Looking ahead during a busy summer

Summer on the SMSU campus brings a new level of activity that one doesn’t normally see during the academic year. This past month we were fortunate to host more 350 young men as part of Minnesota American Legion Boy’s State. There have already been hundreds of basketball and football campers with hundreds more yet to come this summer. A large contingent of K-12 science teachers from around the region have been on campus as part of a three-day workshop. All of these activities bring new groups of people to SMSU to see and experience what we have to offer. not only on campus, but throughout our community.

While traditional course offerings and classes may not be the most prominent activity on campus during the summer, evaluation, planning and preparation for next year is in full swing. One plan that I am excited to announce is the creation of an Agricultural Education degree program here at SMSU. Over the past year I spent countless hours listening to our constituents talk about the various needs of our region and the possibilities that SMSU could provide. Ag Education was one subject that was repeatedly mentioned as a means for addressing both student interest and work force needs. The demand for licensed Ag instructors in Minnesota is approximately three times the number of graduates provided by the state’s only other program at the University of Minnesota.

Graduates are in high demand, and many of the students who are interested in pursuing careers on Agricultural Education come from right here in our own back yard.

The SMSU faculty approved the curriculum for our new degree this past spring and we are excited to see final approval come from the system level within the next few weeks. Private support will also be critical to help get the program off the ground and allow us the time needed to grow enrollments to a level where the program will sustain itself. Earlier this month, the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC) approved a significant grant to help us get the program rolling.

This organization comprised of legislators, Ag educators, and industry leaders has placed great confidence in us to help meet the growing needs for quality educators across the state and we are grateful for their support. Additional fund-raising is needed, and the grant from MAELC is a great kick-start for this program.

Our next step in building this exciting new degree program is to partner with our sister institutions within Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to deliver the appropriate mix of applied coursework and create an awareness of the new program. Minnesota’s existing network of Ag teachers will also be an important group of leaders with whom we will work. We must earn their trust and solicit their support in promoting this new opportunity at SMSU and share our message across the state. Of the current Ag programs at SMSU in Ag Business and Agronomy, both have seen tremendous growth the last two years and boast 100 percent placement rates. It’s time to build on that quality and success at SMSU, and growing an Agricultural Education program is the next step in that process. I look forward to exciting days ahead.