Typical classrooms can’t contain students in the LSU College of Agriculture. In the college, the world is a lecture hall. Horticulture classes can be found working in the landscapes around campus or at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Gardens at Burden. Animal science students get experience with livestock at AgCenter farms. Nutrition and food sciences students meet regularly in kitchens and labs, and students studying wildlife and fisheries make their way into the woods and onto the water.
Student experiences go beyond even the nontraditional classrooms. Opportunities include participating in undergraduate research, gaining global awareness through study aboard programs and acquiring professional development skills with internships.
Greer Darden, a senior majoring in natural resource ecology and management, spent last semester studying the effects of environmental factors on oyster larvae after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“Being able to conduct my own research makes me think like a scientist, and I have the freedom to make the project what I want it to be,” Darden said.
The College of Agriculture gives undergraduate research grants to encourage students to participate in research. Twelve students received grants for the 2016-2017 school year.
“Whether they go into research or not, having that experience helps them understand research, and that can help them navigate problems they may face in their careers,” said Allen Rutherford, associate dean of the college.
Ryan Ardoin spent two years working on a research project in food sciences. Ardoin graduated in December and is now a master’s student in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences. His study focused on consumer perception and purchase intent of a low-sodium mayonnaise-type spread.
“This study could give consumers alternatives for reducing their daily sodium intake,” Ardoin said. “It is an important step in figuring out how to reduce sodium in the American diet.”
Ardoin is working with Witoon Prinyawiwatkul, a professor who oversees the school’s food sensory lab.
“Ryan’s research is part of my ongoing research on sodium reduction in foods,” Prinyawiwatkul said. “In addition to gaining research experience in the lab, he has had the opportunity to present his work at the annual meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists, which expands his professional network and is good for his career.”
Across the world in Tofo, Mozambique, College of Agriculture students studying natural resource ecology and management can conduct underwater research. Study abroad programs in the college allow students to live and learn in another culture and gain global awareness that can’t be taught at home.
Reagan Errera, an instructor in the college’s School of Renewable Natural Resources, took her first group to Tofo in 2016, and plans to continue the trip each year.
“Students will set up research projects, conduct diving surveys, analyze data, present it and receive class credit for it,” Errera said.
Students in the same major can also spend two weeks in Swaziland.
“Getting the opportunity to be in Africa not only as a visitor, but as a scientist, was just amazing,” said Jaqueline Satter, who was a senior when she studied in Swaziland.
Students in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences trek to Thailand every other year to learn about sustainable agriculture in that country, and students studying nutrition and food sciences study food and culture in Greece every year during LSU’s winter intersession.
Lauren Martin, a junior, received an international scholarship to study in Greece.
“Every minute was phenomenal,” Martin said. She is considering a career as a clinical dietitian and said the experience will help her work with different populations.
“I learned how simple things can affect the way you communicate with people, how close you stand to someone, how you greet them,” Martin said.
Internships can be abroad, in another part of the country or close to home. Jennifer Hartman, who majored in nutrition and food sciences spent her senior year interning with Associated Grocers in Baton Rouge. She was hired to help the company develop a food safety plan for its new subsidiary, Table Fresh.
“It’s a big company that feels small,” she said. “I’ve learned so much there. Interacting with other people, learning the process, understanding what the day-to-day operations are like.”
She said the internship led to a job offer with Community Coffee.
Alexis Agard traveled to Slovakia for her summer internship. The agricultural business major worked with faculty at the Slovak University of Agriculture Faculty of Economics and Management, where she
conducted research on consumption of animal products.
Agard said Slovakia is a growing country, and more LSU students could benefit from studying or living there.
“There is a lot of opportunity in that region for young students like us who want to go abroad and share our agriculture knowledge,” she said.
Tobie Blanchard is the assistant director of LSU AgCenter Communications and communication coordinator for the College of Agriculture.
Alexandria Medine holds a hummingbird that was just captured with a remote control cage. Medine was participating in a wildlife management class in the School of Renewable Natural Resources. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
Andrew Barocco conducted research on sweet potatoes while working on his undergraduate degree in plant and soil systems. Photo by Tobie Blanchard
Lauren Martin, above, was one of eight students in the College of Agriculture who traveled to Greece during winter break to study the country’s food and culture. Martin, a junior, said she is considering a career as a clinical dietitian and the experience will help her work with different populations. She is standing at the Palamidi Fortress in Nafplion, Greece.