Kansas State University’s College of Agriculture aims to be a top-five agricultural college in the United States by 2025, and in collaboration with K-State Research and Extension, it intends to continue serving as a global destination for education, research and extension. Reaching this feat not only would benefit the university, but it would benefit the citizens of Kansas and beyond with immediate solutions to needs in agricultural production.
Agriculture is Kansas’ largest economic driver, as it contributes $53 billion to the Kansas economy and is the state’s largest employer, said John Floros, dean of the college and director of K-State Research and Extension.
In his third year as dean, Floros presented his second annual State of the College of Agriculture address March 25 on K-State’s Manhattan campus. He discussed celebrating successes that are getting the college closer to a top-five agricultural college, some of which include growth in the number of students, faculty and staff success, competitive funding, research expenditures, private fundraising, and the college’s national and international reputation.
On the heels of more cuts in state funding, the college has been able to counter these budget cuts and embrace change, Floros said. Aside from the amount of state funding available, all other numbers continue to go up, which is why he is optimistic that the college will continue to experience success in the future.
“K-State will remain here, but change will happen,” Floros said. “We will have to change, and if we are ahead of change and anticipate it, we are better off. Let’s anticipate budget cuts and figure out ways to counter those.”
Teaching and learning
K-State’s College of Agriculture has experienced steady growth in all student metrics. In 2014, the college had 2,780 undergraduate students—525 more than in 2010, which showed 2,255 undergraduates. The number of multicultural students in the college has doubled in the last five to six years, with a total of 291 in 2014. This means more than 10 percent of undergraduate students are multicultural.
Floros reported 695 undergraduate students call states other than Kansas home. These students represent 44 other states. Eighty-three undergraduates come from 19 other countries.
The college is nearly equal in the number of male and female undergraduates: males at 51 percent and females at 49 percent. Along with higher student enrollment, there has been an increase of 54 percent in scholarships provided in the last four years. Scholarships awarded in 2014-15 totaled $1.34 million.
Nearly all undergraduate students find jobs following graduation or pursue graduate degrees. The college has a 97 percent placement rate for students in jobs or a graduate education.
“It’s an exciting time to be a student in the College of Agriculture,” Floros said. “Every time I talk to our students that excitement comes through.”
Graduate students in the College of Agriculture are also on the rise. In 2014, there were 590 graduate students compared to 481 in 2010. Floros called this a huge success that helps the college meet its teaching, research and extension goals.
K-State’s Collegiate Crops Judging Team recently won its sixth straight national championship, and in fact, it has won 13 of the last 16 championships. In its first year competing, K-State’s Agronomy Forage Bowl Team won the national competition in 2015. Students are studying abroad in countries all over the world such as Argentina, Brazil, Ireland, France, India, South Africa, Spain and Japan.
Research and extension
The College of Agriculture, with K-State Research and Extension, have identified and are working toward solving five grand challenges for Kansas, which include global food systems, water, health, community vitality and developing tomorrow’s leaders. Other colleges at the university also are helping improve the livelihoods of Kansans in finding solutions to these challenges.
Floros recognized the college’s work across the state to help farmers make better management and farm policy decisions. Kansas State continues to develop the top wheat varieties used by Kansas’ farmers. A fungal genetics center that moved to K-State last fall will help the Department of Plant Pathology and wheat breeding programs continue to become more successful.
Plant Pathology is one of the several nationally ranked programs from K-State’s College of Agriculture. In fact, the Department of Plant Pathology is ranked No. 1 nationally. The agricultural economics program comes in at No. 4, interdepartmental food science at No. 9 and plant sciences at No. 10.
The animal science doctoral program for research productivity recently received a No. 5 national ranking, and the entomology doctoral program has been ranked No. 8. The Department of Grain Sciences and Industry at K-State is unique, Floros said, as there is no other department like it anywhere else.
Extramural awards for research in K-State’s College of Agriculture totaled $46.3 million in fiscal year 2014, which has increased steadily the last few years from $23.8 million in 2011. Floros said total K-State Research and Extension expenditures were at $142 million in 2014, an increase of 8 million from 2011 and 17 million from 2010.
Many faculty and students in the College of Agriculture are working with new programs funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. These four new Feed the Future Innovation Labs were funded in total by $102.2 million. The labs focus on research surrounding sorghum and millet, applied wheat genomics, postharvest loss reduction and sustainable intensification. Only Kansas State and the University of California-Davis have received four such new USAID labs.
Top K-State faculty members specializing in agricultural related areas continue to be recognized nationally and internationally with awards in teaching and research. Many are also selected to lead national organizations related to horticulture, weed science and entomology, as examples.
Private fundraising also was up in 2014 for the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension at $14.5 million. This is more than triple the amount from 2009, which was $4.4 million. Increases in private fundraising will help meet the current and future costs for programs, research, new facilities and facility upgrades, and other needs of the college.
“The bottom line remains that we need new facilities,” Floros said. “We need new state-of-the-art labs, teaching facilities, extension facilities and distance education facilities. We have to push for this happening now. We need to prioritize our needs.”