32 studying agriculture through MSU at SMC

Published 11:29 am Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Southwestern Michigan College’s 32 agriculture students through Michigan State University are 65 percent traditional students coming straight out of high school, average age 22.8, Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties advisors heard recently at their meeting on the Dowagiac campus.

Spring enrollment includes 14 agricultural operations majors, seven studying fruit and vegetable crop management, six in applied horse science, four in landscape management and one in viticulture.

Sixty-three percent work at least part-time — 44 percent in agriculture.

Forty-four percent of students are male, unless the all-female online applied horse science program is excluded. Then, 54 percent of students are male — same as spring 2015, before MSU moved to Dowagiac from Lake Michigan College.

“We have really flip-flopped,” said Stacey Rocklin, MSU’s advisor at SMC. “Before, the program was mostly non-traditional students. Our first non-traditional student will graduate this fall. He will finish both the MSU certificate and the SMC associate degree. He did his internship last summer. He worked at Lowe’s for 10 years and transitioned from there to where his internship is and has a fulltime job now.

“I have 10 students looking at doing an internship this summer. Five have their positions set. They know where they are going. The other five are at various points of figuring that out. This fall we’ll have somebody from Jackson coming into this program who will live in the dorms.”

Bill Grabemeyer, who farms with son-in-law Joel Layman, said, “We’re currently in discussion with one of the students about an internship.”

“Our applied horse science program is the first one in the state,” Rocklin said. “We are the pilot program, which is kind of cool. We also have an agriculture club which started this fall as an SMC initiative. Students are also starting a collegiate FFA chapter. We had some guest speakers in the fall. Now, we’re transitioning to a student-run club.”

“On Friday, May 6, all off-campus programs are coming together on MSU’s campus, breaking students into their different majors to meet some instructors they don’t see face to face. We’re also going to Spartan Stadium and the MSU Dairy Store.”

Three students accompanied Rocklin to the inaugural Cass County “conservation conversation” Feb. 12 about natural resources collaboration opportunities.

“All three said they want the person from Friends of the St. Joseph River to be a guest speaker,” Rocklin said. “We talked to him and he’s more than willing. It looks like our students will be able to get into a contest to help write a grant, then go to elementary schools and help teach younger kids about conservation.”

Edwardsburg’s Dan Stutsman, president of Cass County Farm Bureau, invited everyone to the ice cream social Memorial Day weekend at Sparks Cedarlee dairy farm on Gards Prairie Road.

“We had 900 people last year,” said Stutsman, who studied business management at SMC. “We’d like to see a lot of SMC students out there. The farm is going organic.”

“It’s wonderful to have everyone here. I’ve been involved with this program since it was at Lake Michigan College,” Joanne Davidhizar of MSU Extension said. “It’s good to see so many supporters and people who inspired new programs. You people are innovators. Southwestern Michigan College has supported us so well.”

When Rocklin prepares her annual March report, “It’s a whole different picture than a year ago. I expect it to grow until we’re managing 50 to 60 students. Other off-campus programs don’t have 60. SMC went to rock star in half a year.”

Advisors next meet Nov. 10.

Southwestern Michigan College is a public, residential and commuter, community college, founded in 1964. The college averages in the top 10 percent nationally for student academic success based upon the National Community College Benchmark Project. Southwestern Michigan College strives to be the college of first choice, to provide the programs and services to meet the needs of students, and to serve our community. The college is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and is a member of the American Association of Community Colleges.