Agriculture leads: Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture continues to help sustain the university and state’s largest industry
Dean John Floros presented his third annual State of the College of Agriculture address April 5.
Released: April 12, 2016
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Develop human capital – at the undergraduate and graduate student levels – to support agriculture, agriculturally related industries, natural resources management, education and research. That’s the mission of Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture.
The college’s dean and director of K-State Research and Extension, John Floros, opened his third annual State of the College of Agriculture address, April 5 on K-State’s Manhattan campus, with that mission, which he said has helped serve the No. 1 industry in the state of Kansas – agriculture – for a long time.
In addition to the college’s mission is its vision, which states that it aims to be a top-five agricultural college in the United States and a global destination for education, research and extension. Reaching this feat not only would benefit the university, but would benefit the citizens of Kansas and beyond with immediate solutions to food and agricultural production needs.
Agriculture and food-related industries contribute nearly $63 billion annually to the Kansas economy and serve as the state’s largest employer – providing jobs for 229,000 people. It’s the state’s largest exporter at nearly $5 billion in goods exported annually. Kansas is home to just more than 46 million acres of farmland, which is about 89 percent of all land in the state.
While the college continues to serve the state’s largest industry, entire economy and communities, it also is the main revenue and research driver at Kansas State University, Floros noted throughout his address.
Teaching and learning
K-State’s College of Agriculture has many choices for students, Floros explained: 16 undergraduate majors, 14 minors, five certificate programs and 10 graduate programs. Many of these can be categorized as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational discipline.
“When we talk about agriculture and food, many don’t understand the (relation to) science, technology and in many cases engineering and math,” Floros said. “We have a good mixture of these.”
In 2015, the college had 2,699 undergraduate students, slightly down from 2,780 in 2014, but 324 more than in 2011, which showed 2,375 undergraduates. The college had 566 graduate students in 2015, slightly down from 590 in 2014 but up from 491 in 2011. Floros said 2014 and 2015 have the highest number of total students in the history of the college.
The number of multicultural students in the college has increased significantly in the last decade, with a total of 327 in 2015. This is down from the highest enrollment year, 2014, which showed 346 multicultural students, but the number was 216 in 2010.
Floros noted two main reasons for a recent drop in student enrollment numbers after several years of steady growth: an increase in the criteria to be admitted to K-State and less money from the state available to help support students in need.
Student placement after graduation is a high point for the College of Agriculture. In 2014-15, recent graduates who were surveyed reported that within a couple of months after receiving their bachelor’s degree, they were mostly employed in their discipline (76 percent) or seeking further education (20 percent). Their starting salaries ranged from $36,328 to $64,364.
When undergraduates become seniors, almost 90 percent have had some type of professional experience such as a job or internship, Floros said, and more than 18 percent have had undergraduate research experience. Several extracurricular student teams and clubs have found success nationally and internationally, which also shows high achievement and ambition among the college’s students and faculty.
K-State’s Collegiate Crops Judging Team recently won its seventh consecutive national championship, and in fact, has won 14 of the last 17 championships. Team USA placed first overall at the International Soil Judging Contest in Gödöll, Hungary, in September 2015. Erin Bush, a junior in agronomy from Franklin, Indiana, was one of four team members and the only K-State student on the U.S. team at the international competition.
In its first and second years competing, K-State’s Agronomy Forage Bowl Team won its national competition in 2015 and 2016. The K-State Horse Judging Team won a reserve championship at the National Cutting Horse World Finals Futurity last December. And, the K-State Food Science Product Development Team placed first among all U.S. teams at the 2016 Research Chefs Association Student Culinology Competition.
“Our graduate students are also exemplary in terms of who they are and what they do,” Floros said, noting that alongside faculty mentors, these students are solving problems to help people in Kansas, the U.S. and internationally. As an example of their great work, 11 of the 30 applicants for K-State’s first three-minute thesis competition were students of the College of Agriculture. Ryan Schmid, an entomology graduate student, won first place in the competition.
Research and extension
The College of Agriculture, with K-State Research and Extension, are working toward solving five grand challenges for Kansas, which include global food systems, water, health, community vitality and developing tomorrow’s leaders. Other colleges at the university are also helping improve the livelihoods of Kansans in finding solutions to these challenges.
Extramural awards for research in the College of Agriculture totaled $58.2 million in fiscal year 2015, up from $46.3 million the previous year and $23.8 million in 2011.
“Five years ago, we were in about the same spot as the rest of the colleges (at K-State), between $20 million and $25 million,” Floros said, adding that the College of Agriculture is the only college that has grown exponentially in extramural award dollars. It accounts for almost all of the university’s total growth in research expenditures.
For the first time, Floros said, K-State ranks in the top five nationally in competitive funding among land-grant universities provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. K-State, which received $21.6 million recently from NIFA, is only behind land-grant universities in Florida, California, Michigan and Iowa in total funding dollars.
The College of Agriculture also leads other colleges at the university in invention disclosures and licensing revenue. That royalty revenue was $1.7 million in 2014, compared to $369,000 for the College of Veterinary Medicine, and $56,000 for the College of Arts and Sciences, which followed at second and third, respectively.
Private fundraising in 2015 was at $14 million raised, comparable to 2014 at $14.5 million raised. That is up from $7.7 million raised in 2011. Growing is key, Floros explained, and while these total numbers may be smaller relative to private donations for other colleges, he is hopeful to continue growing private financial support.
One of the main goals for the college and K-State Research and Extension for the next several years is building more infrastructure to support students, faculty, staff and research projects.
“About six months ago, we started an effort to figure out where we are in terms of space,” Floros said, which led to hiring two architectural firms to determine the quality of existing space and what is needed in the future. Plans would include renovating old space and additions such as new greenhouses and facilities in the mid-campus area.
In fact, the architects determined that of the roughly 938,000 gross square feet of mid-campus space the College of Agriculture has, 21 percent is acceptable, 68 percent needs renovation and 11 percent does not support renovation.
The architects concluded that by 2025, the College of Agriculture would need 1.4 million gross square feet of space in the mid-campus area. College administrators are working to develop a four-phase construction and renovation plan to better serve the university, Kansas and beyond. Total cost of the project would be about $550 million and would require financial support from all areas – federal, state and private contributions.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.