Agricultural Leadership: Oklahoma State University's New Major for Undergraduate Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

On June 30, 2005, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved the creation of what is believed to be the first officially recognized undergraduate major in Agricultural Leadership in the nation. The major is housed in Oklahoma State University's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications, and 4-H Youth Development. The Agricultural Leadership major provides an opportunity for students to prepare as generalists in the agricultural sciences while developing a strong understanding of leadership. Five core values guide the curriculum: commitment to agriculture, authentic leadership, open minds, critical thinking, and professionalism. Agricultural leadership faculty infuse these values throughout the coursework aligning course objectives, learning opportunities, and student experiences with the five core values. Program outcomes include approximately eighty students majoring in Agricultural Leadership, a growing number of students pursing minors in Leadership Education, support from College administration, development of a student organization, and national recognition.

Introduction

In 2003, according to Fields, et al., ninety percent of colleges of agriculture were in the process of adding, deleting, or restructuring departments and/or majors. One of the newly established departments identified by Fields, et al. (2003) was agricultural leadership, education, and communication. Interest in leadership from an academic perspective continues to increase in colleges and universities across the nation, with classes being taught in a variety of disciplines (Vecchio, 1997). A study conducted in 2000 examined leadership offerings in departments of agricultural education and found that sixty-eight of the responding departments offered leadership coursework and cited eighty-two leadership courses. Additionally, all sixty-eight administrators reported students' attitudes toward leadership coursework as positive or extremely positive (Fritz, et al., 2003). Barrick (1992) conceptualized future departments of agricultural education as having four components or sub disciplines: Teaching and Learning, Human Resource Development and Management, Communications, and Research Methods and Data Analysis. Barrick acknowledges that although no degree programs existed in 1992 in the area of Human Resource Development (Agricultural Leadership), the area is a fit for agricultural education because it includes coursework that has been traditionally aligned with agricultural education departments; specifically student development, volunteerism, leadership development, and youth program management.

In 2004, the American Association of Agricultural Education determined that there were eight departments of agricultural education offering an area of study focused in leadership. Each offered not only leadership coursework, but options, minors, and/or majors in leadership. Although courses and/or programs in leadership existed, many did not contain the word leadership in their title (Fritz et al., 2003). Within agricultural education a growing trend has emerged in which programs are seeking recognition for a major in Agricultural Leadership from curriculum committees and university administration. However, recognition as a major, specifically in Agricultural Leadership, has eluded many of these programs. Programs seeking recognition of coursework and programs of study in leadership found a strong political atmosphere guarding against the use of the term leadership in courses and names of majors and minors specifically within the context of agriculture. Much of the politics surrounding this issue came from various colleges across campus, including business, education, and agriculture, wanting to own the term leadership (Pennington, 2005).

Program History

Agricultural Leadership at Oklahoma State University is an undergraduate major in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications, and 4-H Youth Development at Oklahoma State University. …