Mastering the Diversity of Agricultural Education
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” -Robert Frost
For those in search of a career path that can also make a difference, Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture Food and Environmental Sciences has several advanced degree programs, including a Master of Agricultural Education degree (MAGD), offered through the Agricultural Education and Communication Department.
The MAGD program prepares individuals for careers as agricultural educators, specifically at the high school level, and as educational program coordinators, as well as careers at community colleges and extension services.
Recently the MAGD program was condensed to one year, with the option to also become a credentialed agriculture instructor. Cohorts begin in late summer and conclude the following summer. Though this program focuses on preparing individuals for classroom instruction, many students have capitalized on the flexible course structure, which can prepare them for careers in nontraditional agricultural education roles such as broadcast communications, public relations, coaching, and agricultural businesses.
During the 2018-19 school year, nearly one-third of the individuals in the MAGD program planned to either teach at the college level or enter the workforce as a strong contributor to agriculture organizations and companies. MAGD graduates are currently working as high school teachers, college professors, Farm Bureau county directors, graduate assistants, marketing coordinators and commodity board representatives. Additionally, some MAGD graduates continue their education and become education administrators.
The diverse education of the MAGD program teaches students broadly applicable skills, such as teaching methods and styles, content organization and development, and program construction and evaluation techniques. Students not pursuing a credential have the freedom to conduct individual research studies, participate in internships, and even create their own businesses.
MAGD alumnus Chad Porter began his own business as part of his MAGD studies. Porter incorporated his mushroom business into Whistle Stop Farm, a one-acre farm that he describes as a “highly diversified, part-time business that focuses on gourmet mushrooms, no-till heirloom vegetables, and a small permaculture orchard.”
Porter said the flexibility of the program enabled his business development. “By defining my own projects and curriculum, the MAGD program provided me with the ability to experiment through trial and error.” Those opportunities, he said, allowed him to build confidence and explore business ideas. “Without the courses and support from the faculty, I would not have the knowledge or confidence to pursue these ventures.”
Another MAGD graduate, Ryanne Tracy, said her time with the program enabled her to capitalize on rodeo interests. While working as a graduate student, Tracy fully developed two business plans for Cal Poly Rodeo Team events. As part of her internship, she designed a stadium business plan for the annual Poly Royal Rodeo held in Spanos Stadium during spring, and a business plan for the Polly Dolly Breakaway Roping event in the fall.
“The best part of this program is that all the professors cater their coursework and assignments to be applicable to my interests and career goals,” Tracy said.
From businesses and collegiate programming to teaching, MAGD graduates are testaments to the success of the program and to the Agricultural Education and Communication Department’s commitment to student success. Kacey Cadwell, another recent graduate of the program, is teaching high school agriculture at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas, California.
She said the MAGD program and the department supported her through challenges and promoted agricultural education as one of the most rewarding careers available. She summed it up by recalling her favorite saying by one of her professors, “You don’t have to do this, you get to do this.”