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Is College Worth It? 
By Dean Caula Beyl, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

As I travel across the state and visit with alumni, I am gratified when they recall their time in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) while working on a degree with misty-eyed affection and profound gratitude for the opportunity they were given. What gives them the sense and absolute conviction that their degrees were worth every bit of effort to achieve?

A survey of 30,000 college graduates tried to determine what made those graduates “engaged in their work and thriving in their purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being” (Gallup-Purdue). Much of their satisfaction and enhanced quality of life following graduation depended on “who made the most of their higher education experience as students” and who had experienced as many of what the Gallup survey is calling the “Big Six” experiences while in college. These experiences have emerged as being the most important indicators of later success and happiness as well as satisfaction with life.

The first two factors were having a “professor who made them excited about learning” and a “professor who cared about them as a person.” CASNR values its family culture and just like a large family that is close, the members care for and value each other. A very large supportive network is created by the caring faculty, staff, and even students themselves. Most of our professors entered careers in agricultural and natural resource related disciplines not as a default, but as a deliberate choice driven by passion and a deep abiding respect for what is meant by the land-grant mission. They are truly eager to share this excitement, and their enthusiasm is truly infectious.

A third factor is a “mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams,” and our CASNR faculty are certainly every bit of that. As both mentors and advisors, faculty help students fit their talents and interests with career areas. They also provide the tough love necessary to steer students whose first career aspirations are not likely to be successful (sometimes due to a strong disinclination for math or chemistry) into career areas where they can thrive and be productive.

The fourth factor was students who had “worked on a long-term project.” These could be a variety of things and in the case of CASNR, long term projects could take the form of independent study projects, undergraduate research, honors projects, biweekly work or work-study, and guided volunteer activity. In some cases, the long term project was life counseling to keep the student focused in spite of life’s challenges and keep them in school. The fifth factor was “a job or internship where they applied what they were learning” and in the case of CASNR students, I believe that the most important interpretation of this is have experiential learning that applied what you have been learning. Experiential learning is at the core of what we do in the college and whether that takes the form of laboratory exercises, undergraduate research, internships, service learning, or even an international experience, students quickly find out that what they learn in class has real-world relevance. This results in a sense of immediate satisfaction and impacts their sense of well-being long after graduation.

The sixth and last factor was having been “extremely involved in extra-curricular activities.” CASNR is rich in the diversity of opportunities and activities available to its students no matter what their interest or their major from fishing to equine activity to marketing to construction. There is something for the most competitive as we have many judging and discipline-specific teams, as well as professional associations and honor societies. Each year, CASNR hosts an engagement fair for all the student organizations (thirty or more) to showcase what they are about and recruit members.

The findings of this survey have a strong message for all of us. Professors, continue to share your passion and expertise, advise and mentor your students, and enthusiastically engage them in real-life experiences. Students, make the most of your time with us. Take advantage of internship opportunities, go on international travel, do undergraduate research, join a club, and embrace your life in CASNR with both hands! Do these things and know that you will benefit, both professionally and personally, for the rest of your life!