CoANR launches new Ranch Management and Ag Leadership Program
Laramie – Information from Wyoming ranchers and other agricultural sectors molded a new ranch management and leadership program being launched this winter in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CoANR) at the University of Wyoming (UW).
The Ranch Management and Agricultural Leadership (RMAL) program has two approaches: one to meet the needs of students and another to meet the needs of community members already engaged in ranch management and agriculture.
Much of the community-based, non-formal learning opportunities in this program will involve UW Extension.
“I am very supportive of this program that has been developed based upon clearly defined needs from stakeholders and with their support and ideas,” said CoANR Dean Barbara Rasco, who is co-teaching the for-credit course.
Program Interim Director Kelly Crane said the RMAL development flipped the usual process of creating an academic program. Most programs start by convening a campus committee and developing a curriculum based on existing courses and faculty expertise. The initial effort in developing this program was listening to people across the state and region.
“We want the curriculum and educational experiences in RMAL to reflect the specific needs for the future workforce in ranch, natural resource and agricultural management,” said Crane.
College personnel heard from ranchers, ag business leaders, elected officials and ranch managers at a May 2018 summit convened by former UW President Laurie Nichols at a ranch near Douglas. Another summit was held this fall in northern Wyoming.
“We asked the group what their workforce needs were for students coming out of our college and if we were meeting their needs,” said Crane, who also serves as the director of UW Extension.
Program developers learned the CoANR is known for training good rangeland managers, agribusiness professionals and animal scientists.
“But, from their perspective, what was needed were students who could integrate all the disciplines of agriculture with a blend of soft skills, interpersonal communication, understanding of public policy and the ability to interact with diverse audiences,” Crane said. “We thought this was an opportunity to develop an integrated program in our college that really meets all those needs.”
College personnel spent the last year and a half traveling the state listening to workforce needs, in addition to those received at the summits.
A gift from Farm Credit Services of America, plus a state match from the Wyoming Legislature provided about $3 million to start the effort.
To encourage interaction between UW students and leaders in the fields of ranch management and agriculture, RMAL is offering an on-campus course that will be live-streamed with five different educational events held throughout Wyoming this winter.
Four three-hour workshops will be held this winter/spring in Sheridan, Riverton, Evanston and Laramie. These sessions are open to the public and can be attended in person or via Zoom.
“We hope our students on campus benefit from this opportunity to interact with real issues and real people addressing natural resource, agricultural and leadership challenges in Wyoming,” said Crane.
Topics include rangeland ecosystems, beef production, managing through winter and new developments in technology, said Rasco.
Crane said the college’s aspirations for the program has resonated with ranchers and federal agencies.
“The needs for the workforce and for the kinds of students we turn out in natural resources have really evolved,” said Crane. “They’re embroiled in public policy and public lands issues. We still hope science provides the answers for everything, right? But it doesn’t.”
The issues are complex, and students need professional networks to work with complex issues, he said.
“We’ve had several people say this is exactly what needs to happen,” said Crane. “Recent alumni say they wish this program was here when they went to school.”
Tiered agricultural leadership
The RMAL has three planned aspects. An undergraduate program will offer an integrated bachelor’s degree in ranch management and ag leadership with a focus on ag business, rangeland management, animal science and leadership skills.
The second part is an RMAL institute for a select group of students. Up to 20 students may be chosen to attend.
“Individuals accepted to the RMAL institute will get more intensive training, more expectations for internships and networking with professionals and more experiential learning opportunities,” said Crane.
RMAL institute graduates may obtain a master’s degree in ranch management or a certificate in ranch management and ag leadership. Details of the RMAL program continue to develop.
“We are just initiating the program development stage on campus,” said Crane. “Many of the details regarding curriculum, degrees, program names and timelines will reflect our future conversations with UW faculty and administrators.”
The third part of the RMAL has been created from discussions around the state, said Crane.
“This is to deliver community-based, professional development educational opportunities for existing ag producers, ranchers, ranch managers and natural resource managers,” he said. “That’s where Extension comes in, because that’s our job.”
The public option and student option have a required one-day leadership session scheduled in Casper.
“One of the resounding messages we get when we talk to people who hire our graduates is they need what is termed ‘soft skills’ – interpersonal communication, writing and public speaking skills,” said Crane.
“It’s not just about training how people manage ranches,” he said. “We hope we grow our next generation of leaders in ag business and in federal and state agencies, as well as ranchers.”
For more information about the RMAL, contact CoANR Director of Development Pepper Jo Six at 307-766-4133 or email@example.com.
This article is courtesy of David Keto, the manager of communications and technology for UW Extension. For more information, visit uwagnews.