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KSU College of Agriculture: A hub for hands-on learning

Image courtesy of Kansas State University

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” – Thomas Jefferson

When you think back through your years of education, there’s bound to be some teachers who stand out in your memory for all the wrong reasons. Clueless, boring, monotonous – all of which are words you’d hope to never see in a description of someone whose sole purpose is to impart knowledge. Remember that guy who just used to make you copy from the textbook? No? Well, that’s hardly surprising…it’s pretty unlikely you remember what he was trying to teach you, either…

And do you know why? Because he simply wasn’t engaging, and the content he was trying to teach didn’t inspire excitement. If you aren’t passionate, motivated and invigorated by the content taught in class, how can really you be expected to learn?

Research has shown that a huge amount of information is retained by students who are given the chance to apply what they’ve learned in a hands-on, practical situation. When students are forced to learn in a passive, lecture hall environment, they allegedly retain a mere 20 percent of taught material. But when they are given the chance to apply what they’ve learned in a hands-on, lab-type setting, the percentage increases to an impressive 75 percent. All things considered, it’s likely that teachers who remain etched in your mind are those who promote a wealth of practical and experiential learning opportunities in a captivating classroom setting.

Image courtesy of Kansas State University

The College of Agriculture at Kansas State University (KSU) is an institution that achieves just this, equipping students not just with the technical knowledge needed to succeed in the diverse agricultural industry, but also with the soft skills, networks and first-hand experience needed to make it straight to the top.

The College provides a respected education in a diverse range of study areas, including: Agribusiness; Agricultural Communications and Journalism; Agricultural Economics; Agricultural Education; Agricultural Technology Management; Agronomy; Animal Sciences and Industry; Feed Science and Management; General Agriculture; Horticulture; Park Management and Conservation; Pre-Veterinary Medicine; Wildlife and Outdoor Enterprise Management; Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences; and beyond, with each course providing the knowledge and practical experience needed to succeed in the professional agricultural world.

“Practical experience is very important to graduate recruiters,” says Yuda Ou, a student of KSU’s Food Science Master’s programme, originally from China. “So the College of Agriculture offers Honors Projects and other opportunities to equip undergraduate students with hands-on research experience in various departments. Each student receives essential training and mentoring from Faculty and graduate students, and then designs and develops a research project based on their own interests,” he says. “There’s nothing better than impressing graduate recruiters with a published research paper on your very own work.”

Yuda, top left, pictured with other classmates. Imaged courtesy of Kansas State University

With round-the-clock access to agricultural stock, machinery and cutting-edge facilities – from table-top, lab-sized mills to Hal Ros, the University’s state-of-the-art pilot flour mill – students are given the tools needed to succeed through independent research, as well as to prepare for the real working world in the most pragmatic way.

On top of traditionally-structured lectures delivered by renowned professors, students of KSU’s innovative programmes – including those enrolled on specialist courses like the Bakery Science and Management and Milling Science and Management provisions, both within the Department of Grain Science and Industry – are also offered ample opportunities to get directly involved with industry and prepare for a thriving career.

“The College of Agriculture provided many hands-on opportunities to help me become competitive in the job market,” Yuda explains. “From real-world examples and laboratory practices in class, to career services that help land students on internships around the country and the world, the College offered unique training for each student to become a competitive, skilful ‘new-comer’ in the agriculture industry,” Yuda adds.

“I was fortunate enough to have interned at two Fortune 500 companies, during my undergraduate career, and this would not be possible without the high-quality training I had received at K-State College of Agriculture.”

Image courtesy of Kansas State University

In fact, KSU Agriculture’s intense focus on graduate placement is so successful that 96% of the College graduates manage to secure their desired position within months of graduating, and more than 500 students from the University’s annual agricultural cohort also gain leadership experience within an officer or leadership role.

“I can’t thank the College enough for connecting me to so many great resources, and inspiring me to find my passion in the food industry,” says Yuda. “One particular highlight of my experience with the career support services was the workshops offered during the Food Science Seminar series through Freshman to Senior years.”

Here, Yuda explains that his résumé was written and edited a number of times, utilising the rich catalogue of resources and skills he gained through the detailed workshops. “I was the type of person who gets nervous very quickly in front of new people,” he adds, “but the Professor who taught the seminar was very kind and encouraged me to attend a career fair to learn about the job market.

“You really can’t imagine how exciting it was when landed an internship offer during my first career fair visit,” Yuda notes. “This would not be possible if I had not had my résumé ready, nor had some interview questions practiced beforehand. Best experience ever!”

Without the real-world experiences and practical learning opportunities open at KSU, Yuda fully believes he never could have progressed quite so far in his academic career. Not only was he consistently supported, engaged and enthused by what he had learned, he was also inspired to think big when it came to his future, forging a structured and fool-proof plan of how his time at KSU could help make his career dreams become reality.

Image courtesy of Kansas State University

“I see myself devoting my time to the food industry in the next five years,” he concludes. “It’s both a challenging and exciting time as the industry is striving to meet the demand of consumers’ healthier and more sustainable lifestyles, while global hunger and food waste remains a major challenge. KSU has equipped me with the essential knowledge and skills needed to achieve my goals and help make the world a better place.

“More importantly, it is my KSU experience that taught me to live the Wildcat way – never give up, be proud, always hungry to learn, and shoot for higher goals.”

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