Graduation is here – what’s in your future? |

Graduation is here – what’s in your future?

Lynn Gordon
for Tri-State Livestock News
Lynn Gordon, SDSU Ag Leadership Specialist/Assistant Professor

Graduation time is here. South Dakota State University (SDSU) graduation is May 9 and many high school graduations will fill May. It’s an exciting time of year for college graduates as they venture out into the ‘real world,’ as we often say, to begin their career and high school graduates will soon be embarking on their next step — higher education. Universities today offer numerous educational tracks — the next generation has a lot of options to choose from.

At SDSU, one of those educational tracks is Agricultural Leadership. I am fortunate a portion of my role with SDSU is to teach and advise students enrolling in the Agricultural Leadership bachelors program. Since it is a relatively new major at SDSU, I often receive questions from students (and parents) asking: ‘What does the Agricultural Leadership program offer?’ ‘What type of career could I anticipate?’ ‘Is the program flexible so I can focus on a specific area of agriculture?’ This column will address these questions.

Developing future leaders

Dr. Brad Lubben, Agricultural Economist, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, recently wrote in Nebraska Farmer magazine, “Developing leaders is key to ag policy.” Lubben explained many agricultural meetings or organizations focus on key policy issues. He said, “For all the focus on key policy issues, it is not as much about the issue of the day, but the development of industry leaders who can work on issues and communicate those issues to members, industry, leaders, policymakers, consumers and general public.”

The agricultural industry is facing a time where leaders are needed to help make key decisions in regard to government policy and regulations, change, new technologies and the ability to communicate with people both inside and outside of agriculture. Leadership classes at SDSU allow students to fine-tune their leadership skills by learning how to work with people, build teams, develop decision making skills, understand change, apply elements to real-world situations, become a strong communicator and achieve excellent writing and speaking skills.

The SDSU Agricultural Leadership major consists of core leadership coursework and the opportunity for students to select additional coursework from whichever agricultural focus they are most interested in. Students can take a higher concentration of agricultural classes in areas such as in agronomy, animal science, dairy science or agricultural economics, for example. As a result they complete their degree with depth in leadership and depth in a core area of agriculture.

Open doors to careers

Students like, Colee Jennissen, Dassel, MN., chose to double major in Agricultural Leadership and Agronomy during her college tenure. She says, “I feel like my majors complement each other. I started as an Agricultural Leadership major, hoping to gain the skills I needed to manage sales teams or agronomists,” however, Jennissen says, “since I do not have a farm background, I knew that having agronomic knowledge would validate myself in the industry, and give me the confidence to make leadership decisions.”

Another student Wyatt Johnson says, “At the end of my freshman year, I switched my major to Agricultural Leadership because it was flexible and allowed me to pick the agriculture classes I was most interested in — Range Science and Animal Science, and also achieve a minor in these specific areas. The Agricultural Leadership program can be appealing to anyone looking to be involved within any aspect of agriculture,” he says. Johnson intends to use his degree to follow his passion for production agriculture, and hopefully be the next generation of his family’s beef cattle operation near Midland, S.D.

Having an Agricultural Leadership major can open doors to a wide array of professional careers. Options include: middle management positions within agricultural corporations, business or industry; leadership roles in non-profit organizations or associations; government agencies; international companies; farming or ranching, or sales. In today’s competitive marketplace, skills and content taught in a leadership program will benefit students in pursuing their personal and professional goals and the industry with building a foundation of strong leaders.

For more information about SDSU’s Agricultural Leadership bachelor’s degree program contact

B. Lynn Gordon is an SDSU Extension Ag Leadership Specialist.

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