from the dean
What Makes Us Different?Dean Scott Smith

The College of Agriculture welcomes a new leader of our undergraduate teaching and learning programs this fall, Associate Dean Larry Grabau. While talking about future directions, we came to the question, “What makes the College special for students?”

When Larry and I started at UK in the 1970s and 80s, the answer was obvious. Most of our students were preparing for careers in farming, in ag-related businesses or industries, or in other plant/animal/food enterprises. A majority of them grew up on a farm or closely connected to one.

This is still a great place to prepare the agricultural leaders of the future, but like American agriculture and rural Kentucky, the College has changed.

Over the last 10-15 years, our undergraduate programs have become more diverse, encompassing almost all aspects of biological, environmental, and social sciences. Our merger with Human Environmental Sciences early in the last decade brought hundreds of students to the College with career interests other than agriculture. The scope of fields we offer to our majors is now as wide as those in the College of Arts and Sciences, and much broader than the other colleges at UK.

Well over half of our students are women; way less than half have a connection to farming when they arrive on campus. The majority grew up in suburban or urban homes. A large fraction may still be interested in animals, but for companionship or recreation, not as livestock. This is not your father’s College of Agriculture.

So when prospective students ask us why they should attend our College, or what distinguishes us from other colleges, what will we tell them? I would like to hear what alumni think, but I believe:

  • Our College still fosters direct interaction between faculty and students.

  • We are committed to experiential and hands-on learning, and expect our students to take advantage of many opportunities to go beyond the lecture hall.

  • The College heavily supports student clubs and organizations, treating them as a key part of a college education, not just a social venue.

  • Even the majors in social and human sciences in the College are “grounded” by linkage to the natural and life sciences.

  • Our majors are structured not as entrées to academic disciplines, but as preparation to engage in practical problems and real issues. This approach opens up an enormous variety of career options for our graduates.

These values honor our agricultural heritage and commitment, but apply just as well to our changing student population and the changing world they must lead.

The challenge for Dr. Grabau, his staff, and our entire faculty will be to find new and innovative ways to sustain these qualities for a new generation of students.

M. Scott Smith
Dean, College of Agriculture

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University of Kentucky College of Agriculture