Not just for farmers

Ulrich says FFA helped him develop leadership skills

-Submitted photo by Paul DeCoursey
Iowa Central Community College President Jesse Ulrich poses on campus in Fort Dodge.

When people think about FFA they think about students who plan to go into an agricultural field in the future. Not every member of FFA becomes a farmer though, but the skills learned in the organization are applicable across a wide variety of careers.

Jesse Ulrich, current president of Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge, can attest to that.

Ulrich got started in FFA while taking agricultural education classes in West Bend.

“Growing up in West Bend, everything that makes it operate dealt with agriculture,” Ulrich said. “I was really involved on the leadership side of things at the chapter level doing projects within the community so it really got me involved.”

It didn’t take long for Ulrich to step up into a larger role.

“Once I saw opportunities to have a bigger impact, whether it was as a district officer or down the road as a state officer, I just kind of took on those opportunities,” he said.

Ulrich served as the North Central Iowa vice president from 2000 to 2001 and then he was elected president from 2001 to 2002.

As vice president, Ulrich said he had the chance to help many other chapters be successful. “We were doing a lot of chapter visits and leadership trainings for students. We were going to a lot of different conferences on leadership and just doing everything that we could to help students build their chapters,” he said. “One of the great things about FFA is it’s actually the largest student-run organization in the world. There’s a lot of responsibilities with that.”

Ulrich said his experience as president was “a tremendous experience.”

He said, “When I was elected president, that’s more of a statewide position where I was doing a lot of chapter visits where I would speak at banquets and be in leadership trainings while representing the students of the state of Iowa in FFA.”

Ulrich said he attributes where he is today to what he learned in FFA.

“I think the leadership skills that were instilled in me through the trainings I received in FFA I still utilize today,” he said. “I’ve said this to a lot of people, I honestly don’t feel like I’d be where I’m at today without that experience in FFA.”

Ulrich said he’s still in touch with many people he met through FFA.

“There’s been lifelong friendships that I’ve had through FFA and there’s still a lot of people who remember me even from 20 years ago as a state officer. It’s heartwarming to know that you made a positive impact,” he said.

Ulrich said he hopes students don’t pass up FFA just because they aren’t planning to be a farmer.

“That broad definition of what agriculture is really covers a lot of students. For example, on the manufacturing side you think of all the robotics. Some of our classes right now at Iowa Central are dealing with drones and part of that drone is precision agriculture. It’s amazing to me to see all the crossover for students who don’t necessarily think that what they’re going to get involved in is going to deal with agriculture,” he said.

“I would really encourage students to think about joining FFA because it’s an organization that is student-led where there’s leadership opportunities and a chance to give back to their community and give back to their school. It’s an organization that truly can help them become better people.”

Ulrich served as superintendent of the Fort Dodge Community School District from July 2018 until June 2021, when he became president of Iowa Central Community College. The majority of Ulrich’s career has been in education.


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