Northwest College Looks Toward the Future for StudentsWritten by Micah Humphries
By Micah Humphries, Associate Professor of Agroecology and Range Management
At Northwest College, we have a slogan – “Your Future, Our Focus,” which is a handy little phrase, even if it is a catchy marketing tool. We do have focus points for students in each of our programs – we call them learning outcomes – that we believe are important for the student’s future.
When a student chooses one of our programs, including Agriculture Business, Agriculture Communication, Agriculture Education, Agroecology, Animal Science, Farm and Ranch Management, Production Agriculture and Range Management, we have particular goals we want them to meet, and the courses they take push them toward meeting those outcomes.
But what we often find is that the extra-curricular activities we provide can be just as meaningful and useful to a student as the courses. For instance, our Block and Bridle club is engaged in community activities, ranging from parades and fundraisers to grower’s meetings and roadside cleanup, that give them an insight into the need for members to be active community participants wherever they may end up.
Another example of out-of-class education came about because the department was given $1 million towards an endowment for scholarships. The donor was a local farmer who had homesteaded nearby after coming back from World War II. We invited him to campus to meet the students and for us to express our appreciation. Through this association, students had a chance to listen to the wisdom accumulated over his 93 years. Though not part of our planned course curriculum or student learning outcomes, the students were a part of an incredible learning opportunity.
Students have many other opportunities to visit with producers and industry professionals, either through field trips to production operations or through guest speakers in the classroom.
We also know curriculum content is very important, and in our programs we are keenly aware of the need for rigor in the coursework. Having a solid foundationin animal science, agronomy and business is needed regardless of whether our graduates go to a university or into the work force.
We firmly believe that both the education and the opportunities to which a Northwest College student is exposed can give them an advantage. That’s why we’ve developed a certificate within our Production Agriculture option – Sustainable, Organic and Alternative Agriculture Production. It isn’t because we’re going green but because anything we call “sustainable” has to actually be able to make money, and there is currently a significant market for products in that category. Knowing trends in the market, including certifications in the sustainable, natural, regional and organic sector, translates into diversity and increased profitability if you want to produce in that manner. And not knowing those markets and the possibilities they represent would put our students at a disadvantage.
The end goal for our graduates is knowledge, practical application and flexibility – those tools that will be most valuable in long-term sustainability in the agricultural life.