Susan Brocksmith is proud of the new four-year Agricultural Concentration in Business Technology curriculum at Vincennes University, and rightfully so. She is the department chairwoman, and the first graduates of the four-year program entered the work world recently. All 14 graduates have jobs today.
In discussing the new option for Vincennes students, the following conversation unfolded. The background was how students who attend Vincennes, a relatively smaller school, can get a good education, but still leave school focused on things that matter in day-to-day life.
Bechman: Three of my children graduated from Purdue University, and I’m satisfied they received a good education. But there are things I wonder about. My daughter was in agricultural communications, yet she had to pass calculus to graduate. She finally went to another institution and passed it there.
Brocksmith: So you wonder why she had to have calculus to be an ag editor?
Bechman: Exactly. I took statistics in college, but I’ve used that information. I interpret test plot results and the like, and it’s useful. I can honestly say I’ve never used one thing I would have learned in calculus in 35 years of writing.
Brocksmith: Our goal with this new program is to give students practical knowledge so they can go out and get real-world jobs, like for a fertilizer dealer or working at the Farm Service Agency, or in farm management. They still have to take science courses, but for example, we don’t require a foreign language.
Bechman: So you’re more concerned that they know how to do practical things in today’s world. Much of it involves technology, and that can be challenging to learn in its own right. But you are interested in producing students ready to work.
Brocksmith: Right. When I go home and help my husband farm, we’re not talking about right angles or calculus. That’s not what we are concerned about day to day in our farm operation.
Bechman: What things do you talk about?
Brocksmith: We talk about things like how our crops are growing. Are there any problems we need to take care of? We talk about what we’re going to need to do this year to make a profit — things like that.
Bechman: So you talk about practical stuff — things that make a difference in how well the farm operates?
Brockmsith: That’s right. We might talk about what happened on the Chicago Board of Trade that day, and how that’s going to affect us. We talk about soil conservation and the newest things in no-till planting. We don’t talk about math formulas.
Bechman: So you want your students who graduate to be able to engage in conversations like that?
Brocksmith: Yes. They need a well-rounded education. But they also need to understand how to do things in the real world.