FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        September 30, 2008 

NORTHWESTERN TO BEGIN AGRICULTURE EDUCATION PROGRAM

            Northwestern Oklahoma State University has been given formal approval to begin an agriculture education program by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

            The program, only the third of its kind in Oklahoma, is expected to offer its first classes in the fall of 2009.

            “We have spent a little more than a year working to secure approval of this program, so we are understandably excited and ready to begin recruiting students,” said Dr. Janet Cunningham, president of Northwestern.

“This program is important to the state of Oklahoma and our agriculture economy.”

            Students who complete the program will be eligible to take state certification tests to serve as agriculture education teachers in secondary schools.

            A survey conducted in the summer of 2007 by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education revealed that 53 percent of Oklahoma agriculture education instructors had between 25 and 29.5 years of service, making a significant number of them eligible for retirement now or in the next few years. This survey further revealed that 86 percent of current agriculture education instructors did not believe that there were a sufficient number of well-prepared agriculture education teachers in Oklahoma.

            Almost 40 percent of these instructors also believed they were not adequately prepared during their college career to teach in secondary schools. By adding an agriculture education program, Northwestern will help produce well-qualified teachers who have solid educational foundations in pedagogy, along with agriculture theory and practices, thus reducing the need for less-qualified graduates to pursue alternative teacher certification.

            Agriculture education educators involved in this survey indicated that 95 percent of their students would be interested in pursuing a degree in agriculture education, and that 97 percent of those students would be willing to pursue their degree at Northwestern.

            The minimum starting salary for Oklahoma agriculture teachers in the 2006-07 school year was approximately $39,600. That figure is expected to increase during the next several years.

            “We had public officials and others asking us to look into offering this program,” Cunningham said. “They pointed out the shortage and said we needed to come to the rescue. When you look at our successful record in education and in our agriculture programs, we were the perfect fit.”

            Cunningham said legislative support from Sen. Owen Laughlin of Woodward, Rep. Jeff Hickman of Fairview, Rep. Dale DeWitt of Braman and Rep. Mike Jackson of Enid, was critical in the process. She also expressed appreciation to state regent Jimmy Harrel for his support and his efforts to secure a special allocation from the State Regents to assist with initial start-up costs, and to Jack Staats of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Staats is the state agriculture education program administrator and state adviser for Future Farmers of America (FFA).

            “There will be some start-up costs associated with the program, and we are looking to the private sector for support,” Cunningham said.

            Northwestern already has received a gift of $250,000 for an endowed chair position in agriculture education from Don and Wanda Campbell of Jet. In addition, the C.W. Wisdom Trust of Alva and the Wisdom family donated several pieces of farm equipment for use in the program.

            Persons interested in providing financial support for the program are asked to contact Dr. Steve Lohmann, executive vice president, at (580) 327-8406 or sllohmann@nwosu.edu.

-NW-

 

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Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Steve Valencia, Director
Office of University Relations
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