A new opportunity for students interested in agriculture is available at Concordia University.

“For 125 years, we’ve been planted in cornfields,” Scott Seevers, senior vice president of enrollment management and marketing, said. “We feel like we are uniquely blessed to be in this place.”

More than half of the churches in Concordia’s service area are in rural areas or small towns. In addition, one in four jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture.

“We haven’t been able to fully serve them,” Seevers said.

A new agriculture major, open to students in the fall of 2019, will change that. While the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, for example, can be an intimidating setting, Concordia will offer the same types of classes in a smaller setting.

The program will be a “hands-on internship experience,” Seevers said.

CU staff began conducting research and focus groups in 2016. At the time, Seevers said, representatives from a variety of ag industries also met with CU staff to share their needs.

“They look for a broad background,” Seevers said. “It reinforced the things we heard from the students.”

He said the university has identified the types of students who might be interested in agriculture and be attracted to a school like Concordia.

Concordia’s ag major will include classes on plants, animals, ag business and food, Seevers said.

“If we built it the right way, we can serve Nebraska in a unique way,” he said.

The major will include partnerships with area businesses.

“People are lining up as partners to help,” Dr. Tim Preuss, Concordia provost, said.

Preuss said the major had to go through three layers of approval – the Concordia University Board of Regents, the Concordia University System and the Higher Learning Commission. The ag advisory group spent 2017 and 2018 developing the proposal.

The proposal, which was completed in June, included rationale for creating the new major and evidence that it is needed. Potential curricula, including course titles and descriptions, created a preliminary road map for the program, Preuss said.

Staff asked subject matter experts for guidance on curriculum, he said. The science faculty was a great resource and showed a lot of support.

After submitting the proposal, the university had to wait for the review panel to look at it. CU received approval in December.

Students won’t specialize in a given area, he said. The major will cover all areas to provide a solid base.

The new Dunklau Center will include lab space specifically for ag classes, Seevers said.

“We want to be not just the county or Nebraska,” Preuss said. “We want connections in the region.”

When it came to considering faculty, Concordia already has some professors who could teach ag classes. A professor of ag science who will lead the program has been selected but not officially hired until he retires from his current position.

Preuss said adjunct faculty and new hires will fill in open spots.

“That gives students a chance to connect with producers on the cutting edge,” Seevers said, adding that area producers and businesses are also willing to offer their expertise. “We want to be practically oriented and experience based.”

Concordia students aren’t waiting until the major is official, though. An ag club began meeting in the fall to generate interest in the new major. Preuss said some current students are interested in the ag program. Its first class was offered this spring.

Students will complete 120 credit hours for an agriculture degree at CU. It could also be a minor that would supplement degrees like business administration, marketing, communications and education, Seevers said.

Classes may also be audited as coursework only or non-degree work. Classes may be taken for credit or be audited for a lower cost but no academic credit.

A list of courses is available at www.cune.edu/ag.

Seevers said this new program fits the university’s mission.

“We are happy to be able to serve the community, the county, the state and the region in a new way,” he said.

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