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Leadership symposium: UW holds fifth installment of RMAL program, dedicated to leadership in ag

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On April 20, the University of Wyoming’s (UW) College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources wrapped up their second annual Ranch Management and Agricultural Leadership (RMAL) Seminar Series in Laramie.

The five-part series included four sessions held at community colleges across the state, including a ranching on public lands segment held at Central Wyoming College in Riverton Jan. 26, a managing human resources segment at Sheridan College Feb. 16, a technology and innovation segment at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington March 2 and a revenue diversification segment at Northwest College in Powell March 30. 

The series concluded at its culminating event, a leadership symposium and luncheon on UW campus, featuring a lineup of high-profile speakers to discuss ways to hone and develop leadership skills for individuals, families, businesses, organizations and communities.

The RMAL Program 

To kick off the event, Kelly Crane, associate director for the College of Ag, director of UW Extension and interim director of RMAL, welcomed attendees and offered some insight into UW’s new RMAL program.

According to Crane, this unique educational series was initiated through a generous donation from Farm Credit Services of America and designed with two goals in mind – to create real-world learning opportunities for UW students and to engage community members involved in ag from around the state. 

He explained the series is a combination of educational events open to the public, in addition to a university course offered to UW students, culminating in a bachelor’s degree, which will be available beginning in the fall of 2024.

“We are in the final throws of university approval,” he noted. “We submitted a feasibility study last week, which will go to the board of trustees this fall, as long as we make it through all of the hoops on campus.” 

Crane shared the most exciting aspect of the program is how unique it is.

“First, it is really interdisciplinary, providing students with fundamental knowledge in things like range management, forage production, livestock production and ag business, but not specializing in any one of those – just a broad-based bachelor’s degree combining them all,” he said. 

“Maybe as important is the integration of leadership skills in everything we do in this curriculum, which makes it unique from other programs across the country,” he added. “And, of course, it provides an opportunity for students to engage with Wyoming practitioners across the state.” 

He noted possibly the most important aspiration of the program is the hope to train students to contribute to society through leadership roles in their communities.

“When we look at leadership at a regional, state, county or community scale, we see the undeniable marks of agriculture, so by providing students with this unique set of skills, we hope they arise to leadership positions in their respective careers and the industries they choose to serve in,” Crane stated.

“When we think about weed and pest boards, conservation boards, school boards, planning and zoning boards, etc., I guarantee there are people serving in these roles with ag somewhere in their background,” he added. 

Leadership in Wyoming

On the topic of leadership, both Crane and Gov. Mark Gordon expressed their belief individuals involved in agriculture make the best kind of leaders. 

“The message I keep trying to convey everywhere I go is how important leadership is for agriculture,” stated Gordon. “Ag is the heart and soul of Wyoming, and our state is what it is because we have people who are willing to step forward and lead.”

He pointed out a few of these leaders including Sen. Ogden Driskill who has helped push important agricultural policy and Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto for the critical role he plays in the industry.

Gordon also thanked Dr. Barbara Rasco, dean of UW’s College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources, who stepped up to the plate after Gordon challenged the college to do a better job of educating students on everything agriculture entails, from genetics, rangeland management, hydrology, engineering, etc. and moving the industry forward. 

“For a long time, we’ve discussed what the College of Agriculture should be teaching and how we could do everything better, but it wasn’t coming together into a combined effort,” he stated. “This is what the RMAL program does.” 

“I am really thrilled this program has had such success. It is exactly the cornerstone I was hoping the Wyoming Innovation Partnership (WIP) would achieve, and I am so thrilled it has received funding through phase two of WIP,” he added.

He concluded, “Agriculture is about hard work, stewardship, collaboration and integrity, and these are all important leadership qualities. I have to say, there is nothing that teaches leadership skills better than growing up on a ranch.” 

Closing remarks

Following Crane and Gordon’s welcome, the symposium hosted a panel discussion on advocating for agriculture, featuring Diana Berger, Amanda Hulet, Melinda Sims and Cat Urbigkit. 

Wesley Tucker, a farm and ranch transition specialist, gave a presentation on farm succession planning; Jim Neiman, president of Neiman Enterprises, Inc. provided insight on how to be a leader in the community and Donald Schiefelbein, former president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association discussed serving in organizational leadership positions.

At the end of the day, Rasco took to the stage to provide closing remarks. 

She began by thanking symposium attendees and program faculty for showing up and putting on the event. 

“I think today was really significant because we had a number of great presentations and our speakers showcased the extraordinary talent we have among Wyoming producers and community leaders involved in agriculture,” she said. “Everyone has leadership capacity, and I hope this has come through today.”

“I personally think the university system is enriched by student interactions with individuals like those with us today and those we have heard from in the program to build networks and learn about what works, what doesn’t work and what leadership really means,” she continued.

“There will be more opportunities in the future for UW, especially the College of Ag, to support partners across the state through our efforts, Extension and other academic and educational programs,” she concluded.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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