As part of the CAFNR Experience, undergraduate students in the College have the opportunity to gain real-world skills through hands-on learning.
Those experiences are especially true in the Team and Organizational Leadership course (AG_ED_LD 2260) within the agricultural education degree program. Along with team-building exercises, students enrolled in the course participate in an important service learning component.
Service learning is a key part of the RISE Initiative, part of the CAFNR Strategic Plan, and is defined by campus as experience-based learning that promotes lifelong commitment to social responsibility and public service.
“Employers obviously understand the value of having employees who are comfortable working in a team setting,” said Adam Cletzer, assistant professor and director of student services for agricultural education and leadership. “It’s important that we as professors support undergraduate students within those teams. It’s a skillset that we use a lot in our daily lives, and students do as well, through clubs and organizations, internships, etc.”
Cletzer taught the course this past spring and will do so next spring, after John Tummons, assistant teaching professor, taught the class for a handful of years. The 2260 course follows AG_ED_LD 2250: Introduction to Leadership, which helps students learn more about themselves, their values and where their strengths are.
“The 2260 course takes what the students learn about themselves and helps them apply it to a team setting,” Cletzer said. “We study group dynamics, group decisions and why working in a team matters.”
Along with the normal lecture, students participate in laboratory exercises. Students also have to identify a student organization or workplace that they’re a part of and analyze the group based on what they’ve learned in the course. Students then write recommendations like a consultant.
The service learning part of the course has four to five students team up and develop their own project that focuses on community service. Examples of projects include students working with MU Adventure Club, Coyote Hill and sending cards to military veterans.
“It’s important for our students to understand what community service is all about,” Cletzer added. “It makes the course and the work they’re doing more real. This isn’t an abstract project. They’re doing the work for someone else, which I think gives them a bit more motivation.”
Cletzer said he has plans revamp the course slightly this coming spring. He said among those changes, he would like to make the groups a tad bigger, just so that students have the opportunity to see how larger group dynamics play out.
“Teams are complicated, and I think it’s important for our students to see that,” Cletzer said. “We want our students to have the content to succeed, but also the context as well. I think that makes it more meaningful instead of a philosophical discussion.”