NORFOLK, NE - For the past five years, faculty in the Northeast Community College Ag Department have been consistently stressing key concepts to their students across all ag programs.Corinne Morris, dean of agriculture, math and science at Northeast, said the concepts are those things important throughout agriculture, including risk management, profitability, safety, professionalism and communication, and stewardship and water management. The effort is called TAC – Themes Across the Curriculum.
“Students learn best by repetition,” Morris said. “They don’t just learn about these concepts once and pass a test.”
The discussions on TAC began in 2013 among members of the Ag Advisory Committee, a group of area producers and agri-businessmen who provide guidance for the Ag Department. Committee members spoke of helping Northeast be the leader in producing competent workers for the agriculture industry, those who understand current ag themes, act in a professional manner, and are good communicators.
“Communication skills are what employers ask for more than anything,” Morris said. “Students are reminded to make eye contact, to use the language of business and words that everyone will understand, not the latest slang terms.”
TAC also stresses professional dress and behavior.
“It is simple things like carrying a clean pair of shoes in their vehicle,” Morris said. “Students might not think about that if their job requires that they be both outside and inside.”
Risk management is another one of the TAC themes.
“Risk management touches so many areas,” Morris explained. “Agriculture is always at the mercy of the weather. Diversity is good risk management on the farm, and risk management is a big part of managing a business.”
Morris said the ag faculty discuss these themes each summer during their curriculum meeting. They are always reviewing essential skills and how best to present those in class. The issues and behaviors covered in TAC can be adjusted to meet current employer needs.
TAC may be one of the best kept secrets at Northeast, Morris said.
“Students are not necessarily aware of the conscious effort to promote these ideas,” she said, “but employers are starting to notice. We get emails and other comments that refer to our students as very knowledgeable. When Northeast ag students speak, people are often impressed.”
She said the college’s farm partners have also noticed that students ask better questions and provide more complete answers since TAC was implemented.
Morris said she would like to make the TAC program more visible, perhaps with posters or other visual reminders for students in the hallways. She said that TAC is just one of the ways the Northeast ag faculty continue to raise the bar for Northeast students.