Story by Anissa Zagonel, master’s student
A little over a year ago, Dr. Gaea (Wimmer) Hock (’03, ’06) and Dr. Jonathan Ulmer joined the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education as agricultural education faculty.
Throughout the past year, these two have been busy preparing students to go back into the classroom as teachers, adding technology into their projects, and igniting positive change within the program. One prominent change they are working on together, with the help of instructor Brandie Disberger, is to revise the agricultural education curriculum credit hours and add three new courses to the program.
In addition to teaching courses, Hock also offers opportunities for students to conduct undergraduate research projects regarding agricultural education and FFA programs in the state. Furthermore, she intends to lead a study abroad trip to the Czech Republic in the future.
The agricultural education program has more opportunities than ever, and students are noticing.
“The agricultural education program is up right now. I believe we have seven or more new and transfer students than last year,” says Ulmer. “We’re looking to maintain that number and even grow more through the recruiting that Brandie has done over the past few years.”
The faculty are diligently working to fill the lack of agricultural education teachers in the state.
“In May, 15 of our 20 graduating seniors took ag teaching jobs, which is why I do what I do,” says Hock. “I’m proud of all of my students, but I like seeing them go into the classroom.”
In the spring, the same student teachers also participated in an agricultural education and corn industry tour – something Ulmer notes as his favorite memory from the past year.
“It was really enjoyable to interact with the students while they were student teaching, but in a less formal way,” says Ulmer.
For those alumni taking the first job out of college, whether it be teaching or something else, Ulmer emphasizes to keep an open mind.
“Reports, processes, and systems might seem different than what you are used to, but they can have very positive benefits, if you are willing to look for them,” says Ulmer.
Similarly, Hock urges students and alumni to take advantage and be open to all opportunities presented to them. She says to try to say yes more often than no because those are the opportunities that can influence your career success later on.
“If I wouldn’t have said ‘yes’ to go get my PhD, I don’t think I would’ve been able to come back and get the job I have now,” says Hock. “After several years away, it’s surreal to be back at my alma mater as a faculty member and still feel the family connection I felt as an undergrad back in 1999 when I started at K-State.”