Dean John Floros cited optimism in his first State of the College of Agriculture address April 23.
MANHATTAN, Kan. – The College of Agriculture at Kansas State University has experienced significant growth in the number of undergraduate and graduate students, dollars invested in research and private fundraising compared to 10 years ago, and this growth has happened with fewer resources, faculty, staff, and K-State Research and Extension personnel, according to John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension.
In his second year as dean, Floros presented his first State of the College of Agriculture address April 23 on K-State’s Manhattan campus. Compared to 10 years ago, Floros said the college has experienced a 12 percent reduction in faculty, 39 percent reduction in staff and 11 percent reduction in total extension personnel.
The college is doing more with less and remaining successful in many areas to benefit students, the citizens of Kansas and beyond, he said. He believes the college’s future will entertain even more opportunities, which could help propel it to a top-five agricultural college in the United States by 2025.
To reach the 2025 vision, Floros cited four goals, which are part of the college’s strategic plan: provide students and citizens with the knowledge and education needed to lead and advance the global food and agriculture system; contribute integrated solutions for meeting and adapting to the grand challenges in dryland plant, animal and food systems; enhance the quality of life and livelihoods of people and their communities; and build human capacity and infrastructure to meet the vision and goals.
Teaching and learning
In the past five years, K-State’s College of Agriculture has experienced steady growth in student numbers. In 2008, the college had 1,968 undergraduate students and 466 graduate students. In 2013, there were 2,680 undergraduate students and 566 graduate students.
The number of multicultural students in the college has also grown, and Floros said he attributes most of this growth to the college having its own Diversity Programs Office. In 2008, 80 multicultural students resided in the college, and that number more than tripled by 2013 to 255 multicultural students.
As more students have pursued an agricultural degree program at K-State, more scholarships have been awarded, even looking at only the past three years, he said. In the 2010-2011 academic year, students in the college received $871,765 in scholarships, and that number increased to more than $1.3 million in 2013-2014.
“We have more students, and we give more money out,” Floros said. “Is it enough? No. We need to do a lot more fundraising and development, because the need is tremendous. With tuition continuously going up, we will need more.”
K-State’s College of Agriculture also has a high percentage of undergraduate student placements in careers post-graduation. In the last five years, 76 percent were employed after graduation, while 20 percent were seeking further education and 4 percent were looking for jobs.
Floros said much of the success in hands-on teaching and learning is visible in the numerous awards won by competitive student teams, individual undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and faculty members for teaching and advising. As an example, K-State has earned 13 national or regional Excellence in College and University Teaching Awards from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which is more than any other land-grant university in the nation.
“The type of education we deliver in every department is not necessarily the type of education you would find in the average agricultural college out there,” he said. “It’s a lot of hands-on experience, in the lab, in the greenhouse and at the farm. We have the facilities, faculty and culture to do that.”
Research and extension
The College of Agriculture, Floros said, is helping to solve many of the grand challenges identified for Kansas by K-State Research and Extension. These challenges include global food systems, water, health, community vitality and developing tomorrow’s leaders.
Extramural awards for research in K-State’s College of Agriculture totaled $40.2 million in fiscal year 2013, up from $28.9 million in 2009. Floros said total research expenditures have steadily increased for the college the last several years, with expenditures around $82 million on an annual basis currently. The expenditures are made possible through competitive funding as well as state and federal funding. This equals more than half of all Kansas State University’s total research expenditures.
The top five research areas in the college, in terms of dollars invested, include beef cattle at $10.9 million, wheat at $7.7 million, swine at $6.4 million, insects and other pests at $5.4 million, and food at $5.3 million. Other subject areas with large research dollar amounts include soil, plants in general, sorghum, grassland and rangeland, grain crops, miscellaneous and new crops, soybeans and water.
Many of the college’s graduate programs are ranked nationally, Floros said, including plant pathology, agricultural economics, animal sciences, entomology, food science and plant sciences. K-State is also home to grain science and industry graduate programs, which are unique throughout the country.
“Our undergraduate teaching is one of the best in the country, and roughly speaking, the majority of our programs are ranked in the top 10 from a graduate research, Ph.D.-level perspective,” he said.
The College of Agriculture is in a position to help find solutions for global food systems, a university-wide initiative, Floros said. Many faculty and students in the college will be working with three new labs for the government’s Feed the Future initiative, established at K-State by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.
The labs, which include the Sorghum and Millet Innovation Lab, Applied Wheat Genomics Innovation Lab, and Reduction of Post-Harvest Loss Innovation Lab, are bringing in more than $27.2 million to the university.
The National Science Foundation in 2013 named Kansas State as its lead institution for the world’s first Industry/University Cooperative Research Center on wheat. K-State’s water research team partnered with three other Texas universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service to form the Ogallala Aquifer Program, which was awarded the 2013 USDA Secretary’s Honor Award.
K-State’s College of Agriculture is also working closely with Australia to partner on two plant biosecurity and soil science research centers. K-State is the first U.S. educational institutional partner for the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, where faculty and students from Australia and Kansas State can learn from one another.
Private fundraising was also up in 2013 for the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension at $9.3 million. This is more than double the amount from 2009, which was $4.4 million. A large part of the fundraising dollars have gone to new facilities for the college, including the O.H. Kruse Feed Technology Innovation Center, Sheep and Meat Goat Center, and Stanley Stout Center as examples.
Floros projected the increase to continue with 2014 as another record-setting year for private fundraising, which will help meet the current and future costs for programs, research, more new facilities and facility upgrades, and other needs of the college.
A video of Floros’ full presentation can be found on the K-State Research and Extension Seminars website, with additional information at websites for the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension.