Linda Benedict | 10/21/2015 10:29:37 AM
College mounts major recruitment effort
With a renewed focus on student recruitment, the LSU College of Agriculture is on a mission to show young people that an education and career in agriculture is not just about plows, sows and cows.
Because agriculture’s success depends on research, the field is always evolving to meet the world’s changing, growing needs. There is no shortage of opportunities, but many students are simply unaware of them, according to Mary Claire Gilder, College of Agriculture coordinator of recruitment and public relations.
The college is expanding its recruiting efforts beyond on-campus events and hitting the road to promote to high schoolers, especially those in 4-H and FFA. Taking time to talk one-on-one to students is worth a lot, Gilder said. By learning about their interests, recruiters can plug them into relevant opportunities in agriculture.
Reflecting the diversity of today’s agriculture industry, the College of Agriculture offers eight majors: agricultural business; agricultural education; animal, dairy and poultry science; environmental management systems; natural resource ecology and management; nutrition and food sciences; plant and soil systems; and textiles, apparel and merchandising. Students can even live on campus in the Agriculture Residential College – a community of people with similar interests.
Gilder said agriculture is too often stereotyped as antiquated and insignificant. Recruiting can help remove that stigma, she believes, because it is a process that seeks to educate as many people as possible. Parents need to know that agriculture – and their college-bound children’s possible contributions to it – matters, Gilder said. "As long as there are people on this planet, we’re going to have agriculture, especially with the increase in population and how we’re going to feed them and solve those problems,"
By making sure the College of Agriculture has a presence across Louisiana, the potential of the state’s best students can be harnessed for the good of agriculture. That is important, Gilder said, because every aspect of life depends on agriculture, from what people eat for breakfast to the clothes they wear. Expanded recruiting also demonstrates the College of Agriculture cares about its students and believes they can be successful at LSU and beyond. Olivia McClure
Burnett named new college administrator
Mike Burnett has been named executive associate dean of the LSU College of Agriculture. In this new role, Burnett hopes to help the college’s 10 departments and schools meet needs that will allow improved funding and recruitment, particularly in graduate programs.
"This is a new position we have created to strengthen the administration of the college," said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture, who also serves as dean. "One of our primary goals is to expand our enrollment – especially in our graduate programs. Dr. Burnett brings the experience and leadership skills we need to grow our college."
Burnett arrived at LSU in 1980 as a newly-minted Ph.D. in agricultural education from Ohio State University. His master’s and bachelor’s degrees, also in agricultural education, are both from Clemson University.
After 15 years as a professor at LSU, he became director of the School of Vocational Education – now called the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development (SHREWD) – and held that position until becoming executive associate dean.
He has served as committee chair for more than 160 master’s and doctoral students and graduated more than 80 doctoral students.
As its director, Burnett led SHREWD in broadening its mission to prepare students for a variety of careers. For example, the ag education program that originally trained students to be teachers was updated to reflect that degree’s value in other disciplines. Burnett also helped expand the school’s undergraduate curriculum to include more practical experience, such as internships in LSU AgCenter extension offices.
Students should always come first, Burnett believes, and he wants to help the College of Agriculture honor that commitment by adequate funding. Burnett said the college’s graduates are successful and in demand because they are both technically competent and have leadership skills. However, faculty must have sufficient resources to provide that kind of well-rounded education and stay on the cutting edge, he said.
Burnett will also concentrate on improving recruitment to graduate programs, which is a familiar task – the number of SHREWD graduate students doubled in the past 10 years. "Students make the programs good," Burnett said.
"LSU is my home," Burnett said – and it’s not just because he’s been here for 33 years.
"The thing that’s special about LSU is the people," Burnett said. "They have dedication to the program and dedication to the students that is unmatched anywhere." Olivia McClure
(These articles were published in the 2014 winter issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)