Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris
Jim Overhiser teaches the course Science Topics Every Science Teacher Should Know to graduate students in the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Ithaca College. © Ithaca Week 2015, Elizabeth Morris

NOTE: This story was originally published in “Ithaca Week” and then “The Ithaca Voice”

By Elizabeth Morris and Emily Masters

Ithaca College and Cornell University have partnered to offer an agricultural education graduate program, starting next year. The announcement comes at a time of high demand for agricultural educators.

The new cross-university partnership will combine classes from Ithaca’s graduate education program and Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Right now we’re at a critical deficit in the country of agriculture teachers,” said Katie Bigness, coordinator for New York Agriculture in the Classroom.

The need is particularly dire in New York, said Jeff Perry, a senior lecturer at Cornell who will teach courses for the new cross-university partnership.

Within the next decade, Perry said, a significant amount of agricultural educators will retire. Retirements and new programs will fuel six to 10 job openings in high schools across New York each year, he said.

Perry said SUNY Oswego is the only other institution of higher education offering a Masters of Arts in Agricultural Teaching program with teacher certification in New York.

“There aren’t many options for students who really want to stay in the state but really want agriculture education and want teacher certification with it,” said Jeane Copenhaver-Johnson, a faculty member in the Department of Education’s graduate program at Ithaca College.

Ithaca and Cornell already have an articulation agreement allowing Cornell students with an education minor to enroll in Ithaca’s graduate education program, said Linda Hanrahan, the chair of graduate programs in education at Ithaca. The new program extends the agreement to students studying agricultural education.

“What Cornell brings to the table is a long-standing disciplinary expertise in agricultural ed that we just don’t have here [at Ithaca College],” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

“What we offer is this really carefully structured sequence that builds the rest of the teacher educator’s profile and that allows them to be part of an interdisciplinary mix.” said Copenhaver-Johnson.

Students interested in an agricultural education graduate program will enroll in Ithaca College’s Masters of Arts in Teaching program.

The program will primarily funnel Cornell agricultural undergraduates into Ithaca’s 13-month graduate education program, but candidates from other schools can also apply.

Agricultural education students will join other candidates of diverse disciplines in Ithaca’s M.A.T. program.

All education graduate students at Ithaca College take a total of 36-credits, spending the majority of their time taking fundamental teaching courses with candidates of all concentrations.

Nine credits are devoted to continued education in a candidate’s discipline. Agricultural students will fulfill those credits by taking three courses from faculty affiliated with Cornell.

Perry said he will develop one new course, a capstone based on visiting programs across New York State, at Cornell. Students will take existing education courses at Ithaca.

The graduate degree is designed to prepare students to work as agriculture teachers throughout New York and the rest of the country.

“An undergraduate or graduate coming out with teacher certification is also extremely marketable across the agricultural industry. So they then start being pulled into the industry for fairly lucrative salaries plus some really great opportunities,” said Perry.

Hannah Milligan, a senior at Cornell studying animal science and education, said she is thrilled to pursue agricultural education and will apply to the Ithaca graduate program.

“It’s always been something that means a lot to me,” Milligan said. “To be educating younger kids on where their food comes from, how they get it, how to produce, how it’s marketed, things like that.”

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