Bruce A. McPheron, J. Marcos Fernandez, Marianne Fivek, Mary Wirth, Jillian Stevenson, Thomas B. Gill, Deanna Behring


The College of Agricultural Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University has a rich tradition of excellence in agricultural education and research; in 1861 we conferred the first baccalaureate degrees in agriculture by a United States university. As a land-grant university, Penn State was charged with teaching agricultural sciences and engineering to the “industrial classes,” particularly to rural farming communities. Through time, enrollment in the College has remained strong, but declined in recent years. With less than two percent of the population directly engaged in food production, fewer people understand their connection to agriculture, even though they eat daily, and students found it hard to identify with professional opportunities in agriculture. In response, we engaged in a college-wide initiative to help prospective students understand the relevance of our programs and the wealth of career opportunities in the agricultural sciences. The starting point was a college-wide commitment to this strategic effort. A Communications and Marketing Group was established develop a plan that would serve as a guide to enhance college communication and marketing efforts and to engage marketing experts from across the University level at all levels. Our “Think Again” campaign emerged from this yearlong process. The campaign targets 15-18 year-old students and their families. Our message conveyed the diversity and excitement of our “hands-on” educational programs and the career opportunities for students with degrees in these programs. We engaged our faculty, staff, county extension educators, current students, alumni, and industry partners in delivering this message. The net result has been outstanding - an increase in college enrollments approaching 25% over the first three years of the campaign. This campaign is a work in progress, and we continue to emphasize new angles, update our materials and strategies, and develop new and exciting curriculum to keep students engaged and prepare them for the challenges of the global food system. We set a goal that in the next ten years 50% of our students will study abroad, participate in an internship or service-learning project, or conduct research. In this way, we are bringing the curriculum alive by showing our students how what they learn in the classroom can make a difference in the lives of others. We have also made international partnerships a cornerstone of our new curriculum offerings, believing that our best research, teaching, and outreach will be done through the exchanges of knowledge gained by working, learning and growing together.


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