Educating the next generation - Sheridan College highlights ag programsWritten by Saige Albert
Sheridan – Sheridan County’s agriculture industry is strong, and the area is supported by farmers, ranchers and the supporting agri-businesses.
To train the next generation of agriculture professionals, Sheridan College’s agriculture department is growing and expanding, and Director of Agriculture Keith Klement says, “We’ve got some great programs here.”
Sheridan College offers a wide array of program options for students – from Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Sciences degrees to integration of a three plus one program in horticulture.
“We have a basic ag science degree, which gives students a little bit of everything,” Klement says. “We also have an animal science degree, ag business degree, natural resources and ranchland management degree, horticulture degree and a farrier science certificate.”
The natural resources and ranchland management degree requires students to take a practicum, which allows them to work with an agency or private landowner on the project of their choice.
Each of those degrees is designed to prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution.
The horticulture program is designed to allows students to attend Sheridan College for three years before completing their final year at the University of Wyoming to earn a bachelor’s degree.
“We also have an Associate of Applied Sciences Degree,” Klement explains. “This degree is not intended for transfer. The program gives students a chance to take a lot more core classes. It does not require all of the general education requirements – like math and English.”
The applied sciences program can be tailored to meet the needs of students and target their interests.
Approximately 60 students are enrolled in Sheridan College’s Ag Department.
“Close to 50 percent of the students in our program come from Wyoming, and the other 50 percent come from Montana and South Dakota,” Klement describes. “Of those, 60 to 70 percent of our graduates will go to UW to finish their bachelor’s degree. Another 15 to 20 percent attend another school, and 15 to 20 percent go back home or right into the workforce.”
Sheridan College’s program is set up to create an easy transition for students to their next step, whatever that may be.
The Sheridan College Ag Department has seen success in terms of growth of students, as well as the improvement in programs.
Klement says, “We have been growing for several reasons. First, we have a lot of support from the community.”
Funding from the Wyoming Legislature and private donations from the Whitney Benefits Fund and Forrest Mars have boosted Sheridan College to the next level.
“Right now, planning is in place for our new 17,000 to 18,000 square foot building to be open by Fall 2016,” Klement says. “The building will be called the Mars Ag Center.”
Mars Ag Center will be a two-story building with new classrooms, up-to-date laboratories and a state-of-the-art commodities classroom.
“Our commodities classroom will feature Wall Street-style ticker tape with markets and current events within the classroom setting,” he adds.
On top of community support and donations, Klement marks support from the Sheridan College Administration for agriculture as being essential.
“Someone who has really helped is our President Dr. Paul Young,” he says. “Dr. Young has been a strong advocate for agriculture.”
That support has translated into the creation of new positions.
“I was brought in 4.5 years ago as a director of agriculture,” Klement comments. “We also recently hired Brett Burke as our ranch business management, ag communications and ag education instructor.”
“We haven’t had an ag communications program here before, and he will help to add a lot to the ag business program, including hedging, marketing and microeconomics in agriculture,” he continues. “We are adding a lot of new pieces and a new dynamic to what Ag Business Instructor Chuck Holloway has been doing here for the last 20 years.”
Klement says that Holloway’s program has been strong over the last 20 years, and they will only continue to develop and improve into the future.
As they move into the future, Klement notes that Sheridan College’s Ag Department aims to increase its enrollment over the next several years.
“I think our new building and facilities will be attractive for students,” he says. “It’s not just the building itself, but the quality of instruction we have, including new hires, has been key to providing quality education.”
The school’s advisory boards, composed of local business owners, are meaningful to Sheridan College’s ability to provide useful education.
“Our advisory boards help keep our programs in tune with the current job placement market,” Klement explains.
Coming to Sheridan
Klement also mentions that Sheridan provides a great atmosphere for a college, and he sees promise for the future.
“This campus is so great because of the beauty of Sheridan and the community,” he says. “We have a small enough community that students can enjoy town, but we are 20 minutes from the top of the Bighorn Mountains.”
In the ag and natural resources programs, Klement mentions that it is possible for students to receive a quality, hands-on education because of proximity to agriculture operations and public lands in the area.
“We also have a great scholarship program,” he adds. “Students shouldn’t have to pay much for a really good education.”
“There is plenty going on here,” Klement says, “and we are continuing to develop.”
In conjunction with their education efforts, Sheridan College also works to provide outreach opportunities for high school students and community members.
Beginning at the high school level, Sheridan College hosts the FFA Border Wars every year during the first week of March.
“This is the 13th year we have hosted the FFA Border Wars,” says Sheridan College Director of Agriculture Keith Klement. “The Border War is for ag students from Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota to compete in various competitions and serves as a training before they go to their regional or state contests.”
Nearly 100 students gather for the event each year from the three-state area.
For community members, Sheridan College also hosts the Ranch Sustainable Forum and a natural resources lecture series, which are widely attended.