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Bringing CALS to counselors

How do you tell high school and community college students in rural areas and from groups that are underrepresented in the agricultural and environmental sciences about opportunities in the agricultural and environmental sciences?

One way to reach these students may be through their counselors – guidance counselors for high school students and college transition counselors for community college students.

That’s what the Agricultural and Environmental Summer Institute for Educators, a joint effort of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Natural Resources, did in mid-June.

The effort, led by Dr. Lisa Guion Jones, CALS assistant dean for diversity, brought 32 counselors from across the state to campus for the two-day institute.

“The purpose of this two-day institute was to expose high school guidance counselors and community college transition counselors to degree programs in the agricultural and environmental sciences,” Jones said. “Housing, parking, educational materials and meals were provided at no cost to the counselors.”

Jones added that focusing on counselors is an effective and efficient way to reach students. The 32 counselors in the program work with thousands of students each year collectively. And counselors will continue to work with new students throughout their careers.

In addition to Jones, Thomas Easley, CNR director of community diversity, Tricia Buddin, CALS coordinator of recruiting and first-year experiences; Tiffany McLean, CNR director of enrollment management; and LaTosha Bradley, administrative support associate for the CALS Office of Diversity Affairs, served on the team that planned and implemented the event.

Norris Tolson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, opened the institute with a keynote address that pointed out the need for biotechnology professionals now and in the future. Also sharing remarks during the institute opening were N.C. State Provost Warwick Arden, CALS Dean Richard Linton, Dr. Adrianna Kirkman, CNR associate dean for academic programs; and Dr. Sam Pardue, CALS associate dean and director of academic programs.

In addition to general information about CALS and CNR programs and information on admissions, scholarships and financial aid, CALS and CNR faculty provided interactive activities for the counselors.

Jones said the interactive sessions provided a first-hand look at the experiential nature of CALS and CNR degree programs, where students learn by doing. Faculty members took the counselors through a lab experiment or other hands-on activity.

Twenty CALS and five CNR faculty members provided interactive experiences or information sessions.

Interactive sessions were provided by CALS faculty members Dr. Chris Ashwell, associate professor of poultry science; Dr. Chad Jordan, undergraduate and teaching coordinator, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology; Dr. Suzie Goodell, assistant professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences; Dr. David Crouse, associate professor of soil science; and Dr. Keith Harris, assistant professor of food, bioprocessing and nutrition sciences.

CNR faculty members providing interactive sessions were Dr. Joel Pawlak, interim associate dean for research and associate professor; Dr. Jordan Smith, research assistant professor of parks, recreation and tourism management; and Dr. Gary Blank, director of undergraduate programs, forestry and environmental resources.

In addition, information on CALS degree programs was provided by Dr. Jim Flowers, head, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education; Dr. Andy Hale, professor and undergraduate coordinator; Department of Biological And Agricultural Engineering; Dr. Chad Jordan, teaching assistant professor and undergraduate and teaching coordinator, Department of Plant and Microbial Biology; Dr. Helen Kraus, assistant professor of horticultural science; Dr. David Lindbo, professor of soil science; Dr. Owen Duckworth, assistant professor of soil science; Dr. Jeanette Moore, undergraduate teaching coordinator and Alumni Distinguished Professor, Department of Animal Science; Dr. Lori Unruh-Snyder, assistant professor and undergraduate teaching coordinator, Department of Crop Science; Dr. Arnie Oltmans, undergraduate coordinator, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics; Rachel Huffman, support technician, Prestage Department of Poultry Science; and April Morrison, academic advisor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition sciences.

The event also featured presentations on various summer programs that expose high school students to CALS programs. Dr. Vicki Martin, assistant dean, College of Sciences, described the Summer College in Biotechnology and Life Sciences (SCIBLS), while Jones talked about Creating Awareness of Agriculture and Life Sciences Disciplines, Degree Programs and Discoveries (CAALS 3D). Rachel Huffman described the Poultry Science Summer Institute, and Danielle Lindquist, a veterinary medicine student, talked about Vet Camp.

The counselors were asked to encourage their students to apply to the summer programs to gain more insight into agriculture and the environment. The event also included a presentation by Roger Sims, Office of Admissions, and a panel discussion on scholarships and financial aid that featured Kevi Dixon, Scholarship and Financial Aid Office; Valerie Schwartz, Park Scholarships; Dr. Vicki Martin and Tiffany McLean, CNR.

Jones pointed out that evaluation data indicated the program was effective. Counselors were asked if they increased their knowledge of academic degree programs in CALS and CNR. For both colleges, 92 percent of the participants responded “strongly agree.” In addition, 88 percent responded “strongly agree” to a question that asked if they plan to use the information they learned with their students.

Dave Caldwell