Building a Pathway

Deana Core and Dan Moser with iPadAgriculture can be the intersection of academic and professional development

By Annika Weibers, Shelby Spreier and Susan Schiff

Photos by Dan Donnert and courtesy of Lola Plum

Many Kansans and graduates know K-State for its love of community and “heart,” but for California native Lola Plum, K-State's College of Agriculture is also literally serving as a springboard for a career as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Plum is double majoring in animal sciences and industry and biology, which together, she believes, will give her a more comprehensive understanding of the human body and its functions and better prepare her for work as a surgeon.

Likewise, Brian Owuoche spent 13 years living in Kenya and has seen firsthand drought and starvation on that continent. He plans to put his double major in agronomy and economics to work by joining a non-government organization, like C.A.R.E. or the World Food Programme, to focus on helping eliminate global hunger.

“Students like Lola and Brian represent an exciting area of growth in the College of Agriculture,” said Deana Core, assistant dean and director of recruitment for the College of Agriculture. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of students choosing a less traditional path with agriculture majors. Students have a lot of freedom to build a pathway that will lead to a fulfilling career.”

To support students like Plum and Owuoche, the College of Agriculture is running a direct mail and social media campaign called “Think Outside the Field” to help students, particularly those without an agricultural background, better understand all a degree in agriculture can offer. The options range from combining personal passions and interests with traditional agriculture majors in agronomy, animal sciences or agribusiness to selecting less traditional majors, like turf management, horticulture, agricultural communications and journalism, and wildlife and outdoor enterprise management.

Lola Plum practices surgical techniques on a pig heart“It’s important to show students, particularly those living in urban areas, they don’t need to own a farm or come from a ranching background to play a significant role in the agricultural industry,” said Core.

The College of Agriculture offers 16 majors and 16 minors from which students can mix and match classes to create a personal educational program or acquire a second major or minor within the university’s other colleges.

“Our goal is to provide the best educational experience for students, so they have the foundation to become the professionals and leaders Kansas needs to grow and advance,” said Dan Moser, associate dean of Academic Programs for the College of Agriculture. “We are extremely proud of the 98% rate our new graduates have in finding jobs or furthering their education soon after they graduate.

“It’s also extremely rewarding to see how many of our alumni go on to later serve as national and international leaders in agricultural-related industries, commodity groups and government agencies,” Moser added. “We like to think we are not just preparing students for their first job – we are preparing them for a successful and meaningful career.”

To attract more in-state students, the university and the College of Agriculture provide many scholarships, including the University Scholar Award – the state’s top academic scholarship. To attract more out-of-state students, the university offers deep tuition discounts to attract the best-of-the-best incoming freshmen and transfer students.

“It’s a long-term, sound investment. When these students graduate many will stay in Kansas, grow our state’s agricultural workforce and expand and strengthen our economy,” said Moser.

Brian Owuoche in the K-State Business BuildingAgriculture continues to be Kansas’ largest industry and economic driver. According to a report from the Kansas Department of Agriculture published in January 2023, food and food-processing sectors combined represented $53.4 billion in direct output to the Kansas economy and 14% of the state’s workforce.

“Agriculture continues to evolve. Producers and industry have different needs and the college has evolved to meet those needs by offering new majors and research opportunities,” said Moser. “Traditional agricultural programs, like agronomy, animal and grain sciences will always be a backbone of the college, but the new majors we offer are critical for the agricultural industry and attract a new group of students who might not have considered an agriculture career in the past.

“Kansas has always been an agricultural powerhouse. And for generations, the College of Agriculture has been a national leader in the research and education that keeps Kansas ag strong,” said Moser.