Agricultural Education Grows in Scope and Numbers

Kristin Stair, Blackburn, Joey  |  6/9/2017 8:58:45 PM

The Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation is one of the newest “old programs” in the College of Agriculture. Moved back to the College of Agriculture in 2013, after three years in the LSU School of Human Resources and Education, it has been rapidly growing. The program has more than doubled in undergraduate enrollment in the past two years, and with the addition of graduate coursework, continued growth is expected.

The undergraduate program consists of two concentrations, formal education and nonformal education. Formal education prepares students to become high school agriculture teachers, and they leave the program with a teaching license. The other concentration is primarily designed to work with informal audiences, such as 4-H programs, community programs, agricultural businesses and even international agriculture programs.

One of the central purposes of the program is to prepare students for work with agriculture and work with people. We focus on both sides of this spectrum, and our courses and degree plans reflect the importance of understanding both. The connection with people is what makes the department unique. While many departments focus on specific aspects of technical agriculture, this program allows students to explore agriculture broadly and provides them the skills to share that knowledge of agriculture with others.

The department is not only growing in numbers, but also in scope. Recently approved master’s and doctoral programs will allow for professional advancement for agriculture teachers, extension agents, agriculture professionals and those with an interest in international agriculture education. The international option allows for study abroad and international internship opportunities.

In addition to new graduate program options, the department is expanding its curriculum to better prepare agricultural education students. Most recently added are courses in agricultural mechanics, in which students learn hands-on skills in small engines, electricity and carpentry. Well over half of high school agriculture programs across the U.S. teach some components of agricultural mechanics.

Currently, the department is actively pursuing the development of its Agricultural Technology Welding Laboratory, which also will provide metal fabrication coursework for the students. This lab will allow students to learn various types of welding along with plasma cam usage and other metal work. The welding lab and the agricultural mechanics lab will provide hands-on instruction to students for a variety of skills that they will need when working with middle school and high school students. Students in horticulture, renewable natural resources and animal science are taking these classes as well to improve their skills, especially in the small engines area. Courses like these have not been offered at LSU in a long time, and faculty in the department believe that the skills are useful for a wide variety of students.

The department has seen an increase in student numbers as well as quality of young teachers and agents leaving the department. With a shortage of teachers and agents across the country, the work that this department does is important to Louisiana and the U.S. to ensure that there are qualified professionals who can educate the world about agriculture.

Kristin Stair and Joey Blackburn are both assistant professors in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation. Stair also is Rector of the Agriculture Residential College.
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Emily LeBlanc, a student in agricultural and extension education, builds an electrical board in Joey Blackburn's class. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

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