For years, the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) has opened the doors of its Agricultural Research Centers to thousands of high school students to showcase its research, programs and academic opportunities. Referred to as Agricultural Education Days, these events also give students an idea of what future careers they can seek with a degree related to agriculture, food and natural resources.
Because of the focus on careers, CAFNR rebranded these events this year as Career Exploration Days, moving away from the Agricultural Education Days moniker.
“We felt like Agricultural Education was too narrow of a descriptor for these great events,” said Shibu Jose, CAFNR’s interim associate dean for research. “If you attend these events and see what’s going on, the focus is on educating high school students about the career opportunities in agriculture, food and natural resources. The various speakers represent the careers that the students can strive for as college students.”
The Career Exploration Days feature numerous CAFNR faculty and staff, as well as several MU Extension specialists. At times, local businesses are asked to participate as well.
“Our Extension specialists love to tell young people about their work and the impact of the University of Missouri; they don’t take it for granted,” said Rob Kallenbach, interim associate dean, Agriculture and Environment Extension. “Introducing students to careers in agriculture and natural resources and developing the next generation of leaders is a big part of our job.”
CAFNR’s Research Centers offer area farmers and producers region-specific information and data. Because the sites are spread throughout the state, each Center does unique research. The Career Exploration Days showcase how that uniqueness translates into possible careers.
The Office of Academic Programs in CAFNR also gets an opportunity to engage with prospective students during the Career Exploration Days. The team gets a chance to talk about the entire CAFNR experience. The Career Exploration Days are just one of the ways that the Office of Academic Programs promotes the CAFNR experience to high school students. They also host a CAFNR Visit Day where 250 students have the opportunity for significant interaction with CAFNR’s degree programs and divisions.
“Students have very broad interests when it comes to future careers, so it’s exciting to showcase the degrees that CAFNR offers and provide students a jumping-in point to begin their preparations for those careers,” said Bryan Garton, senior associate dean and director of academic programs. “The Career Exploration Days are important for our office, as we get to interact with numerous students and teachers all at once.”
The Research Centers, located throughout the state, host an average of 7,000 students from nearly 200 high schools during these events each year.
“We get to show off all three of our mission areas – academics, research and Extension – to the next generation of professionals,” Jose said. “The students get to see our research and how it is applied in the real world, as well as how we impact that specific geographic area where the Center is located. These Career Exploration Days are so rewarding for us in CAFNR. It’s the perfect opportunity to show all that we do.”