April 23, 2018

Buena Vista University has approved the launch of a new Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Management. The institute marks the University’s next phase of academic and co-curricular programming growth under President Joshua D. Merchant. 

“The ever-changing landscape of the agricultural industry presents ample opportunity for highly-skilled jobs,” said Merchant. “We believe that the institute will serve as a pathway for students to study and work in a field that’s so integral to the Midwest and to our state. It is an opportunity to be reflective of our region’s needs and to deepen and build mutually beneficial partnerships with the agricultural community.” 

To manage the institute, BVU is seeking applicants for the position of director of the BVU Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Management. Specifically, the University seeks to hire a “dynamic, knowledgeable, and entrepreneurial individual” who will oversee the institute’s creation, growth, and management. The director will work closely with industry leaders and BVU faculty to develop new business, science, and interdisciplinary academic and co-curricular programs.

“We believe that the institute will serve as a pathway for students to study and work in a field that’s so integral to the Midwest and to our state. It is an opportunity to be reflective of our region’s needs and to deepen and build mutually beneficial partnerships with the agricultural community.”

BVU President Joshua D. Merchant

“I am excited about the agricultural business and science programs,” said Dr. Brian Lenzmeier, provost and vice president for academic affairs at BVU. “They are going to be designed with the intent of arming BVU students with the academic and professional skills necessary to be successful in a rapidly changing and highly technological work environment. These programs will allow BVU to serve students who are committed to enriching our rural heritage and helping our communities flourish.” 

The announcement of the institute aligns with recent and emerging trends showing there is high demand for college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study entitled, “Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment, United States, 2015-2020,” that states there will be an average of more than 57,000 annual job openings in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable resources and the environment. Of those, approximately 46 percent will be in management and business positions. 

“We anticipate that graduates from BVU’s agricultural business programs will have job offers long prior to graduation,” said Lisa Kesting Best, interim dean of the Harold Walter Siebens School of Business at BVU. “The business faculty are working closely with professionals from across the ag industry to build a strong ag business administration degree which will include substantive training in the functional areas of ag business, applied training from professionals in the industry, an introduction to ag science and operations, development of skills employers find most valuable, and ample opportunities for students to apply their knowledge.” 

According to Mike Frantz, vice president for enrollment management at BVU, admissions trends also show an increased interest in agriculture and rural entrepreneurship programs. “We certainly have evidence, primarily from recruiters and coaches both here in Storm Lake and at our sites, that there is a demand for ag-related degrees. Since we haven’t offered those previously, that’s a part of the market we have not been able to attract.” 

The ultimate goal is for the new programs to be available to all BVU students, including those who attend BVU’s locations across the state. One of the top tasks of the new director of the Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Management will be to work closely with BVU’s community college partner institutions to develop articulation agreements for agriculture-based degree completion programs. 

“Agriculture is key in driving the economy in our region, and BVU’s new Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Management enhances that importance,” said Valerie Newhouse, president of Iowa Lakes Community College, which is one of BVU’s partner institutions. “Technology is driving the future of agriculture and initiatives such as this are significant for growth. Iowa Lakes Community College looks forward to the new pathway our agriculture students will have when transferring.” 

The University’s goal is to have the institute and new programs in place by the fall 2019 semester.  

The Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Resource Management

The institute's aim is to offer cutting-edge programs that will equip students with the skills needed to address some of the world’s most pressing agricultural challenges.