When Tom J. Bechman made his annual talk to the beginning Agriculture class at Vincennes University recently, nearly 40 students greeted him. Over half of them hailed form farms. Roughly a fourth intend to go back to the farm. Not surprisingly, some still don't know what they want to do.
This year's enrollment in the Ag program at Vincennes is up slightly, says Chuck Mansfield, the Vincennes professor who teaches many of the ag courses. He is also a Purdue University Extension agronomist and researcher, who works primarily on wheat, soybeans and doublecrop soybeans with farmers in southern Indiana.
When Bechman first started visiting the class annually more than a decade ago, there were as many as 80 students in this basic section. "The class is designed to introduce students to various ag careers, just in case they're not sure what they want to do yet," Mansfield says. Besides bringing in various speakers during the semester, students construct job resumes, complete issue papers and do other projects to earn credit in the class.
About three to four years ago, numbers in the class bottomed out at abut 20-25 students. Two things happened, Mansfield notes, First, when enrollment was large, school officials decided that pre-vet and vet tech students didn't need to take the class. Then on top of removing those students, enrollment dwindled university-wide. Now enrollment at Vincennes is making a comeback of sorts, Mansfield says.
"Plus we decided that once we had room, we ought to have pre-vet and vet—tech students take the class again," he says. "Many of the pre-vet students don't end up becoming vets. The competition for spots at vet schools is very stiff. And even those who thing they want to be vet-techs sometimes change their mind. They still have to finish at Purdue University and take basic chemistry courses to complete the program. Those who want to go a step further can take an extra year, and complete a four-year degree. They come out classified as vet technologists.
"We feel exposing them to various careers in ag gives them other choices to consider if they decide someday that they don't want to pursue vet medicine or a vet-tech career after all. It gives them other options to consider down the road."
One point Bechman stressed to the students was to keep their options open. Even those students who currently don't know what they want to do career-wise are in good shape, as long as they complete course work and take classes that lend themselves to various fields. Then they can decide to specialize later.