Fox Valley Technical College's agriculture department received the 2014 Outstanding Post-Secondary Agriculture Program award at the Wisconsin Association of Agriculture Educators Professional Development Conference in Middleton.
The department received the distinction for establishing an innovative partnership with Case IH and Service Motor Company, its commitment to new technologies and hands-on learning labs, and for producing outstanding graduate employment rates for students.
"Our staff and faculty are innovative thinkers when it comes to what's best for student learning," says Randy Tenpas, department chair and instructor in FVTC's Agriculture department. "The award represents their efforts in keeping abreast with changing industry needs and our future Ag leaders, and we are honored to receive such a noteworthy distinction."
Tenpas cited FVTC's partnership with nearby Service Motor Company as a catalyst in regenerating excitement back into agriculture careers. "Service Motor Company's passion for agriculture is unprecedented," he adds. "The company's commitment to new technology and to our expanded training center has ushered a new wave of skilled professionals for one of Wisconsin's most important sectors."
That collaboration has also translated into success for FVTC's graduates. Over the past three years, the college has witnessed a 95% graduate placement rate for graduates of its ag-related programs. When combined with the college's Horticulture program, close to 200 graduates hit the workforce over that same time period.
The WAAE award included program success from FVTC's Horticulture and related Outdoor Power programs as well. The horticulture program mobilizes its students each semester to put their skills to work for a number of community projects, including most recently the installation of new gazebos and a landscape overhaul for senior residents at Appleton's Brewster Village.
Horticulture studies at FVTC are now home to the region's first tissue culture lab, designed for plant growers and breeders who can quickly propagate unlimited numbers of plants from existing plant cells in a controlled setting. The new technology is one of many upgrades for the program, which also includes a sustainable greenhouse, a raised bed garden, and state-of-the-art hydroponics lab.WAAE is the professional association for agriculture educators in Wisconsin. Members include 295 middle school, high school, technical college, and university educators. The focus of the association is to provide professional development, legislative support, and educational resources for teachers to enhance their local agriculture education programs.