The fun part of this job is traveling Nebraska and meeting new people. One of my favorite stops in recent years has been the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, in southwest Nebraska. A renaissance of this two-year ag school has been occurring over the past few years with new classrooms, labs, an education center and new academic programs. And to think there was a proposal to kill the school during the 1980s due to budget concerns.
It's flourishing today due to its leaders, past and present, who think out of the box. Examples are the 100 Beef Cow Ownership Program, the 100 Acre Farm Advantage Program and the Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots Program.
In the latter program, NCTA helps eligible military veterans to become farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs. In the first two programs, NCTA works with businesses, lenders and USDA to help participating students write business plans with the goal of getting them started by investing in their own enterprises.
The latest innovation allows NCTA sophomores completing their associate degrees to then earn a Bachelor of Applied Science degree from UNL, while staying at Curtis.
They would take online courses from UNL for two additional years. While working on those courses, students will have full access to the support services at NCTA, including the ability to live in residence halls. They could retain library and computer services and college advising and even continue participating in campus athletics, but they will pay tuition and fees to UNL, according to Ron Rosati, NCTA dean.
"An important part of the mission of NCTA is to provide access to higher education services," Rosati says, who cites the friendly and nurturing campus environment and small class sizes where facility and staff know students by their names.
The change begins in 2014.
A second curriculum change Rosati refers to is the "reverse transfer" agreement. It is designed to streamline a degree or certificate from NCTA.
When students of two-year institutions transfer to UNL, only 60 credits can be transferred, even though an associate degree at NCTA requires 72 hours of coursework. So, many of those going on to UNL leave after 60 hours of credits and without their associate degree.
"The reverse transfer enables students to more easily transfer credits form UNL's College of Sciences and Natural Resources to NCTA to receive academic credential," Rosati explains.
Says Steve Waller, dean of CASNR, "Students who pursue a baccalaureate degree, either online or by transferring to UNL, can now be guaranteed they can complete both their associate of science degree and the baccalaureate degree."
NCTA can be proud of its school and programs and the innovative ways in which it encourages students to succeed.
Credit goes to both Rosati, who became NCTA dean earlier this year, and to his predecessor, Welden Sleight. They both think out of the box.