Jay Akridge had officially been on the job as new Dean of the College of agriculture for only one month when he addressed the Purdue Ag Alumni Fish Fry crowd in Indianapolis recently. He's an upbeat, optimistic guy, and his message was for the most part upbeat. But there was still that tinge of reality that this year and perhaps the next several years are going to be tougher than the past few years for agriculture, including agriculture students.
Enrollment in the ag college at Purdue topped 2,500 last fall, the largest total enrollment in many years. And 93% of graduating seniors form last spring are already actively employed where they want to be, Akridge noted. He attributed the large interest in agriculture and uptick in student enrolment in the aggressive, booming nature of agriculture over the last few years.
At the same time, ha acknowledged that it could be harder for graduates on the whole to find jobs this spring when they graduate in may, although there is still good interest in quality graduates, he says. "We still had more than 120 companies come to campus looking for students this past fall," he relates. "They may have not been looking for as many- maybe they were only looking for one or two instead of three, but they are still interested in the bright, dedicated young people we produce through the College of agriculture.
Perhaps most telling was the plea during the event for anyone in the audience who was operating a business that might need to hire someone in the next year to consider hiring a Purdue ag graduate. That's god advice, but it's also a sign of the times. It's not a plea that you typically hear made during an upbeat event such as the Purdue Fish Fry.
Meanwhile, emcees observed that the Purdue College of Ag was in good hands, and that Purdue Agriculture was like a family. Besides the current dean, three former deans were in attendance: Vic Lechtenberg, Bob Thompson and Randy Woodson, who is now provost at Purdue in charge of academic affairs,. He is second in command of the university behind the president.
Of all four, only one spent any time professionally at another institution besides Purdue, and that was Randy Woodson, but for only one year, at the University of Arkansas. Otherwise, all spent their training leading up to their time as Dean as part of the Purdue family. Thompson is now a professor of ag economics at the University of Illinois, after having served a stint as chairman of Winrock International, after leaving as Dean of Purdue Agriculture in 1993.