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Federal Grant Enables UCM to Create New Graduate Certificate Program Targeted Towards Dual Credit Agriculture Teachers

By Jeff Murphy, October 17, 2018

UCM Farm

WARRENSBURG, MO – Development of a new graduate certificate program that University of Central Missouri agriculture faculty members describe as a “win-win” opportunity for high school teachers of dual credit agriculture courses, their students, and the university, is being made possible by a $150,000 federal grant.

Funding was recently awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) - National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) for the project titled “Certified to Teach Agriculture: Graduate Certification for Agriculture Dual Credit Teachers.” Anil Giri, Ph.D., assistant professor, served as the lead investigator of the grant proposal with co-investigator Mark Goodwin, Ph.D., associate professor.

Both Giri and Goodwin are in the agriculture program housed within the School of Natural Sciences in the College of Health, Science, and Technology. According to school chair, Scott Lankford, Ph.D., the work of these university faculty members in securing the grant epitomizes UCM’s commitment to student success and the university’s momentum to become a state leader in building strong higher education-secondary education partnerships that produce graduates who will contribute to a quality Missouri workforce.

Giri said the grant enables UCM to establish two 18-hour graduate certificate programs in animal and plant sciences that are geared specifically to helping high school teachers obtain the graduate-level education they need to meet Higher Learning Commission (HLC) requirements to teach dual credit agriculture classes. By Sept. 21, 2022, high school teachers who are teaching dual credit courses will be required to have a master’s degree in their academic discipline or at least 18 hours of graduate credit in their field.

UCM offers many dual credit courses at high schools across the region. These classes are popular among students because they allow students to earn high school credit while simultaneously earning college credit at a significant discount. This is a valuable option for students who want to get a jump start on their college degree, but it also provides an opportunity for educators to supplement their income by earning additional pay for teaching dual credit courses.

“We determined there was a need for these teachers in ag education and wanted to be a leader in meeting those needs by providing them an opportunity to earn graduate certificate programs,” Giri said. “Since the opportunity cost as well as real cost of earning graduate courses is really high for high school teachers, we wanted to write a grant to provide subsidized graduate courses for high school teachers who do not meet the (HLC) requirements.”

The proposal funded by NIFA creates certificate programs with separate tracks, one in animal science and the other in plant science, all led by UCM faculty. The university will develop and seek approval of these programs from the Missouri Department of Higher Education with plans for the first courses to be offered during the summer 2020.

Goodwin, who is the agriculture faculty liaison with dual credit teachers, said he expects the program to have strong interest among high school teachers who want to obtain credentials that will help them stay on track for career growth and stability.

“They will be taking graduate certification classes with us, and go ahead and teach back in high school,” Goodwin said. “They will take two business courses. Then, depending on track, they will take two animal science or two plant science courses. They also will have a research class and a readings class.”
He pointed out that he currently works with 12 different high school dual credit teachers who are providing agriculture instruction.

“They all will have to meet this 18-hour requirement unless they have sufficient experience, and that’s a pretty rigorous bar to meet,’ Goodwin said.

He added that when agriculture teachers often get a master’s degree, it is typically in the area of agriculture education, and not in a specific discipline such as horticulture or animal science.

“A lot of teachers get agriculture education majors and that’s not discipline-specific and does not meet requirements to teach dual credit in agriculture,” Goodwin said.

The grant helps meet this need. While doing so, it also enables UCM to provide a financial incentive to enable teachers to pursue graduate coursework that benefits them not only in meeting HLC requirements, but as a professional development tool for building their knowledge base.

“Seventy-five percent of the student’s (dual credit teachers enrolled in the master’s certificate program) would be subsidized with grant money, as long as funding is available,” Giri said. He added, however, “This is only for the beginning, and only for a limited number of students. It will help us get the program off the ground.”

About 75-80 percent of the total grant funds will go toward assisting dual credit teachers with their college tuition. Other funding will contribute to course development and covering other overhead expenses associated with this initiative.

Meeting the HLC requirements related to dual credit courses is a nationwide policy. UCM faculty hope the initiative they create could serve as a model for other institutions that want to help agriculture teachers build their higher education credentials.

“This is very unique and we wouldn’t be surprised if this model is followed by other universities across the country,” Giri said.

He added, “All the courses will be taken in summer, which is the only feasible time of the year for high school teachers. The courses also will be offered in a hybrid setting, which are very appealing and efficient aspects of this project.”
 
Giri also noted that the grant will not only benefit agriculture programs at UCM, but will have a positive impact on the university as teachers who complete the certificate program will be more likely to recommend UCM to their students who are seeking a college degree.

During the project, Giri and Goodwin also will conduct research with regard to pedagogy and collect other data and information that will contribute to scholarly articles for professional journals and presentations at professional conferences.

Individuals who have questions about the grant can learn more by contacting Goodwin at 660-543-8113 or sgoodwin@ucmo.edu or Giri at 660-543-8596 or giri@ucmo.edu.

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