Bumpers College Introduces New Minor In Agricultural Leadership

Bumpers College's agricultural leadership minor is housed in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology.
Photos by Russell Cothren, University Relations

Bumpers College's agricultural leadership minor is housed in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas has created agricultural leadership as a new minor to focus on leadership skills, team building, organizational ethics and community engagement.

Jill Rucker, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology, spent three years developing the program and curriculum, which was approved by the department, the Bumpers College curriculum committee, the faculty council and the provost.

"The AGLE minor focuses on interdisciplinary course work focused on leadership, communication and business principles in the food and fiber industry," said Rucker. "Students focus on the development of personal leadership, critical thinking, problem solving, ability to work with diverse populations, communication skills, service learning, engagement in the community and organizational leadership."

This minor is the first of its kind at an institution of higher education in the state. Since its establishment for fall 2016, the agricultural leadership program has seen an increase in enrollment in leadership courses and students are already choosing the minor.

"When I'm out and about in the community, I receive positive feedback from working professionals who cite a strong need for leadership skills in future employees," said Rucker.

"I chose this minor because of my interest in agricultural education and the importance of leadership in the agriculture industry," said junior Sam Harris of Greenbrier. "Serving as an Arkansas FFA state officer, I realized the importance of developing those key components to becoming an effective leader and how vital it is students enter the workforce with those characteristics."

Rucker began working on the minor in response to suggestions from industry professionals on Bumpers College's Dean's Executive Advisory Board.

"Industry professionals cited the need for students to further develop people skills to partner with technical skills learned in major programs," said Rucker. "Through courses, seminars, service learning opportunities and internship experiences, the minor strengthens students both personally and professionally by equipping them with skills and knowledge needed to impact the food and fiber industry."

The program requires 18 hours of instruction. Required courses include Introduction to Agricultural Communications taught by instructor Casandra Cox, Leadership Development in Agriculture taught by Rucker and Cox, and Survey of Leadership Theory in Agriculture taught by Rucker.

"Leadership Development in Agriculture was really eye-opening because I learned about myself and how I interact with others through data-based personality and character assessments," said Harris, an agricultural business, pre-law and agricultural communication major. "The assessments challenged me to work through weaknesses and acknowledge my strengths in order to reach my goals. I highly recommend students take this course to learn about their leadership style and how to build effective working relationships with people of all backgrounds."

Students pick three courses to meet the nine remaining hours. Courses they choose from include Agribusiness Sales, Methods of Teaching, Professional Development in Agriculture Communications, Leadership Analysis Through Film, Principles of Technological Change and Management of Volunteer Programs.

"Our leadership classes are very interactive," said Rucker. "It's not your typical lecture class because I believe leadership is never stagnate. We are constantly working through simulations, case studies and hands-on activities to develop and reinforce leadership theories, models, concepts and practices."

This fall, leadership students attended a panel discussion on integrity hosted by U of A Director of Athletics Jeff Long and the Office of Academic Initiatives and Integrity, learned about women in leadership from Bumpers College Interim Dean Lona Robertson and attended several other guest lectures.

"By adding this minor, I believe AECT and Bumpers College have opened the door for many more prospective students with an interest in agricultural education and leadership development through FFA and 4-H," said Harris, who plans to work in public policy and law. "Providing students with these skills will create more well-rounded graduates who will be more competitive when entering the workforce."

Students interested in more information can contact Rucker at kjrucker@uark.edu.

About the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences: Bumpers College provides life-changing opportunities to position and prepare graduates who will be leaders in the businesses associated with foods, family, the environment, agriculture, sustainability and human quality of life; and who will be first-choice candidates of employers looking for leaders, innovators, policy makers and entrepreneurs. The college is named for Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and longtime U.S. senator who made the state prominent in national and international agriculture.

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.

Contacts

Taylor LaCour, communications intern
Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences
479-575-4625, robbye@uark.edu


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