*Article portions initially written for and published on Advanced Biofuels USA. Check them out here.
I talk a lot about the CABLE program, but what exactly is it? CABLE stands for the Consortium for Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Education. The Consortium for Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership and Education (CABLE) grant was established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prepare the next generation of leaders and integrate them into the emerging bioeconomy. The grant was split between nineteen partnering universities across the country. Each university was tasked with contributing one student delegate and one faculty delegate. I was fortunate to be selected as Auburn University’s student delegate for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Back in August of 2017, I received an email from my department about an open position for a student delegate. The job description emphasized opportunities for leadership, growth, and networking within the “bioeconomy.” At the time, I did not have the slightest idea as to what the “bioeconomy” was but welcomed the potential for an added section on my resume. Shortly after applying, I was told that I secured the delegate’s position and that my presence at an introductory webinar was required.
The very first webinar served as an introduction to the CABLE program and to help students better understand the “bioeconomy.” The first webinar was a blur. I recall feeling thoroughly inspired and completely saturated with new information by the end of the session. The “bioeconomy” still lacked a clear definition for me but I thought it to be any companies dedicated to environmental sustainability.
Over the course of the 2017-2018 term, the CABLE program took me to San Francisco for the ABLC Next conference, to Washington DC for ABLC 2018, to Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and introduced me to industry leaders and like-minded students. My CABLE project tasked me with analyzing the Renewable Fuels Standard and designing a project to advance the bioeconomy through public policy. At the start of the project, I had little knowledge of public policy. I failed to consider the impact of public policy on the success of industry and mistakenly believed policy to be of little importance in the drive for technological advancement.
My work on the project taught me about the relationships between the bioeconomy, industry, policy makers, and the general public. Furthermore, I observed the dynamic of these aforementioned relationships and better understand how to utilize policy to aid industry and initiate successful educational outreach. With each webinar, conference, project, and event, I witnessed myself grow as a young professional. As I expanded my network and developed my public policy project, my definition of the bioeconomy and professional goals matured. I came to consider the bioeconomy to be a broad industry comprised of all companies and individuals working on bio-centric solutions in any sector of the supply chain.
In the case of the bioeconomy, the industry is in its infancy and will need the next generation to invest their careers fully within it if it hopes to be sustainable in the long-term. Even as a student in a STEM field, I was completely unaware of the bioeconomy prior to my CABLE experience. I was not alone in this as my fellow delegates also entered into CABLE with the same knowledge gap. This is a major hurdle for the entire bioeconomy. Without investing in educating those who could be potentially working to further to bioeconomy, the industry will be unable to grow.
Moreover, the industry cannot hope to succeed if the general public is unaware of the importance of promoting the bioeconomy. Even as just a singular student delegate, I was able to inform nearly 300 other students and community members about the emerging bioeconomy through my campus and community outreach events.
The 2018 year concluded and CABLE moved on to assemble two more cohorts of students after my initial year. In 2020, the management team decided that rather than host a fourth cohort of new students, it would be advantageous to assemble a cohort made up of previous CABLE alumni to help conclude the program. I was invited to participate as a fourth-year delegate, which brings us to today. This year, my work with CABLE has been different than my first in that efforts have been less about personal development and more about making a greater impact for the bioeconomy. As a member of the public policy implementation team, I have synthesized resources for policymakers, hosted a virtual bioeconomy conference, and helped to conclude the project.
Without CABLE I would not be where I am today. CABLE allowed me to discover my passion for the bioeconomy. The resources made available to me helped me better direct my academic career to build a professional presence in the bioeconomy. Educational initiatives in the bioeconomy have the capacity to inspire passion in the next generation and foster greater diversity within the industry. Projects like CABLE will be what make the bioeconomy not only viable, but prosperous.
With CABLE in its final months, I have begun working with a collection of other program alumni to create plans for a CABLE legacy initiative. We will be structuring a curriculum for a fifth cohort of students for the Fall 2021 academic semester and intend to establish CABLE as a non-profit organization once the grant has expired. Check back for updates on the CABLE legacy initiative and to see how you can support our efforts to grow bioeconomy leaders.
Check out the CABLE policy roundtable event here.