Sunday, February 25, 2024

TAMU College of Agriculture welcoming record-breaking freshman class

By Adam Russell Texas A&M University Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller Texas A&M University students celebrate the first day of fall semester 2023.

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences reached a milestone that illustrates the momentum growing across agriculture and life sciences industries.

The college has reported the largest class of incoming freshmen in its history — 1,400. The incoming freshman class exceeded the number of confirmed freshmen at this time last year, 997, by 40 percent.

Dr. Jeffrey W. Savell, vice chancellor and dean for Agriculture and Life Sciences, said the freshman enrollment numbers are a sign that the college is continuing in the right direction. He said the achievement is indicative of the ongoing collective efforts to offer the best learning opportunities and environment in the nation, but also of a purposeful effort to produce more graduates.

Savell said the college has committed to creating an environment for student success by recruiting and retaining high quality faculty and staff and investing in facilities and cutting-edge technology for research and training.

The record-breaking number of freshmen is a good indicator that those investments are helping student recruitment and make the college an attractive destination for the “best and brightest.”

“We have benefitted from planting and cultivating seeds of excellence,” Savell said. “Our goal is to plant more seeds for the future because flourishing students and former students are the fastest and most impactful ways to make a positive impact in our world, and agriculture and life sciences.”

Student success

Dr. Chris Skaggs, associate vice chancellor for stakeholder relations and associate dean for student development for the college, said the incoming freshmen students should feel confident that they chose a great launching point for their academic careers. The majors offered through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are created to propel these new students toward success in critical fields of study.

Skaggs said these students are entering careers society relies on, and that jobs in agriculture and life sciences lead to happier, more fulfilling careers according to recent research. Agriculture and forestry have the highest levels of self-reported happiness — and lowest levels of self-reported stress — of any major industry category, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time-Use Survey.

The college is the largest comprehensive agriculture program in the U.S. and has a track record of preparing students who are in high demand, Skaggs said, noting that the curriculum goes far beyond traditional agriculture.

The college’s 15 departments house more than 300 faculty experts and offer 90-degree plans for undergraduate and graduate students. Career paths include sustainable agriculture, environmental sciences, human health and nutrition, economics and financial planning, animal and plant sciences, and agricultural engineering, Skaggs said.

“What we do impacts so many critical industries people depend on every day,” he said. “We used to say that we feed, fuel, clothe and shelter society, but what we do has moved into so much more. Our areas span from disease prevention and environmental conservation to the social sciences. We help provide the necessities, but we are also improving quality of life.”

Skaggs believes the college also uniquely prepares graduates to enter the workforce or continue their education. Experiential and cooperative learning opportunities based around cutting-edge laboratories and technology, small course sizes, professional internships and study-abroad programs help develop graduates that companies seek to hire.

More than 2,400 students in the college received internships or field experience in 2022.

The college is also home to more than 60 clubs and organizations dedicated to connecting students with others to explore their passions and serve the community, Skaggs said.

“The critical things employers are looking for are practical, hands-on experience and candidates with teamwork and leadership skills,” he said. “Those traits are all part of an overall professionalism they want, and Aggies rank very highly in all of them.”

The college will continue to focus on reaching prospective students through a range of student development strategies to maintain this momentum, Skaggs said. More than 1,900 degrees were awarded by the College in 2022-2023.

“Our graduates will be our legacy,” he said. “They represent future industry leaders and innovators and will lead the directional changes in agriculture and all the aspects of everyday life our programs touch. We envision success for our students, and we want prospective students to see the college as a place to grow and learn, and to launch their career and adult life.”

Adam Russell is a communication specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife.

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