BVU, Kirkwood enter partnership for ag instruction
By KRISS NELSON
Buena Vista University is continuing on a long time tradition of partnering with community colleges to assist those students earning Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.) or Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) to continue their education.
Most recently, BVU has announced a partnership with Kirkwood Community College for those graduates to further their ag instruction through the university.
“BVU has been doing two plus two degree completion programs, partnerships with community colleges for over 45 years,” said Brian Lenzmeier, BVU provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We started with the partnership in Fort Dodge at Iowa Central Community College this has been a priority for us for almost five decades.”
Lenzmeier said they chose to partner with Kirkwood due to its strong reputation within its agricultural program.
“They have the largest two year program going on right now in the state of Iowa 3,000 students that are in their agriculture two-year program,” he said. “This is our first move into doing this with community colleges. It makes sense to partner up with the biggest undergrad program and we’re hoping to expand this out and continue to build at other community colleges.”
Geography has also played a large role in to the making of this partnership.
The partnership between the two schools allows for students in the eastern half of the state seeking a four-year collegiate degree in agriculture to do so in a more convenient manner.
“If you draw a line on I-35, there’s some great options -obviously, Iowa State is the king and the best there, but Morningside, Dordt and us, they’re not an option east of I-35 in the state of Iowa,” said Lenzmeier. “So, that was a big motivation as well. How do we reach a part of the state where that’s not accessible? A lot of students are place bound. They are working their own farms, they are working the family business and we are excited to give them a chance to continue, if they choose, to go past that two year degree.”
“The eastern half of Iowa lacks opportunities for an individual to continue a four year degree in the areas of agriculture business and agricultural studies,” said Scott Ermer, dean of agricultural sciences at Kirkwood Community College. “We hear from students after they spend two years at Kirkwood Community College that they like eastern Iowa, can find great career opportunities in the eastern Iowa market, and would like to be able to stay in eastern Iowa. This partnership provides them the best of both worlds by earning an A.A.S. at Kirkwood Community College, working in their agriculture industry in eastern Iowa and continuing their education by earning a four year degree through BVU all here in eastern Iowa.”
“I think the biggest benefit is the convenience of meeting the students where they are at,” said Lenzmeier. “I grew up in rural Minnesota. I did not grow up on a farm, but I have spent a lot of time on friend’s farms and seeing when the child goes off to college and then they come back to really be able to let them work on that degree without having to physically leave, I think, is really advantageous. Or leaving occasionally on a weekend or to join something in the evening. I think that is fantastic. To allow students to hold fulltime jobs, work on the family farm. That makes me excited because it keeps our economy moving and it keeps kids in places where they can help their families.”
Ermer said the courses will be delivered using a hybrid model of both online and face to face instruction.
“Partnering with BVU, we will assist with providing hands-on learning opportunities here on the Kirkwood Community College campus for the face to face components of a course. Also, Kirkwood Community College faculty will have the opportunity to share their expertise working with BVU to instruct some of the junior and senior level courses,” he said.
Currently, Kirkwood Community College offers 12 different programs of study for a student to earn a two year degree related to an agriculture discipline.
“Our training facilities, faculty and curriculum are outstanding, providing excellent hands-on training preparing individuals for great careers in the agricultural industry,” Ermer said. “We have excellent partnerships with industry that provide learning opportunities that lead into good paying careers in the agriculture industry.”
Ermer said they have been working with BVU for nearly two years to develop this partnership as BVU was starting their four year agriculture program.
“We have aligned our curriculums so that students who choose to start at Kirkwood Community College and earn a degree in agriculture business and agriculture production can continue on with the credits they have earned and seamlessly start the pathway to earning a four year degree with minimal to no obstacles,” he said. “This is just the beginning to even more opportunities we can partner together on to support the educational pathways of our graduates and the working professionals in Eastern Iowa.”
The courses, Lenzmeier said are very practical with some already developed and some in development at this time.
“They are based around studies such as ag lending, ag finance, ag markets and it’s really meant to be a practical ag business degree,” he said. “That’s a part I’m excited about. In all cases, we’re really trying to drive these degrees to be very practical from the standpoint of preparing people for what they are going to encounter in their work place, but also, really helping them develop skills.”
Lenzmeier said students are allowed to finish on their own timeframe.
“With our adult degree completion students, we have a lot of students that will take terms off. We offer six, eight-week terms a year and this will be helpful for the ag students,” he said. “I like these eight-week terms for ag because when you’re talking about harvest or planting season, the student could back off to one class instead of two. Or, take no classes for that time window and keep moving forward. I think that’s another advantage.”
Lenzmeier said BVU is having conversations with other community colleges including Iowa Central in Fort Dodge and NIACC in Mason City about the potential for partnership with their ag programs as well.
“We’re trying to get it launched at Kirkwood first, just because of the sheer size of their program” he said. “They’ve got a lot of resources. But, we do see an opportunity to build this out across the state of Iowa.”