LSU board approves new agriculture education department

Olivia McClure, Contributor

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Board of Supervisors authorized creation of the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education and Evaluation at its Sept. 12 meeting in Baton Rouge

The new unit will merge the LSU AgCenter’s Organization Development and Evaluation office and the College of Agriculture’s agricultural and extension education program, which is housed in the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development. Louisiana FFA, an agriculture and leadership organization for high school students, will also be part of the new department.

Debra Davis, currently director of Organization Development and Evaluation, has been selected as the department head. She will oversee nine faculty members.

 “This department will give extension and ag educators new opportunities to increase their value and leadership potential,” said Bill Richardson, LSU vice president for agriculture and dean of the College of Agriculture. “It will eventually offer graduate degrees and professional development programs that will help produce a more highly qualified ag workforce.”

 LSU’s undergraduate agricultural and extension education program was historically in the College of Agriculture, but moved two years ago when the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development became part of the College of Human Sciences and Education. The undergraduate program will now be administered by the College of Agriculture, and new graduate degrees will be developed over the next year, Davis said.

Uniting the ag and extension education program with the Organization Development and Evaluation office, which trains and supports the AgCenter’s extension faculty, and FFA is significant, Davis said.

 “This department is about workforce development,” she said. “Louisiana’s agriculture base is strong, but its future depends on having a qualified workforce. We need people who produce crops, people who teach the importance of agriculture to high school students, and extension agents who work with producers to increase profitability.”

Davis said many extension professionals and ag teachers are nearing retirement age, and there is growing concern about having enough qualified people to fill those positions. Enrollment in LSU’s ag and extension education program is low, with about 25 students.

The new department will help prepare both new classroom teachers and extension professionals to fill that void, Davis said. The department also will provide educational support for extension professionals.

In addition to increasing student enrollment, Davis’ priorities include working with faculty to create online courses that can reach a larger audience. Undergraduate degree concentrations in teaching and extension and graduate degrees are also being developed.

“Other universities have similar departments, but ours is unique because it encompasses the complete workforce cycle, from high school to college to professionals,” Davis said.

Final approval of the new department will come from the Louisiana Board of Regents, which next meets on Sept. 25.