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Communications and Agricultural Education

Communications and Agricultural Education

Kansas State University
1612 Claflin Road
301 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3402

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The College Student's Road Map

Picture this: a guide that will take you to your destination, even after you have taken a wrong turn … or two…or three. Like a driver on the road, college students are prone to errors in direction along the “road” to graduation. Fortunately, academic advisers are like road maps that can help students find the way to their chosen career path. Students first meet their adviser during enrollment. A plan is formulated at this meeting, but the road to graduation is not always smooth. “Obviously, there are hiccups in the road and chuck holes from time to time that they have to work around,” says Steve Harbstreit, associate professor of agricultural education. Harbstreit and other advisers can help students avoid these “chuck holes,” and steer them toward the highway of life beyond college.

Student: Meet Your Adviser

In the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry advisers are assigned randomly, but students are not required to stay with that adviser, says Joann Kouba, assistant professor. She says sometimes students change advisers in order to work with someone who is more focused on their particular area of interest or someone whom they are more comfortable with. After a student is paired with their adviser, Kouba says it is important for them to get to know their advisers. “It’s mostly on the students to initiate meetings and conversations,” she says. It’s not that advisers don’t want to keep in contact with their students, but Kouba says “the majority of advisers don’t have the time to randomly send emails or notes or call.”

Adviser: Meet Your Student

While students should make an effort to get to know their adviser, it is important for the adviser to know their students as well. What students do beyond the classroom is one basic consideration when planning classes, Kouba says. Harbstreit says that advisers also need to consider students’ backgrounds, interests and their strengths when helping them plan their programs of study. One of Harbstreit’s advisees, John Bergin, student in agricultural education, says Harbstreit understands his strengths and his weaknesses. “He understands what I need to work on to become a better agriculture teacher,” Bergin says. Gentry Horigan, animal sciences and industry student, says Kouba helped her “define” her major, since K-State does not have a definite equine program. Instead of taking classes that covered livestock species she wasn’t interested in, Horigan says she took courses like equine reproductive management and equine genetics.

Help

Even after strategic advising, a student may still have trouble with a class. Harbstreit says if students are having difficulties they should seek help from their advisers early in the semester. “If you’re struggling from the beginning then there are all kinds of resources, there are things we can do, there are things we can talk about,” he says. First Harbstreit asks if students have talked to their teachers. Then he asks if students are attending help sessions or study groups. He also provides a listening ear for struggling students. “Sometimes students just want to come in and talk,” he says. “Most of the time they know what they need to do. It just helps them to talk and deal with it.”

Career Preparation

Advisers also can help students prepare for careers after graduation. “As a student, you need to think about what’s going to prepare me to do the job, not what’s the easiest thing for me to take to get out of here,” Harbstreit says. Since agricultural education students are juggling two colleges and trying to get a license, Bergin says Harbstreit plays an extra important role. “To graduate in Ag Ed, not only do you have to meet all the standards for the curriculum, but you also have to pass all the tests to get your license,” Bergin says. “There is a lot more there. That speaks a lot for his advising role, helping students through it.” Harbstreit also encourages his students to become involved outside the classroom. “The opportunity for professional development is now, not when you start student teaching,” Bergin says. “That’s why I became really active in Ag Ed Club and so forth.” Kouba also helps students prepare for future employment by encouraging them to look ahead to their career when they choose extracurricular activities. She says students have four years to build a resume so they should not wait until their junior or senior year to gain those experiences. “From the time you hit college, it should be about preparing you for your career or doing things that will help you decide what you want to do.”

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