Perspectives Online

'A' is for Achievement - Hard work breeds success for Emily Tennent in academics, in the arts, and as Miss American Angus

Photo by Becky Kirkland

An urban perspective - that's what cals freshman Emily Tennant thinks may have set her apart from her fellow finalists in the Miss American Angus 2007 competition, where she became the first North Carolinian to win the title (and the first winner from the South in 12 years).

My home in Greensboro is second nationwide for urban sprawl,

Ahead of Atlanta, Palm Beach, Fort Worth, but that's not all,

There are undoubtedly more apartments, condos, or housing of similar kind

Than the number of cattle, and sheep, and horses combined.

Since I live in an urban area, people tend to laugh

When I tell them I work in a barn with a calf. .

A Poem from Emily Tennant's Miss American Angus speech
The event, sponsored by the American Angus Auxiliary, was held this past November in Louisville, Ky. It is not a beauty pageant but a scholarship competition based on character, poise, academic achievement and knowledge of the beef industry (the winner is announced in conjunction with a grand champion Angus bull drive) - all displayed in three days of interviews, written examinations, essays, speeches and, finally, on-the-spot questions before an audience.

When the contestants were asked, "How do you bridge the gap between rural producer and urban consumer," Tennant had an advantage that her competitors from Iowa, Arkansas, Ohio and Kansas perhaps didn't.

She practically grew up on that urban-rural "bridge."

Tennant is from Greensboro, where with a perfect GPA she ranked first among the 480 students in her Northwest Guilford High School graduating class before coming to N.C. State University as a Park Scholar. She is the daughter of Stan and Maggie Tennant, a cardiologist and registered dietician, respectively. The Tennants own about 40 head of Angus cattle, 15 of which live on land surrounding the family's home on an urban farm they keep "as a hobby," Emily Tennant says.

She brings great enthusiasm to her new duty of spreading the word about the Angus industry. Her message: "That the Angus is the best, of course. I'm an ambassador for the Angus breed."

Her travels have already taken her from Denver, Colo., to Virginia and then to Calgary for the leadership conference of the Canadian Junior Angus Association. Appearances to come will include the 2007 N.C. State Fair.

Along with handing out ribbons to all winning animals at shows, it's her job to communicate with consumers, while making stops at schools, restaurants and events like the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Farm Animal Days.

Featured in Angus Topics magazine after her win, Tennant has been traveling extensively as ambassador for the Angus beef industry.
Photo by Becky Kirkland
"I tell them all about Certified Angus Beef (CAB) - a subsidiary company of the American Angus Association and the brand of beef certified by the AAA," she says. "I go to steakhouses that serve CAB and tell consumers about how nutritious and special the beef is.

"There's a difference in Angus beef," Tennant says. "It has been fine-tuned over the years. In order to get a good steak, you need to know what you're getting, and they're strict with CAB - you know you'll get a good cut of beef."

She also goes to cattle sales and speaks on behalf of the AAA. "The Angus Association is very active and good to its members [the producers]. They support research, education, youth activities and shows - all for promotion of the breed," Tennant says. "It's the largest beef-breed industry in the world. Last year they registered 349,000 head of cattle in the United States."

And it's the breed that she's grown up with in Greensboro.

Tennant is the fourth of five children - the only girl among four brothers, including Ben, a 2005 NCSU graduate and fellow Park Scholar. And while the boys also did farm chores and showed the cattle, "I'm the one who really liked the farm and working with cows," she says.

A member of the North Carolina Junior Angus Association since age 5, she served as president of the organization in 2006. "It's an organization that brings youths statewide together to show cattle and learn from each other," she says. Tennant also was member of 4-H as a child, participating in fashion revue and cooking activities, before she started showing cattle with the Angus Association.

At N.C. State her major isn't yet confirmed, but she's leaning toward double majoring in animal science and nutrition. A member of the Animal Science Club, a CALS student organization, Tennant says she has particularly enjoyed her introductory animal science course taught by graduate student Kara Stewart. Career goals are uncertain at present, but she has thoughts of becoming a veterinarian, an area where her home experience would serve her in good stead: She has assisted in the delivery of calves on numerous occasions and has delivered two by herself.

A track athlete in high school, Tennant still enjoys running in her spare time, but there is little of that.

Her weekends are for the most part taken up with American Angus work, and much of her campus time is spent as a Park Scholar in "campus seminars with a lot of good people in my class - basically 50 friends I can study with."

Her Park mentor is Dr. Billy Flowers, CALS professor of animal science, who served as a sounding board when she was composing her Miss American Angus speech.

In the speech, called "Working Hard for All A's" (which began with the poem quoted above), Tennant told the judges, "My unique all A's stand for academics, arts, athletics and Angus. Each of these subjects has made it obvious to me that hard work pays off year after year. . The success of the Angus breed, the kind that looks to the past and the future, is what I strive to have in my life."

The "A" for the arts in her speech refers specifically to the performing arts: Tennant is a violinist in the Raleigh Civic Symphony, which comprises student and community musicians and is led by Dr. Randolph Foy. "I'm in the second violin section now. Last semester I played in the Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra," Tennant says. "It's a good opportunity to keep playing."

Being part of an orchestra is somewhat new to Tennant, who took private lessons in Greensboro and has played in church and in some bluegrass bands.

And her musical preference?

Ever both urbane and rural, the symphony violinist answers, "Bluegrass."