Kansas State University


Department of Communications and Agricultural Education

Graduate Student Check-in

Story by Jennifer Ray, second year master’s student

As you may know, the communications and agricultural education department is now home to graduate students pursuing master’s degrees through both on-campus and distance programs. You may be less familiar with how quickly the program is growing and what kind of issues students are working to solve. Here is a brief update.


The agricultural education and communication master’s degree program was approved in spring 2012. There are eight graduate teaching and research assistants in the department and one student on assistantship through the Dean’s office. 14 students are taking courses through the distance program. The program has two alumni and four students on track to graduate May 2015. Student assistants include Kansas State University alumni and graduates from California Polytechnic State University, North Dakota State University, Texas Tech University, and the University of Florida.

Front Row (Left to right): Scott Stebner, Danielle Holladay; Back Row: Cassie Wandersee, Jessie Topp, Jennifer Ray, Katie Rohling and Audrey Holderness

On-Campus Activity

The student assistants collaborate to balance teaching responsibilities, research projects and those “other duties as needed,” along with individual coursework and thesis research. In addition to department faculty, students work with faculty in throughout the colleges of Agriculture, Business Administration and Education.

Regional and National Activity

Students interact and network with professionals across the United States through conferences, webinars, and research projects. In June 2014, graduate students attended the annual Association for Communication Excellence in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences (ACE) conference in Portland, Oregon. Audrey Holderness, Scott Stebner and Jennifer Ray presented research posters. Jessie Topp and Scott Stebner presented their paper, “Pinned Perfect: An exploratory study on how Pinterest is utilized in agriculture.” Following a positive response, Topp and Stebner went on to produce and deliver educational webinars related to their research. Their paper will be published in the Journal of Applied Communication (JAC).

Buddy McKendree is a graduate student with a focus on agricultural education. In May 2014, McKendree presented a poster about curriculum enhancements at the Shiga Toxin E. coli Coordinated Agricultural Project (STEC CAP) annual conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a contributor to the STEC CAP grant, McKendree has helped facilitate hands-on workshops showing current agricultural educators how to teach food science in a project-based, meaningful way. He is now exploring the effectiveness of the curriculum by assessing how teachers have implemented it in their own classrooms.

Current Projects

Students are conducting a variety of research projects:

Social Media:

  • Exploring rural and urban garden centers use of social media marketing,
  • Coordinating an on-going content analysis of the agricultural industry’s presence on Pinterest,
  • Exploring the agritourism experiences of food and family bloggers,
  • Exploring agricultural educators’ use and implementation of self-regulated learning strategies,
  • Analysis of undergraduate students’ research experiences,
  • Assessing how a structured study abroad program influences  student’s knowledge of agriculture, culture, and communications in Ireland,
Agricultural Production:
  • Examining how companies in the food system utilize sustainability reports,
  • Exploring how researchers, farmers, beekeepers and pesticide applicators characterize the causes and mitigating factors of Colony Collapse Disorder,
  • Conducting an inventory of extension materials from the Southern Great Plains related to grazing and climate change,
  • Identifying barriers and social constraints related to the adoption of grazing best management practices,
  • Developing curriculum and educational materials related to agriculture and climate change,
Organizational Communication:
  • Conducting an external communication audit of K-State Research and Extension,
  • Assessing internal perceptions of the K-State Research and Extension brand, and
  • Analyzing land-grant university marketing strategies

Graduate students are also involved in communicating with you, alumni and friends. If you have any feedback on how the department can better reach out and engage with you, please send a message to Jennifer Ray at jlray@ksu.edu or leave us a comment here on the page.

One thought on “Graduate Student Check-in
  1. Great to see you all have the newsletter. Looks like it has been a good move to combine Ag Education and the Communications Departments.

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