Iowa State University hosts online poultry internship program via the Midwest Poultry Consortium Center of Excellence

July 22nd, 2020

AMES, Iowa - 2020 was a year of firsts for the Midwest Poultry Consortium’s Center of Excellence Scholarship and Internship Program - the first year it was hosted by Iowa State University, and the first year the program was held in an online format, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences virtually hosted 29 students from 14 Midwest universities for the virtual summer educational program. The 25-year-old program was formerly hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Iowa State was selected to host the program because of its college and industry programmatic support, facilities for teaching, and existing poultry faculty support, said Elizabeth Bobeck, assistant professor of animal science at Iowa State and on-site coordinator of the summer program.

“The Midwest Poultry Consortium Center of Excellence courses began in 1996 as a way for 13 Midwestern states representing 14 universities to pool students and teaching resources, and continue educating university students for future employment in the poultry industry,” Bobeck said. “Many universities were discontinuing poultry science departments, and by bringing together industry and universities, a poultry education program was able to continue.”

Students complete the program over the course of two consecutive summers. Each summer, students take three, two-week-long classes to learn more about poultry science, earning up to 18 credits that can be transferred to their universities. This summer’s courses were moved online and taught by Iowa State animal science and veterinary medicine faculty, as well as others from poultry centers throughout the U.S. Following completion of their coursework at the end of June, students began industry internships with consortium members.

The consortium consists of 117 industry members. Membership is open to any poultry company that has an interest in helping educate the next generation of poultry industry employees, said Beth Nelson, Midwest Poultry Consortium president and CEO.

Before the pandemic hit, the plan was to host classes at the new Robert T. and Arlene Hamilton Poultry and Research Teaching Farm at Iowa State, as well as in Kildee Hall and the Meats Laboratory. Bobeck said they still were able to make use of the new poultry facility for the program by filming laboratory videos for nutrition and physiology courses.

“Students commented that although they missed the hands-on and networking component common in the Center of Excellence instruction, the courses were among the best-run online courses they had taken,” Bobeck said.

Dawn Koltes, adjunct assistant professor in animal science at Iowa State, co-taught the online avian physiology course with Zac Williams, poultry outreach specialist at Michigan State University. She said the course typically involves a lot of hands-on activities that help build camaraderie among the students. To make up for this, she assigned group projects and a virtual debate about current issues or topics within the poultry industry, pairing students to work together and get to know each other.

“It was a unique perspective with it being my first time teaching a course for the program and the first time the program was offered in a virtual format,” Koltes said. “I think it went fairly well.”

As a result of her efforts, the students voted Koltes to be named this year’s runner-up for the “Pullet-zer Prize Award.” The award recognizes faculty for their efforts in teaching students in the program.

Iowa State will again host the scholarship and internship program next summer, reverting to an in-person format.

“We hope to continue bridging the education gap for undergraduates throughout the Midwest interested in poultry by offering the poultry-focused courses here at a world-class agricultural institution with brand new poultry facilities, in the heart of the laying hen industry,” Bobeck said.


Elizabeth Bobeck, Department of Animal Science, 515-294-8821,
Dawn Koltes, Department of Animal Science, 515-294-5694,
Whitney Baxter, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service, 515-294-2314,