The Access Roundtable Discussion
In September 2016, CALS Dean Richard Linton gathered representatives from industry, faculty, staff and students to ask crucial questions about student access: what it is, why it’s important and what CALS can do to ensure North Carolina’s national and global future.
“Thank you for all of you being here today to talk about a very important issue: student access, the opportunity for a student to live out his or her dream of a degree from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. That dream has become increasingly difficult, because it’s harder to get into North Carolina State University. What I want to talk to the group about today are the solutions we’re working on toward providing many opportunities for a student to follow their dream.”
Peter Daniel, Assistant to the President, NC Farm Bureau
John Dole, Interim Associate Dean and Director, CALS Academic Programs
Alexandria Graves, Interim Director, CALS Office of Diversity Affairs
Deborah Johnson, CEO, NC Pork Council
Susan Jones, Junior Poultry Science and Agricultural Education Major
Richard Linton, Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
Jeff Mullahey, Head, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Adrian Percy, Head of R&D, Crop Science division of Bayer
Dan Weathington, Executive Director, NC Small Grain Growers Association
Dean Linton: What is the importance of a strong land-grant university that has research, teaching and extension as its mission?
Adrian Percy, Bayer Crop Science: What the United States is doing through land-grant universities is really fantastic. It’s not just about meeting the challenges U.S. agriculture faces, but also more global challenges. CALS students can really step up to the plate and have an impact in the U.S. and in other places as well.
Peter Daniel, NC Farm Bureau: This university was founded to build on our economic strengths of agriculture and manufacturing. We can’t leave that today, because that is still our strength…The value of a CALS education is that it’s North Carolina-centric.
Deborah Johnson, NC Pork Council: I have the opportunity to talk with people from all over the country, and if they don’t have access to a land-grant university, they don’t have some of the opportunities to reach their counties that we do.
Dean Linton: Remind me, what’s the number one economic engine in North Carolina today?
Peter Daniel: Agriculture and agribusiness. It is almost $80 billion annually. Through this university, through this college, we’re going to grow this to $100 billion annually in the next few decades.
Dean Linton: What is the value of our graduates to your industry, and to agriculture and life sciences as a whole?
Dan Weathington, NC Small Grain Growers: They are extremely important, because we’ve got all these people to feed. We’ve got to have the sharpest minds to come up with the best varieties that have disease and insect tolerance. Demand on us is going to be much greater than it ever has been before.
Adrian Percy: The United States is very advanced in agricultural research, really ahead of the curve, and I think we really need that to continue…The danger is that there will be an even bigger dearth of people in agriculture in the future.
Dean Linton: What characteristics do you look for in a CALS graduate?
Adrian Percy: We’re looking for diversity of thought. People who come in with different perspectives and backgrounds – people from urban environments, people from rural environments, people with different types of expertise…What will distinguish one biologist from another, for example, are behavioral things like the ability to lead, to communicate, to work with others in teams.
Dan Weathington: We look for graduates involved in agriculture in their community. We look for a well-rounded education in high school…what they’ve been involved in, their desire to stay in agriculture and be part of another generation of farmers.
Dean Linton: What are some of the challenges you have seen around student access?
Peter Daniel: Student access is extremely important to many rural families and those who have a legacy of parents and grandparents attending NC State University…Over the past 10 years, the popularity of this university has them competing against a lot of different pools within the state. It’s difficult when you’re in a rural school district competing against some of the best high schools in the nation.
Dan Weathington: Some of these poorer counties don’t have the funds for honors classes and don’t have the large graduating numbers in their classes when the college is only taking the top 20 percent…I really praise you for some of these programs that you’re working on because I think that’s going to help those kids that really had that desire to carry on the generational heritage of family farms.
Dean Linton: Why is it important to provide access to CALS?
Alexandria Graves, CALS Office of Diversity Affairs: We are the university for the people. When I think of my own history, I wouldn’t qualify as a student at NC State right now – and that doesn’t represent my passion, my drive, my ambition. We need to make sure that we provide that access for those students who have that passion…who want to go back into their communities and develop their farms, and contribute to the North Carolina economy and the global economy.
Deborah Johnson: We need to make sure we have young people who are trained here and who are prepared for these future challenges…I live in a rural area, and every year, I’m watching kids apply, and some get in and some do not…Some have done very well in their coursework, but maybe not on the standardized tests. We’ve got to start earlier identifying students who may be candidates for CALS. It’s heartbreaking when you know they’ve worked hard in school and have the work ethic to do well in CALS.
Dean Linton: Susan, you’re the reason we’re here. Students are the reason this university exists. You had this tenacity, this passion for CALS. Why here? Why this college?
Susan Jones, Junior Poultry Science and Agricultural Education Major: I knew that I would be challenged here. With the other options, I felt like, yeah, I could get a degree there, but I don’t think I’d be challenged. I’ve also wanted to go to State all my life. I wanted to be challenged, and I think I have challenged myself while being here.
Dean Linton: If you could rewind the past and suggest how we could make the alternate admissions process better for students, what would you recommend?
Susan Jones: Making sure that the information about the programs is out there, because I didn’t know anything about the program, which was fairly new then. I didn’t know the benefits of it until I actually contacted [the head of the program].
Dean Linton: If you could give a one-sentence message to students or parents, what would you like them to know?
John Dole: NC State is open. We need students, and we want to get them into NC State. There are a lot of ways into NC State, a lot of pathways. We’re helping them get in as freshmen, and we’re helping them get in through a variety of other methods.
Jeff Mullahey, Head, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences: One thing I like to tell students is that it doesn’t matter where you start. It matters where you finish. I’m a classic example of this. If you look at my diploma, it says NC State University – it never mentions the university where I spent my first two years.
Dean Linton: It’s like a map on your cell phone -– when I type into my cell phone where I want to go, I can pick four or five different options of how to get there. At the end of the day, I may get there differently than you, but I’m going to get there.