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CHASER 10 Educating a Cultu~y Diverse Professional Work Force for the Agricultural, Food, and Natural Resource System William P. Psyche Demographics indicate that by the year 2000, nonwhites will make up 29 percent of the new entrants into the labor force and that nonwhites, women, and immigrants will make up more than five-sixths of the net additions to the work force between 19~5 and 2000 (Johnston and Packer, 1987). Irrespective of gender, by the year 2000, the minority population will be predominantly black in most states except those in the Southwest and far west, which will be primarily Hispanic. We must ensure that our work force has qualified leaders, decisionmakers, and skilled workers and scholars who can think critically, solve problems, communicate effectively, and help the United States maintain its agricultural, technological, and manufacturing superiority. This implies that the training of minorities must assume greater significance in our colleges and universities if we intend to maintain our scientific expertise. How- ever, this cannot be done In isolation. Individual institutions may embark on special initiatives, but they are usually tentative and of short duration. This subject is not new to me, since I have been speaking about educating blacks for years. Once, this was from the standpoint of fairness and social justice. Today, it is an urgent matter of national security. A national initiative focusing on minority human expertise devel- opment must be our priority for the agricultural sciences if this discipline intends to play its role in maintaining a stable profes- sional work force. The urgency for our prompt and decisive action comes at a time when the climate for training minorities is not at its best. For example, the Johnson Foundation (Wingspread: The Jour- nal, 1990) revealed that: 86
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EDUCATING A CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORK FORCE · more black males are in jail than in college; · a black mants life expectancy is 6 years shorter than a white mants; and · the leading causes of death among black men ages 18 to 35 years are homicide, suicide, and lung cancer. Young black men need help if they are to escape being one of these statistics. Since It is more costly to keep an Inmate in jail than it is to keep a student in college, why Is so little being done to avert the crisis of the black male? Suggestions regarding the ex- tinction of the black male are not a dramatization but rather a real- ity. 1 challenge you to look at minority student enrollment on cam- puses and to compare the male-to-female ratio with that of l o years ago. There is a crisis in the U.S. higher education system as It relates to the training of minorities. There are divergent opinions regarding the causes and prevention. We have had enough blame to go around. Parents blame teachers, and teachers blame par- ents; some blame the government, the school and college sys- tems, the police, and the courts. Some point to a system of social failure and moral decay. As educators, we must lead the way to a new world order: a new world order of targeting our minority youth toward excellence. Who is better equipped to light the torch and lead the way? Educa- tors, just as they did through the land-grant movement and later through the Industrial Revolution. Educators must be the corner- stone for this new world order. The agricultural, food, and natural resource system has been a pioneer in the past, so responding to new challenges is nothing new for the land-grant community in general. Some may ponder why this is a new challenge, because we have been training minorities all along. It will be a challenge if we are to maintain our competitive edge. It will be a challenge to attract qualified minorities who still regard the agricultural, food, and natural resource system as the primary vehicle for their prior enslavement. Also, with the significant increase in the number of 1 ~year-olds who are minorities, other disciplines will become more actively involved in competing for the high achievers. What will be the carrot in this highly competitive arenas Schools of medicine, engineering, law, dentistry, etc., will promise lucrative postcommencement careers. Athletics departments will promise good scholarships with the possibility of lucrative professional con- tracts. What will be the carrot for colleges of agriculture? Will It be a S 1 ,ooo-per-year scholarship, a 5-year degree program, and maybe a job selling feed and fertilizers What can colleges of agriculture do? I will try to identify some critical points and initiatives that, from my perspective, are crucial if educators intend to take up the torch. Some of them may be ongo 87
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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE ing, but the need is for a national initiative, which can be classified into four segments: early intervention (pre-high school)' precollege Intervention (high school), college, and postbaccalaureate programs. I will focus on each of these. Develop and Implement Early Intervention (Pre-High School) Programs The agricultural, food, and natural resource system must begin recruiting students long before high school. If not, there will be no high achievers left. Recruitment must be through Innovative pro- gram Initiatives In grades three through eight. Special Skills Sessions Nutrition, agronomy, animal science, natural resources, forestry, etc., can be fused Into special science, math, and reading skills sessions for third to eighth graders. One could also offer an orien- tation to agriculture through computers and laboratory instrumenta- tion. We need to educate the elementary textbook writers so that they know something about the agricultural sciences. Saturday Academy A faculty member could devote 3 or 4 hours one Saturday per month to bring at-risk minority students onto a campus and expose them to some of the activities of the Agriculture in the Classroom program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Through a faculty rotation system, no one would be occupied more than twice in a year, unless they have a specific desire to do so. This time could also be used for students to conduct independent science experi- ments, stimulate their thinking, and enhance their interest in and perception of agriculture. Motivational Sessions Faculty could conduct motivational sessions with minority stu- dents. The lives of many of our minority youth are devoid of positive experiences. Sessions in goal setting, leadership develop- ment, and social values could prepare them for outstanding future careers. Many black youth need constant reminders that there are opportunities for them. 88
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EDUCATING A CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORK FORCE High School Intervention Programs Adopt a High School Many minorities still perceive agriculture as farming. Through an infusion of agriculture, food, and natural resources into the high school curriculum, some of this stereotyping can be avoided. Fac- ulty may choose to be guest lecturers at a high school twice a semester or may substitute for a science teacher once a semester. Minority Research Apprenticeship Program in this program, minority high school juniors and seniors who are in the upper third of their classes are invited to spend the summer on campus with bench scientists. They do independent science projects and computerized literature searches and are pro- vided a laboratory science orientation to the agricultural sciences. They are also paid a stipend. Summer Scholars Program Outstanding students are invited to spend time on campus for 1 to 2 months to participate in some agricultural science activities for college credit. This is an opportunity for faculty to observe student performance; for students to establish contacts, develop mentor relationships, and decide on career options; and for universities to award scholarships. Preparator~r Summer Internships Most of us design summer programs to attract the high achiev- ers. These students are usually in the top 30 percent of their classes. What do we do with the other 70 percent? A major flaw in our precollege program initiatives is our intense competition to at- tract only the upper echelon. We must implement programs, for example, summer work experiences, to expose these students to the food and agricultural sciences. Many of our youth are late bloomers who require a little push or some incentive to excel. Minority students should never be categorized into those who can make it and those who cannot. If they are, educators should chal- lenge themselves to work with the students who they think cannot make it. Many of these students have never been told by anyone that they have potential or that they can do it. We can adopt future scientists from this group and cultivate the philosophy that high achievers may come from impoverished single-parent homes. Paths 89
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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE to success may differ; what matters is solid preparation coupled with determination and a positive self-image, all to which educators can contribute. Reevaluation of Entrance Requirements Many minority students are casualties of standardized testing, inner city myopias, and the perils of growing up male and black. The scores that students achieve on the Scholastic Aptitude and American College tests often do not reflect the academic potential of students, particularly black students. The summer scholars pro- gram mentioned above could provide the opportunity for a more effective evaluation of that lower 70 percent of the students. High-Profile Recruitment and Marketing Initiatives Most educators are engaged in some initiatives to recruit minor- ity students. We need, however, to go beyond these independent activities and embark upon a national advertising program similar to that done by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Army, and others. We should target minority audiences with a specially designed, high-profile, nationally televised advertisement. We should develop appropriate career-oriented recruitment brochures and vid- eos that could be distributed in the high schools. We should de- velop a network of black churches to gain access to parents and students. We should develop cartoon strips, newspaper advertise- ments, and other resource materials. We should try to access non- traditional media such as Black Entertainment Television on cable television and Jet, Ebony, and Essence magazines. Above all, we should not rely exclusively on recruitment contact and referral slips, but rather, we should establish and maintain constant contact with prospective students and parents through letters, postcards, tele- phone calls, and when feasible, personal contact. The philosophy of the latter is that, just as coaches pay personal visits to the parents of athletes, would it not be possible for educators to do the same for a prospective student with a 4.0 grade point average? He or she Is an academic superstar. Reevaluation of Vocational Education Programs and Creation of More Agricultural High Schools Colleges and universities need to assist in the revision of cur- ricula in vocational education programs. The administrators and teachers of these programs are our graduates, so do not say this 90
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EDUCATING A CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORK FORCE task cannot be done. Programs In the agricultural, food, and natu- ral resource sciences at the secondary school level should be science based and not purely vocational. College Programs When one examines the record, one Is puzzled by our achleve- ment, or lack thereof, in retaining minorities until they graduate. Over the past 30 years, the 1862 land-grant universities have at- tracted 65 percent of the minorities enrolled in the agricultural, food, and natural resource sciences but have graduated 35 percent of the minorities receiving undergraduate degrees in these areas. I am not sure how this compares with other disciplines, but It is certainly a reflection on the admissions process, the curricula, or the advising process. Relevant Curricula First and foremost in our college program initiatives to educate a culturally diverse professional work force for the agricultural, food, and natural resource system is a broadened, more inclusive rel- evant curricula. According to the December S. Isso' Chronicle of Higher Education, Since 1978 undergraduate enrollment in the agricultural sciences has decreased approximately forty-five percent. Courses in natural resources, general agriculture and plant and soil science have lost more than half their students. Although the number of undergradu- ates enrolling in agriculture in the last two years has rebounded, educators should not be lulled into a false sense of security. Our students have shifted to programs such as biochemistry, agricul- tural economics, agribusiness management, nutrition and other ba- sic sciences (Gwynn and Thompson, l990:B2). These trends demand a revitalization of the curricula and fundamen- tal changes in the preparation and career orientation of students. Effective Mentoring Program We have many first-generation minority college students and will continue to have them for some time. Many lack appropriate role models, and their history and knowledge of agriculture are remind- ers that they were brought here in chains as forced immigrants and were required to work in the fields. Many are without supportive families, and many who have graduated indicate that their greatest fortune was finding a mentor with whom they built a positive rela- tionship. The fragility of the family and the community and the 91
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AGRICULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE prevalence of crime, drugs, and alcohol dramatize the need for positive role models in colleges. Role models and mentors can be the difference between success and failure. AS we attempt to develop mentoring programs, we must realize that not all of us can be mentors. Some of us have low tolerance levels, while others have little respect for minorities. Mentoring cannot be thrust upon everyone. It must be in the heart. If there exists an intolerance for minorities, be open and do not accept the responsibility of mentoring. Deans and other administrators must, however, be aware that this intolerance can be pervasive throughout onets entire job responsi- bilities. Classroom performance should, therefore, be monitored. Do not treat lightly complaints from minority students regarding racism in the classroom. Complacency or the failure to respond could be the decisive element in charting the future of a minority student. As teachers and mentors, we possess the power to make lives joyous or miserable. We can be the tool of torture, or we can be the instrument of inspiration; therefore, do not humiliate, humor, or hurt those with whose future lives you have been entrusted. Financial Assistance The escalating cost of higher education prohibits many minority students from considering higher education. A recent pronounce- ment by the U.S. Department of Education regarding minority schol- arship programs will make it more difficult for many minority stu- dents to afford college. Just as athletic programs can develop attractive financial packages to attract students, so can the agricultural, food, and natural resource system. We must pursue alumni, the agribusiness sector, corporations, faculty, and federal agencies. Just as colleges and universities have been innovative in coercing the Kellogg Foun- dation, Du Pont Co., Monsanto Co., Pepsi Cola, Coca Cola, the Car- negie Foundation, R. J. Reynolds, and others to give multi-million- dollar facilities and equipment, so can they be innovative in soliciting scholarship funds to maintain and enhance our human potential in the agricultural, food, and natural resource system. Innovative co- operative education and paid internship programs can also contrib- ute to the financial package of the student and play a significant role in attracting and retaining minority students. Cooperative edu- cation and internships can also play a significant role in the students career decision-making process. Liaison Relationships We should establish liaison relationships between the 1862 land- grant institutions and institutions with significant undergraduate ml- nority enrollments. I refer particularly to the 1890 land-grant institu 92
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EDUCATING A CULTURALLY DIVERSE WORK FORCE lions. This can be accomplished through innovative summer in- ternship programs andmr joint research activities In which minority students could participate. This is discussed in the next section. Posibaccalaureate Programs Although we have recovered some of the undergraduate enroll- ment that was lost in the early 1980s, the minority student enroll- ment in graduate programs is still on the decline. The lack of mentors at schools that offer most of the graduate programs may be a contributing factor. Few new minority doctorates are being produced, so existing faculty move around. The 1890 1862 land-grant institution liaison relationship should be strengthened, as mentioned above, and we should help to de- velop and encourage more masters-level programs at 1890 land- grant institutions. It is our belief that many minority students will attend only pre- dominantly minority institutions. If minority institutions did not ex- ist, many minority students would not attend college. This Is true even for majority students. This is a basic fact of life. The integra- tion of minorities in predominantly white institutions or the elimina- tion of predominantly black institutions will not change this. It has been said that the Issue of access Is not only who goes to college, in terms of numbers, but who goes to which college. The thought of attending a larger, predominantly white institution creates an almost insurmountable hurdle for blacks. Most of the historically black colleges and universities are one-third the size of the average maJority-race institution; therefore, the climate of a small commu- nity, family spirit, and individual attention exists at minority institu- tions, and minority students feel at home. The creation of more masters-level programs at these institutions would further ease the transition to the larger institutions and would create more graduate students. Conclusion In this chapter I have discussed only the education of blacks and other minorities, when the topic was to be educating a culturally diverse professional work force. My assumption is that we are doing a good job of educating the majority population. We have also seen tremendous strides by women and Asians, but blacks continue to lag behind in terms of the percentage of college gradu- ates In the sciences, including agriculture, food, and natural re- sources. I can sum up this chapter by paraphrasing the leadership actions developed by the National Task Force for Minority Achieve- ment in Higher Education established by the Education Commis 93
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AGIUCULTURE AND THE UNDERGRADUATE sion of the States for achieving campus diversity. Colleges and universities must reduce barriers. This is accomplished by recruit- ment, financial aid, and admission policies. In addition, although I did not emphasize it here, the time of day that courses are offered is also important to reducing barriers. Colleges and universities must provide students with help. This is accomplished through outreach, mentoring, advising, and the climate on campus. Colleges and universities must improve learn- ing. This can be accomplished by student assessment, learning assistance, the curriculum, and teaching practices. The bottom line is simply that we must be innovative in our approach, because we cannot do the things we have been doing- they have not worked. References Gwynn, D., and E. 0. Thompson. 1990. Agriculture schools must broaden their curricula to attract new groups of students. Chronicle of Higher Education, December 5, Isso, pp. B2-B3. Johnston, W. B. and A. H. Packer. 19~7. Workforce 2000: Work and Workers for the gist Century. Indianapolis, Ind.: Hudson Institute. Wingspread: The Journal. 1990. Young black males need help. Wing- spread: The Journal 12(2):1. 94
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