The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences sows rewarding careers
By Amy Loeffler
Once college graduates turn their mortarboard tassels to the left, they must turn their academic training into practical experience. But bridging the gap between college life and a career is something students who graduate from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences are well-prepared for, and it’s a process that begins the moment students set foot on campus.
“We do so much more than just educate our students about the topics they are studying, be it human nutrition, soil chemistry, international trade, and food science,” said Susan Sumner, associate dean and director of academic programs.
We prepare students for the many rewarding careers awaiting them by giving them hands-on, experiential learning programs that enrich and deepen their knowledge. – Susan Sumner, associate dean and director of academic programs
Katie Harver holds bachelor’s (2009) and master’s (2011) degrees in crop and soil environmental sciences. Harver is a forage and wildlife specialist with Pennington Seed Company and was well-prepared for her career by the classroom and field training she had at the college.
“Virginia Tech provided me with an integrated approach to education that has served me well in my career,” said Harver, 28, of Dunlap, Tennessee. “By providing the base technical knowledge through coursework and hands-on experiences, I was able to confidently enter the workforce.”
Kristen DeAngelis could never have guessed where her career path would go when she graduated in 2013 with a degree in human nutrition, foods, and exercise. Today she is a registered dietitian and travels the world to assist her clients as a personal trainer and nutrition coach focused on health and wellness.
There are many ways in which the college prepares students as soon as they arrive in Blacksburg.
Every freshman participates in a First Year Experience, a one-credit course designed to promote a multidisciplinary perspective. Students engage in the discovery process through research assignments, learn to work independently and in a group, and participate in a final poster session.
For example, Anderson King, a first-year agribusiness major from Berryville, Virginia, worked on a project that examined organic versus conventional livestock farming techniques and the nutritional value of those products.
Students are also encouraged to participate in global education programs, where they experience and learn about environmental and resource challenges that affect populations across the globe.
Small classes allow for discussions and mentoring relationships, while ample opportunities exist for undergraduate students to conduct laboratory research alongside world-class researchers. Capstone experiences give seniors the chance to apply what they have learned in an internship environment, further preparing them for the working world.
“At Virginia Tech I was encouraged to seek knowledge and experience both inside and outside of a formal classroom setting,” said Brad Copenhaver, a 2012 graduate with dual degrees in agricultural and applied economics and political science. Copenhaver is now the director of government affairs at the Virginia Agribusiness Council.
Sumner credits the bright future of industries related to agriculture and the life sciences to the exceptional group of graduates going out into the world with every graduation ceremony.
“We are doing nothing short of preparing the next generation of leaders,” Sumner said.