What we do and why it matters…

What we do and why it matters…

Oct 25
Jason Emmert, Associate Director of the Agricultural Education Program

We believe the children are our future, that we should teach them well, and let them lead the way…OK - that might sound a little familiar (and maybe a bit cheesy). But it actually encapsulates the mission of the Agricultural Education Program. Our world depends on teachers and leaders, who are an integral component of our most important and life-sustaining industries: agriculture, food, and natural resources.  

Demand for our graduates far exceeds the number of available students; in fact, the need for agriculture teachers in Illinois is so critical that the Illinois Legislature recently created an Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force. The worldwide need for skilled leaders is also critical. More than 80% of employers surveyed by the National Association for Colleges and Employers (2016) state that leadership is the top attribute they look for in new graduates.

So what are we doing about it? We prepare classroom educators, trainers, supervisors, program administrators, sales representatives, extension professionals, and community leaders. How do we do it? The secret is providing hands-on experience inside and outside the classroom – early and often. Ag Ed students learn from award-winning faculty and are pushed to find their full potential through experiences and internships in the real world. A typical student’s week might include collaborating with industry professionals on a client report, teaching a lesson in front of a classroom of students, leading a team of peers at a board meeting, and touring the local farmer’s market for a research project. Speaking of research, students in Ag Ed can team up with faculty and jump out on the edge of scientific discovery, asking questions like how do teachers remain resilient in the face of stress? How do young adults really develop leadership skills? How can students become more socially aware and ready for the global economy?

And the outcome of their learning? Well, graduates who become educators teach and mentor middle and high school students during a time of critical career interest development, and thus play a crucial role in the agriculture workforce pipeline. Other graduates become industry leaders and are often influential in policy, employee training and development, and public outreach.

Teach them well, and let them lead the way. It’s a good phrase for a song, but it’s an even better mission for a program!

Ag ed