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2 The Context for Change Urgent change is required in agricultural education. To be sure, change is already occurring—and has been for a number of years—but there is a need for action in particular directions. The change needed today is a refocusing on the undergraduate curriculum and student experience so that the agriculture graduates of tomorrow will have the skills and competences to meet the needs of a changing workplace and world. CHANGE IN STUDENTS Students of the 21st century differ from those of the last century in many ways, including a demographic change: fewer come from farm or rural backgrounds. Today, well under 5% of the U.S. population live on farms, and barely 20% come from rural communities (Dimitri et al. 2005). The increasingly urban and suburban population poses a particular challenge for agriculture in that students often lack even basic awareness of agricultural sciences. For example, a 2006 survey of academic program administrators found “misconception or image about the agricultural sciences” was the most important concern affecting the selection of agricultural sciences as a career by U.S. high-school students (Gonzalez 2006).1 Public understanding of agriculture is poor, and many people are barely aware of where their food comes from. Their lack of awareness of agri- cultural products is coupled with an outdated view of agriculture. One challenge for attracting undergraduate majors to agriculture is therefore to 1The other factors, in decreasing order, revealed by the same survey were lack of knowledge about employment opportunities, lack of knowledge about fields of study, perceived relevance to or importance for future careers, lack of fundamental knowledge of mathematics and sci- ences, and peer and family pressure against agricultural-science studies. 

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 Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World overcome the public perception that agriculture means farming, even though agriculture incorporates a wide array of questions and approaches. Even as the number of college students in all fields of study has increased over the last several decades, the number of students earning degrees in agriculture has been relatively stable since 2000 (Figure 2-1). According to a background paper prepared by Gilmore et al. (2006) for participants in the Leadership Summit (see Figure C-1 in Appendix C), much of the growth in the number of baccalaureate degrees in agriculture and natural resources can be attributed to a small number of disciplines. For example, baccalaure- ate degrees in natural-resources conservation and research increased by a factor of about 5 between the 1987–1988 and 2003–2004 academic years. Degrees in agricultural business and management increased by about 15%, and in animal sciences by more than 25% in the same period. Much of the growth in baccalaureate degrees can be attributed to the increase in the number of women pursuing undergraduate study in agri- culture and natural resources. Men earned almost twice as many agricul- ture bachelor’s degrees as women in 1987–1988, but near parity between 120% Annual Change in Bachelor’s Degree Recipients Agriculture & Natural Resources All Fields of Study 115% 110% 105% 100% 95% 90% 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 Academic Year FIGURE 2-1 Annual change in bachelor’s degree recipients for agriculture and natural resources and all fields of study, 1987–2004. SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics (Snyder et al. 2009).

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The Context for Change  the sexes is observed in data from 2003–2004. Moreover, the number of agriculture bachelor’s degrees earned by men has been decreasing since 1995–1996. Despite progress toward gender equity, there has been relatively little progress in broadening the participation of underrepresented minorities in agriculture. The percentage of Black/African-American, American Indian and Alaska native, Asian and Pacific islander, and Hispanic baccalaureate-degree recipients has increased only modestly over nearly a decade (Gilmore et al. 2006). The number of Hispanic graduates now exceeds the number of Black, non-Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific islander graduates. Racial and ethnic diversity is particularly important for the future of agriculture as the percent- age of members of underrepresented groups increases in the United States. For example, underrepresented minorities made up nearly 40% of K–12 students in 2002; this suggests that the undergraduate population of the next generation will be much more diverse than that of the past. Student interests and motivations are also changing. Students want careers that are going to provide a steady income, but they also want to pursue careers that will be personally and professionally rewarding, provide an appropriate work–life balance, have the image of a 21st-century profes- sional, and are aligned with their values and interests. Agriculture faces a particular challenge in this regard because careers in agriculture may appear to be outdated, may not pay top salaries, or may not be perceived as offering sufficient opportunities for creativity. In addition, some fields in agriculture may be seen as in conflict with students’ values in, for example, environ- mental stewardship and responsible land management. Many of these claims have to do with appearance, not substance, but it will be incumbent on the agriculture community to find mechanisms for attracting the most talented students to degrees and careers in agriculture. There is no single kind of student, no single type of institution, and no simple set of solutions (Taylor 2008). In considering the recommendations and ideas in this report, stakeholders will need to consider the needs of dif- ferent populations of students and of individuals. What are the implications of each change for agriculture majors? Nonmajors? What is the effect of lifelong learning? Of agricultural literacy in the entire population? CHANGE IN INSTITUTIONS The land-grant university system was established by the Morrill Act of 1862 and signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The act donated public land to the states and territories to establish “colleges for the benefit

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 Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World of agriculture and the mechanic arts.” The act specifically called for the establishment of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without exclud- ing other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanical arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical educa- tion of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life [7 U.S.C. 304]. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 expanded the pool of land-grant insti- tutions to include institutions that enrolled Black students (7 U.S.C. 323). And 29 tribal colleges and universities were given land-grant status under the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994. Since the establishment of the land-grant university system nearly 150 years ago, the role of higher education in general—and the land-grant system in particular—has changed dramatically. What were once institu- tions focused primarily on agriculture and the mechanical arts have evolved to become world-class universities in which agriculture may be only a small part of the mission. The officially designated land-grant universities are supplemented by a large number of other public and private institutions that offer instruction in food and agriculture. Sometimes referred to as non-land-grant colleges of agriculture, these institutions produce a sizeable percentage of the under- graduate degrees in agriculture. The committee intends to include these colleges and universities in all of its conclusions and recommendations. A survey of colleges with agriculture in their names yields an interest- ing picture of institutional change. Among the states, Rhode Island and Massachusetts no longer have a college with agriculture anywhere in its name.2 In the remaining 48 states, 67 colleges have agriculture in their names, but only about one-third are titled just College of Agriculture. The other two-thirds have additional names in their titles, clearly identifying an expanded mission. The most common combinations include agriculture with natural resources, life sciences, enironment, or food science. Although focusing on titles may seem trivial, it does show that these colleges have 2Agriculture-associated disciplines are found mostly in the College of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. Massachusetts has two land-grant institutions: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts Amherst; agriculture itself is found in the latter, in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.

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The Context for Change  embraced a broader mission than traditional production agriculture, and in fact many are providing research and teaching in a variety of basic and applied disciplines. Given the variety of names and missions, it is worth considering which qualities are shared by all colleges of agriculture. Although the first Morrill Act of 1862 was created to support education in agriculture and mechani- cal arts, it was recognized from the start that the colleges had to do more and not exclude other scientific and classical studies. In 1887, Justin Smith Morrill, the man behind the act, said the following at the Massachusetts Agricultural College (Morrill 1887, p. 20): It would be a mistake to suppose it was intended that every student should become either a farmer or a mechanic when the design comprehended not only instruction for those who may hold the plow or follow a trade, but such instruction as any person might need—with “the world all before them where to choose”—and without the exclusion of those who might prefer to adhere to the classics. The inclusive role of land-grant institutions in providing education in a range of disciplines has meant that many such institutions are among the nation’s premiere institutions in many areas. In fact, in many land-grant universities, colleges of agriculture often receive far less attention, more limited resources, and fewer students than colleges of law, medicine, busi- ness, engineering, and the liberal arts and sciences. The federal investment in higher education in agriculture has also gone through a transformation as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded its support of higher education. USDA now invests more than $100 million a year through 20 national initiatives that support agricultural and natural-resources colleges both in and outside the land-grant system. It should be noted that although USDA investments have helped many col- leges to update their curricula, facilities, and teaching methods, the amount of resources dedicated to instruction pales in comparison to federal funds allocated to research and extension. In a time of constrained state budgets, which play a critical role in supporting many institutions that offer instruc- tion in agriculture, relatively small amounts of funds from federal agencies and private sponsors would be especially valuable. Moreover, federal requirements for institutional cost sharing in a number of programs, includ- ing graduate student fellowships, further constrain the ability of institutions to dedicate resources to undergraduate education. The committee hopes that support available from USDA will be supplemented by resources from other government agencies, institutions themselves, and other stakeholders

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0 Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World to continue—and accelerate—the process of reform. Extramural support can serve as an important motivator. Even limited investment or subtle changes to program descriptions and review criteria to promote change in curricula and teaching methods can have a powerful impact nationwide. In addition to the changes in students described above, many faculty in colleges of agriculture have different backgrounds and experiences from faculty of the past. Like their students, faculty are less likely to come from agrarian backgrounds or to have life experiences on the farm. Teaching and research have shifted from production practices to basic natural and social sciences and can sometimes be hard to distinguish from research and teach- ing in colleges of medicine or arts and sciences. CHANGE IN HIGHER EDUCATION The land-grant university system operates in the context of American higher education, which is increasingly concerned with accountability and efficiency. For example, former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings convened a Commission on the Future of Higher Education in 2005, whose final report highlighted the need for “improved accountability” and increased transparency about student success; it also recommended the development of “new pedagogies, curricula and technologies to improve learning, particularly in the areas of science and mathematics” (U.S. Depart- ment of Education 2006). The Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA) has been developed by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Asso- ciation of Public and Land-grant Universities to demonstrate accountability and stewardship to the public, to identify effective educational practices by measuring educational outcomes, and to compile information to facilitate comparisons among institutions.3 The VSA will provide consistent por- traits of higher-education institutions—including information about student engagement and core educational outcomes—that will be helpful to stu- dents, institutions, policy-makers, and other interested stakeholders. Higher education was once available to only a small number of people, but it is becoming more common and even necessary for all students to pursue postsecondary education. In many cases, higher education is being pursued at expanded state universities, where undergraduate enrollment can measure in the tens of thousands. But postsecondary education is also occurring in greater numbers at a wider array of institutions, including com- 3See for more information about the VSA.

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The Context for Change  munity colleges, for-profit degree-granting institutions, and online universi- ties. All those changes have the potential to fundamentally alter the role of and opportunities afforded by land-grant universities. CHANGE IN AGRICULTURE As discussed in Chapter 1, agriculture of today is not the same as it was a decade or a generation ago—and it is critical that agricultural graduates are prepared to meet the changing times. The disciplines that make up agri- culture have changed to incorporate new ideas from the natural and social sciences and are sometimes hard to distinguish from similar departments elsewhere in the university. Students will need to appreciate the systems nature of agriculture, gaining exposure to the breadth of agriculture and having opportunities to integrate what they learn in different courses. The systems approach incorporates not only the disciplines that traditionally comprise agriculture colleges, but other fields of study throughout the university. Agriculture now asks questions that cannot be confined to a single discipline: What is the effect of a given practice on the environment? What resources will be needed for a plan to be completed? What is the nutritional effect of a particular genetic modification? Agriculture, like other sectors, operates increasingly across international boundaries, with even fresh fruits and vegetables shipped around the world; this introduces a complex regulatory regime, transportation logistics, and the need to work with different cultures, laws, and individuals. This inter- twining of agriculture, culture, regulations, and concerns makes critical the need for professionals who have international exposure and sensitivities. As increased demand for resources is met with international supply bases and more domestically produced products are sold overseas, food and fiber professionals will need to understand the global implications of their research, their product designs, their market plans, or their individual growth potential. Having international experiences early in their training should broaden the scope of students’ curiosity and prepare them for future work in an international marketplace. At the same time as it is becoming international, agriculture is also becoming local. With a greater focus on locally sourced goods and the inter- connection of agriculture with the development of rural communities and environmental stewardships, agriculture graduates will need to appreciate the ways that agriculture interacts with local environments.

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 Transforming Agricultural Education for a Changing World CHANGE IN CAREERS A USDA analysis of employment opportunities (Goecker et al. 2005) summarized by Gilmore et al. (2006) predicts a decrease in the number of positions available to undergraduate and graduate students with training in agriculture and natural resources. Strong employment growth in many management and business occupations is predicted, especially in such careers as technical sales, accounting and financial management, market analysis, landscape management, and international business. In contrast, weaker opportunities for those who provide services to farmers and ranchers are expected. In scientific and engineering occupations, the analysis predicts growth in fields that take advantage of modern scientific advances, such as genomics, bioinformatics, breeding, biomaterials engineering, nanotechnology, and environmental sciences (Goecker et al. 2005). Fewer opportunities are expected in agricultural machinery, wildlife science, and veterinary sci- ences.4 In agriculture and forestry, growth may be expected in specialty crops and materials that have use in medical or energy applications, land- scape planting and trees, turf production, and aquaculture and organic farms. However, opportunities for producers of traditional commodities (such as wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans, cattle, and hogs) will continue to decrease. Finally, the USDA analysis predicts increasing opportunities in plant and animal inspection, public-health administration, nutrition, and environmental planning. Employers of today are emphasizing skill development, not only content knowledge. For example, a study conducted by the National Food and Agri- business Management Education Commission asked agribusiness employers to identify the most important skills, capabilities, and experiences needed by new college graduates. Topping the list were transferrable competences, including interpersonal communication skills, critical-thinking skills, writ- ing skills, and computing skills (Boland and Akridge 2006; see Table C-3 in Appendix C). Academic institutions will need to alter the focus of their academic programs and the experiences that they offer to students to keep up with the changing careers and opportunities available to their graduates. 4A National Research Council report of an assessment of the current and future workforce in veterinary medicine is expected to be completed in 2009.

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The Context for Change  IMPLEMENTING CHANGE The committee encourages institutions to engage in serious consider- ation of and contemplation about the issues discussed and recommendations offered in this report. It will not be possible for every academic institution to implement every idea recommended here, and it will be necessary for universities and other stakeholders to set priorities for their actions. For that reason, some of the reaction to this report may be a choice not to do particular things or possibly even to eliminate or consolidate existing programs. Targeted excellence may be preferable to universal mediocrity. However, stakeholders should consider how to be sure that every student has the opportunity to take advantage of a suite of experiences, whether or not they can be offered by a given institution.

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