Over 900 West Virginia middle and high school students will pay a three-day visit to West Virginia University for the 82nd annual Career Development Events Sept. 28-30.

During the three days of activities, students compete for individual and team awards in areas such as agribusiness, plant pathology, floriculture, forestry and 10 other areas of agriculture. The contests consist of multiple choice tests and hands-on activities, judged by the faculty of the Davis College and WVU Extension. Some 35 WVU faculty members work to design and conduct the contest activities.

These events are an outgrowth of the knowledge that students gain from the classroom, in Future Farmers of America (FFA), and through supervised agricultural experience programs,said Stacy Gartin, professor of agricultural and environmental education.

The contests serve as an excellent tool to develop leadership and communication skills,he added.

Winners have the opportunity to compete at the national level in Lexington, Ky., at the end of October.

The contests are an exciting highlight for participating FFA members, but Gartin sees the annual event as having a much more lasting impact.

For many of these students, its their first visit to a university campus,Gartin said.They get to interact with WVU faculty and undergraduate and graduate students, and I think it helps to demystify the college experience for them. It gives them a glimpse of college life and a better sense of the opportunities of a university education.

Its also a learning opportunity for students in the WVU Davis College, many of whom have participated in the Career Development Events themselves. Some 70 undergraduate and graduate students from the Davis College help organize and conduct the contests, Gartin noted.

Its a nice transition for them from being the competitor to taking a leadership role,he said.Filling important functions in these eventsmaking them possible for the next generation of contestants, basicallyhelps our students become professionals, no matter what their academic discipline.

Career Development Events have been held at WVU since 1921. The events were only canceled twice, two years in a row, due to World War II.

This event brings more prospective students to the WVU campus than just about any other single activity,Gartin added.

It also brings a significant number of alumni back to campus. Gartin estimates that 90 percent of West Virginias agricultural and natural resources educators are graduates of the WVU Davis College.

While the contests are going on, its a great opportunity for the teachers to network, compare notes on teaching techniques, and discuss how they incorporate current events into their local curriculum,Gartin said.

The events will take place at various locations on the Evansdale Campus and at WVU s farms and forests in Monongalia County. The three-day visit concludes with an awards ceremony to be held at the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre in the WVU Creative Arts Center at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 30.

For additional information on Career Development Events, visithttp://www.cafcs.wvu.edu/resm/aee/cde/misc/schedule.htm.