Leadership Academy-Bridging the Gap Between Aspirations and Access

The Source Winter 2020 Edition

The College of Agricultural Sciences Leadership Academy prepares students to effectively lead themselves and others by providing critical leadership perspectives from academic and industry professionals through yearlong coursework, experiential learning, and mentoring relationships. Since its inception in 2011, the Academy has enjoyed tremendous growth. What began as a cohort of only ten students, has doubled in size from Fall 2018 to Fall 2019 (25 student/mentor pairs and 54 student/mentor pairs, respectively.) The Academy has graduated over 200 students, distributed over $50,000 in scholarships, maintained a 100% university graduation rate, and reports 80% of Academy alumni receiving a job offer prior to graduation (CAS LA Alumni Survey, 2020.) Through generous contributions from CHS, Inc., Northwest Farm Credit Services, Bayer Crop Science, and Nutrien Ag Solutions Tangent, OR, students are awarded scholarship funds to put into practice the leadership skill development goals they set early in the year through their personal development plans (PDP.)

A key component of the Leadership Academy experience is the ability to receive scholarship funds to augment in-class learning. Students express time and time again the significant ways in which their leadership and professional skills were developed by the opportunities they received with Leadership Academy scholarships. Two current students Paul Catino (Forestry major) and Katie Duggan (Agricultural Sciences major), were awarded scholarships this past year to pursue activities outside of class.

Katie is in her senior year in Agricultural Sciences, and this past Fall term was able to travel to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) convention.
Katie says about the opportunity, "I am so grateful that I was able to go back to receive my American Degree, the highest degree an FFA member can earn. I know that my trip across the National stage wouldn't have been possible without the donors who helped me, and I also had a chance to work on my PDP while I was there. I was able to meet other agriculture educators, and future agriculture teachers, and talking to these people from across the nation helped me finalize my decision to pursue agricultural education. This trip helped me realize how large of an impact FFA has had on my personal and professional development, and the chance to go back one last time as a student was one that I will never take for granted."

Scholarships provided through the Leadership Academy help students like Katie make progress on their personal development plan leadership goals. She says, "focusing on networking and lifelong learning in the context of this convention would serve me the best as a leader...there are thousands of people to meet and talk to at Nationals. The best part about this is that we are all connected by an amazing organization that has led to my academic and personal success, as well as the success of countless others. I'd like to network with fellow alumni, and even talk to different advisors if possible, because Agriculture Education is one of the careers I'm thinking about heavily. It is also important to understand that we never stop learning, so the workshops would help me gain more information from my peers, as well as insights that others have thought about."

Paul Catino, a junior studying Forestry with a minor in Leadership, and founding member of a new club on campus, helped lead a group of students to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest, a long-term research site ran by the US Forest Service in order to understand long-term ecological processes in old-growth forests. Students also helped with trail maintenance in the forest. He says of the experience “The HJ Andrews Field trip was our fall term outing, and we had 10 students in attendance. The Experimental Forest is a world-renowned long term ecological research site, and has generated a wide range of data. Six of the 10 students were currently enrolled in Forest Watershed Management, so much of our tour focused on the hydrology and silviculture research being done there. We also were able to tour their landslide testing area, where they test various combinations of rock, soil, and water to test their stability at various slopes and gauge the velocity of any landslide that occurs. Our group finished the day by opening up an old trail system that had been neglected, and touring some of the most undisturbed areas of old growth forest on the site.”

Paul says about the opportunity, "The ecological processes of an old-growth forest are very important for me in the context of managed forests, and I think it is a message that is often lost among forestry students due to the political divide present in the field. This is an opportunity for me to bridge the gap between the perspective of economically focused, managed forestry and the broader ecosystem that we can work to incorporate into our management practices. Having this conversation can be difficult, and I feel challenged to deliver a program to my peers that is both effective and impactful." He says, "The primary goal that this addresses is my desire to improve my communication strategies when speaking to groups that may have bias or deeply held political opinions, and how to effectively facilitate dialogue between groups with differing viewpoints or opinions.”

Paul expresses sentiments similar to Katie’s, “I wanted to express my sincere gratitude to the donors of this scholarship, as we couldn't have done it without these funds. We were the founding members of the student club, and had no one to show us the process. Being a brand new club, we did not have any funds to fall back on…other members of my leadership group expressed concerns at one of our meetings saying "why are we even here if we don't have funding?” We have successfully generated funding to execute our Spring field trip, and I think that the HJ Andrews Trip "kept the flame alive.”

The experiences like Paul and Katie’s, and many of our students, would not be possible without supporters who have a passion for leadership development and see the value of training our current students and future workforce not only in the technical aspects of their fields, but on the skills necessary to lead themselves and others. We look forward to new partnerships and continued growth of the Leadership Academy, and continuing to build on our current culture of embedding leadership as an expectation, and as part of a brand that stamps the College of Agricultural Sciences and College of Forestry as having the best talent in and outside of the classroom.

Written by Faith Vawter

The College of Agricultural Sciences at Oregon State University is Oregon's principal source of knowledge relating to agricultural and food systems, and a major source of knowledge regarding environmental quality, natural resources, life sciences, and rural economies and communities worldwide. The College provides undergraduate and graduate education leading to baccalaureate and graduate degrees, and extended education programs throughout Oregon and beyond. Its research programs create knowledge to solve problems and to build a knowledge base for the future. It is a source of information and expertise in integrating and applying knowledge with benefits that are felt in domestic and international settings.