Opportunities in Agriculture
Opportunities in Agriculture
The Purpose of Austin Community College District’s (ACC) Opportunities in Agriculture program is to develop an Associate of Science (AS) degree program in Agriculture and an Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) degree in Sustainable Agriculture to increase access to Agricultural Sciences careers for underrepresented students in Central Texas. The OiA program has three goals:
- Agricultural Degree Program Development,
- Agricultural Science Workforce Promotion, and
- Student Recruitment and Support.
We have finalized two award plans (an Associate of Science degree in Agriculture Science and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Sustainable Agriculture) and are awaiting approval from the last remaining governing body before offering them to the public. Twelve credit courses have been developed in support of these plans, and we are working on the final two courses to reach our goal of fourteen new courses in total.
What was accomplished under these goals?
- Enhance the quality of postsecondary instruction within the food, agricultural, and natural resources and human (FANH) sciences. Coordinating our two-year degree programs with regional four-year programs has been a high priority as we have developed the new A.A.S. and A.S. awards. Our department head, Savannah Rugg, has met with representatives from Texas Tech University specifically to facilitate articulation with their programs. She has also continued to work closely with representatives from Texas State University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley through the ACC Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee. In addition, Ms. Rugg has been appointed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Agricultural Business & Management Field of Study Advisory Committee, whose mission is to streamline program coordination between two- and four-year degree programs in the State of Texas.
- Develop a minimum of fourteen (14) credit courses in Agriculture and Horticulture to be offered as part of ACC’s Agriculture AAS and AS program. Twelve credit courses have been developed for implementation into the AAS and AS degree programs. The first two credit courses to be offered will be Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture, which will be available beginning in the Fall 2019 semester. The ACC Department of Agricultural Sciences is working closely with the Advisory Committee to identify and develop two additional elective courses that would best meet local educational needs, bringing the total number of new credit courses to fourteen.
- Develop one Associate of Applied Science 60 hour degree program in Sustainable Agriculture and one Associate of Science 60 hour degree program in Agriculture. Final A.S. and A.A.S. award plans have been approved by the ACC Curriculum and Programs Committee, the ACC Board of Trustees, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. As of the date of this submission, we anticipate they will be approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Summer 2019. We are hopeful that the programs will be ready to roll out to the public by Spring 2020.
- Provide opportunities and access to FANH careers in the public and private sector. ACC’s Agricultural Sciences department has instituted an annual “Harvest Festival” to be held at the Elgin campus’s agricultural facilities, in part to foster relationships between Agricultural Sciences students and local and governmental employers. In addition, Ms. Rugg continues to build ties with both local agricultural influencers and governmental representatives via regular meetings of the ACC Agriculture Industry Advisory Board as well as through one-on-one meetings with various local entities such as East Eden Farm, the Central Texas Young Farmers Coalition, and the Austin Foodshed Investors group. She has also networked with regional and state-wide agricultural representatives at the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance conference and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association conference. Finally, Ms. Rugg participated in the E. Kika De La Garza Fellowship Program, which educates faculty and staff from HSIs regarding USDA opportunities available to their schools and students.
- Attract and support undergraduate students from underrepresented groups to prepare them for careers related to the food, agricultural, and natural resources and human (FANH) sciences of the United States. We have tabled multiple College and Career events at local high schools to raise awareness of the new ACC degree programs; many of these schools serve a predominantly Hispanic student body. Also, as mentioned in previous reporting, each of the two new degree programs includes in the first semester ACC’s Effective Learning: Strategies for College Success course to help ensure that students can meet the new challenges that college can bring. We are working on the mechanisms to award and distribute scholarship and grant monies and hope to use our program website (also currently under development) to facilitate this activity.
- Align the efforts of HSIs and other non-profit organizations in support of the academic development and career attainment of underrepresented groups. ACC continues to work in partnership with other HSIs (including Texas State University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) and non-profit organizations (like Austin’s Sustainable Food Center and the Texas Center for Local Food in Elgin) to ensure that our programs are relevant to underrepresented groups. We are hopeful that these relationships will also translate into further academic advancement and job opportunities for our OiA students.
What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?
To date, the efforts of the ACC OiA program have been on program and curriculum
development. We anticipate enrolling our first students for the Fall 2019 semester, at which
point we will have more to report in the area of training and professional development.
How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?
We have tabled College and Career events at multiple high schools in the area serving large Hispanic populations to inform students about our new program offerings. We also reached a broader audience through presentations at regional events such as the SXSW Music Festival and ACC’s Applied Tech Open House. Additionally, we continue to communicate with local agricultural leaders via our Agriculture Industry Advisory Board; these leaders in turn update people within their sphere of influence about ACC’s OiA program activities.
What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?
Now that our two degree programs are close to receiving all necessary approvals, we will focus our efforts on student recruitment to the programs, especially in underrepresented populations (we are hopeful our scholarship program will be a strong incentive for potential students). We will also continue to develop our relationships with local agricultural employers and with USDA staff to create opportunities for future internships and employment for our OiA students.