Our Thoughts On Agriculture Today.
Posted by Edward Romero on September 13th, 2010
Over the next several weeks in a four-part series, I am going to talk about an undergraduate educational recruiting pipeline model that I often use when consulting. I have been developing this model since the early 90′s when I was a recruiter at New Mexico State University in their agricultural college. Since then, I have refined it and used it successfully to increase Hispanic students by 70% and African American students by 58% during my time in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University, from 2000 to 2008. I hope the model can provide some value to your recruiting efforts.
This week I will introduce you to some research that should be considered in your agricultural recruiting efforts. In addition, I will also introduce you to the Undergraduate Recruiting and Educational Pipeline model. Due to space and time constraints, we will only touch on a select number of issues found in the research for this post, but you should consider the areas highlighted below in your recruiting efforts when addressing students to consider an agricultural major or academic program. Over the subsequent weeks, I will touch on the three domains of the model; one for each week – Outreach/Recruitment; Educational Development; and Professional Development.
What the Research Tells Us
Students Must Be Connected With Their Educational Environment
Underrepresented students have a hard time finding instructors, classmates and programs they feel connected to at historically white colleges and universities. This disconnect sometimes leads to academically well-prepared students to earn lower grades, on average, then majority students given the same academic preparation. This lack of engagement is a primary reason for a student’s disengagement which, in-turn leads to weaker academic performance. (Anderson II, 2006)
Family and Community Support Is the Key to Academic Support
Perceived barriers and relational support found that both family support and the perception of barriers were predictive of career aspirations (Kenny, Blustein, Chaves, Grossman, & Gallagher, 2003)
Students Become Active Learners When the Experience is Meaningful
Meaningful experiences in agriculture, food, and natural resources for college students that incorporate strategies for academic, social, and career success, in addition to agriculturally related content, increases selection of agriculture, food, and natural resources as an area of study. (Anderson II, 2006)
Students Will Select Careers They Believe Are Most Relevant to Their Future Success
Factors influencing career aspirations are gender, race, parental support, academic achievement, socio economic status, and self esteem (Esters & Bowen, 2005).
For many urban and minority students, major factors that determine their career selection that in turn determines their field of study is: (Anderson II, 2006)
- What does my family think about this career option?
- Are there others like me in this career?
- Can I be successful in this career and have room for growth?
- Will I make money in this career?
- Will I have to move from the comforts and conveniences of a life that I am use to?
Perceptions about Agriculture Are Not Always Positive
Minority students had more negative perceptions regarding agriculture and agricultural education; and were more likely to perceive their reasons for enrolling as being beyond their control, perceived more barriers to enrolling, and were less likely to see opportunities for themselves in agricultural careers or to perceive agriculture as diverse (Talbert & Larke, 1995).
A negative opinion of pursuing a career in agriculture is really an expression of pursuing a career in farming and ranching, and that students have not been exposed to factual information about the industry of agriculture and corresponding careers (Orthel, Sorensen, Lerman, & Riesenberg, 1989).
Development of a conceptual model to illustrate redefined career areas in the broad agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resources industry needs to be created (Conroy, 2000) in order to provide useful and valuable career path information for students.
Undergraduate Recruiting and Educational Pipeline Model
In consideration of the information above, the Undergraduate Recruiting and Educational Pipeline model touches on three domains. They are:
- Educational Development
- Professional Development
The model is geared to address the three domains along the educational pipeline. The purpose of the holistic recruiting and educational model is to matriculate future leaders from underrepresented groups (or any student), ensure retention, and assist in their career development for success toward college graduation. This is all done while preparing for their early professional career.
The model begins with identifying students through outreach and/or recruiting strategies. It is important to note, outreach and recruitment are not the same thing and will be discussed in more detail in next week’s blog post.
Once students have been identified, students will either choose to go to a 4-year university and some will decide to attend a 2-year college. Either way, Educational Development will occur. How it occurs can be different for each school and the strategies and programming to use can also be slightly different for each. Within the Educational Development domain, Retention as well as Student Development will take place. It’s important to note, diligence should be taken in making sure students are retained as well as what student development activities are available to them. Each university or college identifies what retention and student development activities are available to students. More detail about this area will be discussed in upcoming blog posts.
Professional Development is the last piece of the undergraduate model. Prior to graduation, students should take time to explore the third domain of the model. This area addresses opportunities for students in preparation for their early professional career. We will wrap up the series of blog posts with this domain topic in the coming weeks.
In order to graduate a larger number of students into agriculture, I believe colleges and universities have an obligation of helping students who are accepted into their programs – succeed. This Undergraduate Recruiting and Educational Pipeline model helps to address a holistic approach to assisting students navigate the educational pipeline at any university or college. For first generation students, this model helps put into perspective the process with which they will proceed. However, individual experiences are predicated on a number of variables found at each school or university as students navigate the often arduous process of obtaining a college degree.
With a little help from student advocates and persistence from students, this model has been known to work when both, student and college professional(s) work together.
Next week we will delve into the Outreach/Recruitment component of the model and how that affects college recruiting efforts in agriculture.
About the Author: Dr. Edward W. Romero is founder and manager of AgForLife, LLC. He is passionate about recruiting more students into agriculture and believes the agriculture industry offers awesome opportunities for young people. You can follow him via AgForLife, LLC on Facebook or Twitter.