The Texas A&M University academic quadrathlon team secured first place at the 2023 Regional American Society of Animal Science, ASAS, Academic Quadrathlon Contest held in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently.
The Academic Quadrathlon Contest is a competition where students demonstrate their knowledge in all areas of animal science.
This win marks the third consecutive year the academic quadrathlon team from the Department of Animal Science in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has won first place in the regional competition. Sushil Paudyal, Ph.D., assistant professor and academic quadrathlon team coordinator, Bryan-College Station, said this feat can be attributed to the depth of study the students receive from the department’s robust curriculum.
“The hands-on labs and experience that our students receive from our animal science curriculum gives us a competitive edge over other schools that do not offer the same kind of opportunities,” Paudyal said. “The support from faculty members and graduate students at Texas A&M allows the team to take full advantage of the depths of proficiency found in our department.”
Andy Herring, Ph.D., interim department head, Bryan-College Station, said the department is proud of these students for continuing the success of previous teams in the academic quadrathlon contest.
“The team is carrying on a tradition of academic excellence, and the department commends their success,” said Herring. “The students have represented the department, college and university with the utmost professionalism and dedication.”
Building lifelong, practical skills
The academic quadrathlon contest provides students with unique learning experiences to improve their leadership, public speaking, critical thinking, time management and team building skills, Paudyal said. Contests are held at the local, regional and national levels to test students’ skills on animal agriculture production and products.
The four-member team competed in four events in Raleigh that included a laboratory practicum, written exam, oral presentation and quiz bowl. The team used problem-solving and leadership skills to work together to complete each event in a specified time.
According to the ASAS website, the laboratory practicum requires the team to demonstrate physical skills working at stations involving animal species or a disciplinary area such as nutrition, meats or reproduction. For the written exam portion, team members have 60 minutes to answer questions in areas related to animal production and products. The oral presentation requires students to make a 15-minute presentation, choosing from a list of animal agriculture topics. Finally, the quiz bowl is organized as a double-elimination tournament beginning with “toss up” questions that must be answered individually, followed by collaborative “bonus” questions allowing teams a chance to earn extra points.
Other competitive events generally demonstrate students’ skills on an individual level, said team member Emily Ecord ’25, Pennington. What makes the academic quadrathlon contest unique is that it gives students a chance to reinforce the benefits of teamwork and cooperation, something Ecord and teammate Avery Flanagan ’25 of Ballinger believe will be beneficial in their careers.
“This is more reflective of a workplace environment as we were able to bring individual strengths to the competition instead of individually mastering each subject,” Ecord said.
“Each of us had to be confident enough to know our strengths and when to step up on a task or to step back,” said team member Grace Parks ’25, Essex, Vermont. “I think an underrated skill is knowing when to allow others to be the leader if you are not the right person for the job, and that is definitely a skill we all had to use.”
Aside from the practical and scientific experience, the contest also provided an opportunity for students to network with faculty members and students from across the southern U.S., said Paudyal, who began his tenure as the team’s coordinator in 2019 when he joined the department.
Team members reflect on experience
Team members were selected by the local contest, supported by the department’s Animal Science Graduate Student Association in the fall semester. The competition replicated the regional and national contests. Undergraduate students formed teams and were evaluated by faculty members and graduate students. The top performing team was chosen to represent Texas A&M at the regional competition. Students can only compete once at the regional and national level during their undergraduate studies.
“Overall, I believe everything happens for a reason, and Avery, Emily, Grace and I were supposed to be on the academic quadrathlon team representing Texas A&M University,” said Abigail Borden ’25, Kerrville. “We are honored to represent the Southern Section at nationals.”
Borden explained that while she grew up competing in career and leadership development events through 4-H and FFA, the quadrathlon competition was nothing like any other event. Even more noteworthy is how the team won the competition as sophomores, competing against junior and senior classification levels.
“Our practical knowledge really shined through,” Borden said. “Each of us has very different backgrounds and experiences in agriculture and this was our greatest strength.”
Paudyal said he has enjoyed being part of the local competition and providing a unique opportunity to undergraduate students with varying levels of experience. In addition, the chance to tour other animal science facilities and liaise with peers from other universities has been a rewarding experience.
The team’s journey will culminate at the national contest in Albuquerque, New Mexico, July 16-20, where they hope to repeat the success of the 2021 and 2022 Texas A&M teams that were named national and reserve champions, respectively.
The 2023 team will compete as the Southern Section representatives against three other animal science academic quadrathlon winning teams representing the Midwest, Northeast and Western Sections of ASAS.