MU's AgEd department shines Nationally

It’s gratifying to have someone give favorable notice to your efforts; doubly so when the plaudits come from your peers, people in the same line of work.

MU’s Agricultural Education Department was recently named a distinguished program in a nationwide survey conducted under the auspices of the American Association for Agricultural Education Research. Out of 82 colleges and universities with similar programs, MU ranked fourth, coming in behind the University of Florida, Texas A&M and Ohio State, respectively. In the study, MU received 35 top 10 votes; eight of the survey respondents ranked Mizzou as the No. 1 program in the nation.

“We’re proud of our high ranking,” said Dr. Rob Terry, professor and chairman of Ag Ed. “Our faculty made the top 15 in the study, and we were the only school with three faculty members listed on top.”

Faculty were cited as a distinguishing feature of each Ag Ed program surveyed. Other characteristics considered in the MU's Ag Ed department ranked high in a surveystudy included research, graduate programs, range and scope of programs, communications and teacher education.

“But a big share of the credit goes to our students,” Terry continued. “We have some fantastic Ag Ed students; many of them come from outstanding high school agriculture classes.”

The praise goes both ways. “I’m glad I chose Mizzou Ag Ed,” said Kelin Kruse, now a senior majoring in Ag Ed, with a teaching emphasis. Kruse grew up on a farm near Fairview, Mo., where the family raises broilers, beef cattle and row crops, graduating from East Newton High School in 2006. “The Ag Ed faculty provides us [students] with a good foundation to promote and educate others about agriculture, both in and out of the classroom.

“I plan to teach high school agriculture and serve as FFA advisor somewhere in Missouri,” Kruse continued. “My goal is to eventually teach in southwest Missouri close to where I grew up.”

While a big part of the task of the Ag Ed faculty is to prepare agricultural educators, they also focus on enhancing communication and leadership skills for future professionals in other ag-related careers.

“We offer a teaching option and a leadership option as areas of interest for Ag Ed students,” said Rob Terry. “Two dozen of our students are student-teaching this spring. In addition, we have several students who are pursuing careers other than teaching. We try to serve the needs of all students by planning and conducting educational experiences that promote learning, whatever profession the student plans to enter after graduation.”

And, some students are considering both.

“After college, I plan to pursue a career teaching secondary agriculture in a Missouri high school,” said Megan Dohrman, currently an Ag Ed junior. “And I’m considering a career in the ag industry at some point, but I would like to teach for a good portion of time before that.”

Dohrman grew up on a diversified crop and livestock family farm near Sweet Springs, Mo., and attended Sweet Springs High School. Like many other Ag Ed students, she came to Mizzou with strong leadership credentials on her resume.

“In elementary school, I was active in the Pettis County 4-H,” she said. “While in FFA in high school, I was treasurer, vice president and president of our chapter. I was FFA Area VI vice president and in 2007-2008 I was state FFA vice president from Area VI.”

Katie King, who was raised on the family’s cattle and row crop farm in northeast Missouri and is now an Ag Ed senior, started in 4-H at the tender age of 8. As a freshman at Adair County R-I high school at Novinger, Mo., she helped charter the FFA chapter there and went on to serve as reporter, vice president and president.

Rob Terry commended the Ag Ed student body for its help in building the high-ranking program.

“All Ag Ed faculty are first and foremost teachers,” he said. “But each of us takes part in student organizations and we all serve as academic advisors for both undergraduates and graduate students.

“Another distinguishing characteristic of our program is the amount of outreach and service we do,” he went on. “We spend a lot of time working with high school agriculture teachers and their students across Missouri. We also serve as liaison for FFA and for state agriculture teacher meetings. And we are well supported, both here on the campus and across the state.”

Terry added that the Missouri Ag Ed Department is going to have to learn to do more with less in these tough economic times.

“But the school is building on its success and reaching out in innovative ways,” he concluded. “The role of teachers and leaders as advocates for our food, fiber and natural resource systems has never been more important. Through practice and research, we are exploring innovative ways to get the positive message about American agriculture out to all people.”

Robert Torres earns Kemper Fellowship

Missouri’s Robert M. Torres received the 2009 William T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence. Torres, Ph.D professor and director of graduate studies in the Agricultural Education Department of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR), is the third of 3 Ag Ed professors to earn the award: Rob Terry, Ag Ed Department chairman, received the fellowship in 2008, and Bryan Garton, Ph.D professor and CAFNR associate dean in 2004.

Torres came to MU in 2002 and has been dubbed a “teachers’ teacher” by many of his colleagues. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University, and his doctorate from Ohio State.

The Kemper Fellowships were established in 1991 by a $500,000 gift from the late William T. Kemper. The trust fund is managed by Commerce Bank, and includes a $10,000 award.

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