbled that they would travel to Texas to work with our students and faculty at Tarleton.”

Beginning a small workshop with one candidate in 1995, Frazier has become the sought-after expert for FFA candidacies. Working with candidates from coast to coast, he has successfully mentored 33 national officers to a place on the six-member officer team, including five national FFA presidents.

The three-day academy Frazier designed and hosts each year prepares candidates for the rigorous interview process, and propels Tarleton into the spotlight as the place for learning what it takes to make the FFA officer team. During the training, he bombards candidates with interview questions, FFA history, social interaction scenarios and other aspects of the national selection process—all at no cost to attendees. Their only expense is travel to Stephenville.

Frazier reduces the cost to attend by providing accommodations and meals, often prepared by Drs. Ted Ford and Rudy Tarpley, and other Tarleton faculty. This year, a generous contribution from InterBank is helping defray academy expenses for participants.

Last year, Frazier helped train 36 candidates, and five of the six candidates who attended the academy were elected to fill national FFA officer positions. His mentorship with young men and women from nearly all 50 states has prompted a number of students to transfer to Tarleton, including several past national officers.

“This is a great opportunity for the best of the best from across the nation to see Tarleton, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Agricultural and Consumer Sciences Department,” said Frazier.“The chance to work with a majority of the national officer candidates is incredible. No other university in the country will be able to say that they have done this.”