Rethinking Education:

Harvesting Dreams


ByLaNae Hammon Poulter ’71


How do you harvest a dream? Envision vistas of beautiful plants, animals in all their varieties, and personal health to enjoy and appreciate the surroundings. Before the harvest are seasons of planting and nurturing.


The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Brigham Young University–Idaho is developing students who make dreams come true for themselves and others. The college consists of six departments dedicated to the study of agriculture, animal science, biology, health sciences, horticulture, and nursing. A closer look reveals a nurturing environment and a promising future.


Department of Health Science Expands Experiences


Starting a new program is never a simple task. The Department of Health Science got a jump start with a new medical assisting program by bringing in Edith Hamlin, an expert with 15 years of experience as director of a similar program at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City. Her new assignment at BYU–Idaho is to develop a top-notch program that will lead to its national accreditation through the Commission of Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. CAAHEP standards and guidelines are used as the framework for the rigorous review process. The new program’s courses are scheduled to begin Winter Semester 2006.

            Health Science students find increased value in their study through internship experience. Placements in public health, health promotion, and other similar professions are being explored near and far. Location is a major consideration since internship travel and lodging are typically funded by the students. Multiple sites have been identified in Arizona, Montana, Washington, and Nevada along with some in South America. Faculty members recently traveled to Honduras to interact with health and medical personnel and to determine the potential for internships and humanitarian projects. Through these and other contacts about potential internships, the faculty gain relevant awareness of what the field is looking for and how to better prepare their students.

            On-campus programs incorporate necessary skills into hands-on experiences for students through organizations such as the Wellness Center, located in the John W. Hart Building. The center offers one-on-one consultation for better personal health. The trainers are students such as Dora Alarcon from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, who recently interned in Peru. The senior health science major has returned to campus and now shares her insights with others. “I have been able to reinforce what I am learning in my classes,” she observes. “I am applying it on a daily basis as I am able to help people and give them advice and some guidance.”  Alarcon also realizes personal benefits of her education and experience. “If I have good health and am eating a balanced diet, I am more likely to be able to do the things I enjoy,” she says.


Department of Agronomy and Agriculture Business

Explores Options


The Department of Agronomy and Agriculture Business prepares students for exciting and challenging employment specialties. Graduates will manage diverse agricultural resources, research crop production, develop new biotechnology, handle agribusiness finance, or teach in community and secondary education settings.

            Training for the students comes from case studies

and practical, “hands on” experience provided by their work on the university farm, practicums, and internships. Some students accept internships in locations such as Africa and Mexico where they are exposed to the diversity of the agriculture industry worldwide. In addition, an annual academic excursion to California gives students the opportunity to visit various stages in the production of commodities such as rice, prunes, figs, kiwis, lettuce, walnuts, cauliflower, and other specialty crops. Through the experience “their minds are expanded to various alternative methods and cultural practices,” says Stephen McGary ’73, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Science.

            The department has modified curriculum and resources to prepare students for the twenty-first century and beyond. The department’s technology coursework puts greater emphasis in electronic computerized systems and hydraulics, utilizing global positioning and geographic information systems (GPS/GIS). The plant science curriculum has grown and is now embracing hydroponics technologies with enhanced emphasis in the sciences. Agribusiness curriculum has expanded to include greater resource management concepts, including enhanced finance and economic rigor. In fall of 2006 the department will be renamed to reflect the change in emphasis as the Department of Agribusiness, Science, and Technology.


Department of Animal Science Advances Opportunities


BYU–Idaho is the only Church-operated institution of higher learning in the United States that has an animal science program. The Department of Animal Science is housed primarily at the Livestock Center five miles west of Rexburg. While it remains one of the smaller departments on campus, the number of students majoring in animal science has more than doubled in the last four years. In addition to courses primarily taken by agriculture students—such as animal nutrition, health, meats, reproduction, and genetics—enrichment classes offered through the program are enjoyed by hundreds of other students. Beginning riding classes, trail riding, and horseback field biology classes all use Animal Science horses. These horses also provide trail and carriage rides for the Activities Program.

            The center currently encompasses 130 acres with crops to feed cattle, horses, and sheep; an indoor arena; animal laboratory; feedlot pens; and a meat processing laboratory where students evaluate and prepare animal products according to industry practices. Last year students worked to feed, evaluate, and sell steers donated to the university as market beef with proceeds going to scholarships and academic improvements.

            Scientific advances are blended into the curriculum as they develop. For example the cow herd is partially composed of genetically-superior beef and dairy cattle. The calves from these top-grade animals are marketed as breeding stock by the students. The offspring of the superior herd are multiplied by having other cattle serve as surrogate mothers who receive embryos from the higher-value donor cows. These surrogates then give birth to the valuable, but unrelated, calves. Another scientific advancement is the recently employed ultrasound technology enabling the faculty and students to assess the meat characteristics and genetics of live animals.

            Animal science majors fill internships throughout the United States and overseas in beef, dairy, horse, and swine operations; veterinary clinics; Disney World; hippotherapy centers; dude ranches; government rangeland positions; and agriculture-serving businesses.


Department of Biology Finds Success


The Biology Department is enjoying new classrooms and state-of-the-art teaching laboratories created in the recent Ezra Taft Benson Building addition. With the acquisition of new laboratory equipment, students are learning the latest techniques in molecular biology and genetics. Integrated degrees allow students to design programs that best fit their career goals. Students choose fields of study ranging from botany and ecology to human biology and neuroscience to biology education.

            Biology majors are encouraged to find internships with opportunities for research experience. In summer of 2005 alone, 87 biology students interned in a variety of settings. Upon completion of their experience, many students receive invitations to give departmental seminars and report their findings. This return-and-report process strengthens their learning experience and serves as active research into the market for future career choices.

            Mike Groesbeck, chair of Department of Biology, feels the students are receiving a useful education in biology. He says, “Although we are very new as a university, our students are finding success in getting into professional schools and graduate schools. Our acceptance rate to medical and dental school is well above the national average, and most students applying to graduate schools are being accepted.” He is quick to point out much of the success is due to the quality of students. “Combine these fine students with a dedicated, caring faculty, and great things are happening at BYU–Idaho,” says Groesbeck.


Department of Horticulture Nurtures Growth


President Gordon B. Hinckley specifically challenged individuals to nurture the skills of gardening, become self sufficient, beautify surroundings, and help those in need within the community and around the world. BYU–Idaho horticulture faculty and students take the challenge to heart.

            The Department of Horticulture traditionally brings horticulture industries and technology into the classroom—but the classroom extends far beyond the brick walls of the Benson Building. Department Chair Ben Romney explains, “We are blessed with state-of-the-art greenhouses and acres of gardens where our students are able to experience and practice the principles taught in their coursework.” Students also have opportunities to travel to parts of the world where horticulture can be observed and studied.

            Romney identifies the central aim of the Horticulture Department as a combination of secular and spiritual education. In a nurturing environment students gain an understanding of the spiritual and scientific aspects of creation by working with plants. They develop habits of hard work and appreciation for the world around them. “Students connect with many of life’s lessons, particularly the law of sowing seed and of the harvest,” Romney says. “Our focus is on teaching students to make their living by helping others surround themselves with places of peace and beauty and to produce the essential horticultural products they need to live.”


Department of Nursing Rethinks Programs


For the past five years, the Department of Nursing has conscientiously fulfilled the assignment to rethink education. The bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN) was one of the first bachelor’s degrees offered at BYU–Idaho. Programs were developed so students with their associate degree in nursing could take three more semesters’ worth of classes and earn their bachelor’s degree. Department Chair Kathy Oldham Barnhill ’81 says student needs require diverse methods for making content accessible. New options were recently adopted.

            “Because many associate graduates will leave the BYU–Idaho campus and travel throughout the world to work, we felt it was important to make our program available online as well as on campus,” Barnhill says. “Students may take courses on campus or online through the Division of Continuing Education. By allowing this type of flexibility, students are able to work full time all over the United States and still continue their education.” All of the BSN nursing courses are offered online along with all but two of the general education courses required for that degree.

            The new option worked for Paula Thomas Spencer ’04 as she re-entered the nursing program after graduating with an associate degree from Ricks College 27 years prior. She had already accumulated a diverse background of experience in community and hospital settings and was now able to complete her bachelor’s degree in nursing from her home in Victorville, Calif. “It was a difficult program, but it was well worth it. The instructors were there to encourage and to fine tune any weaknesses,” Spencer says. “Because it is BYU–Idaho, you get a glimmer of the ‘Spirit of Ricks.’  Through the opportunity to work with the professors and with the other students, you feel the influence of the Spirit.”

            The Department of Nursing also answers the need to accommodate local students. A program taught primarily evenings and on weekends meets needs of the non-traditional students. For the past two years, 20 students have been admitted into the program per year. Offered through the Division of Continuing Education, the non-traditional program has been beneficial to local hospital facilities; it allows people from the area who will stay and work for an extended period of time to get training in a much-needed profession.


Looking Beyond the Harvest


As the students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences realize their dream of graduation, they are prepared to make a difference. Employment opportunities abound for those who prepare well. Some will teach in the public school system while others will work in the business arena. Their leadership and example will promote wise and responsible stewardship of divinely endowed natural resources and biological (ecological) systems. Through their employment, they will contribute to a safe, abundant food and fiber supply and promote the well-being and health of individuals, families, and communities. Their efforts will enhance sustainability of agricultural and economic systems. Ultimately as they return to their homes worldwide, they will influence others to harvest their own dreams of beauty, health, enjoyment, and education. SM



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