By Cassidy Reeh
ABAC now offers a degree in Writing and Communications with a minor in Agriculture. The new degree is similar to an Ag Communications degree that may be offered at larger universities — but better.
As the first upperclassman to declare the major, I can tell you that you won’t find anything greater. This is a wonderful option for students who have a passion for agriculture, but love writing and communications.
Some students may be searching for the right program, but just haven’t found it yet. This is the degree that has finally created a bridge between agriculture and liberal arts. It is perfect for students who have great writing and communications skill, but want to be a part of the agriculture industry.
Colleges like ABAC are the last of a dying breed. They can offer an in-depth knowledge of many different agriculture fields, and prepare you to succeed in the industry much better than many others.
At ABAC, the professors teaching the Ag classes most often have experience in the field and are able to teach you things that you won’t learn from a book.
It is especially important for a Writing and Communication major with a minor in Agriculture to have this kind of knowledge handed down. It gives our students a head start on the competition because they can better communicate and relate to their audiences who may spend each day working in the field.
For writers and communicators, it is very important to be able to address an audience and connect with them. Students with this degree focus will have the ability to gain the trust of a wider variety of audiences and employers because they are more knowledgeable about everyday agriculture and also well educated in writing and communications.
ABAC students will beat less fortunate students —from much larger universities — out of a job much more often than not because we have the kind of knowledge that not many others offer.
By Teresa Padgett
I am a Rural Studies Student. My concentration is Politics and Modern Cultures. This program had given me the opportunity to find my interests in how I can better my local community.
I have started a club on campus for students who want to help their local community, whether it is near or far. The focus of the club is eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable developments.
It is the goal of the club to support the buying-local movement, farmer’s markets, and spark interest in creating business opportunities for those who choose the rural life.
We have studied the effects of the ‘rural brain-drain’ due to young people leaving rural areas for the opportunities of urban life. Many people enjoy unique coffee shops, farmer’s markets and specialty cafes and are fine with living in a city but there are those who like back home but also want the perks of the city.
I think this program is a great way to link up students with ideas for creating that market here in the rural place. When you are creating your own business in something you love, in a place you love, it’s a win-win.
I often tell my professors about a webpage called LiveGreenTennessee.com. There are so many ideas on that site of how you can revive the rural place and its eco-friendly, sustainable businesses.
I have a great vision for this program and it is so linked to the eco-friendly, sustainable lifestyle that the club represents. It is my hope to show what this program has to offer and how it is connected to something more than what some call a ‘niche market.’
I attended the Georgia Organics Conference at Jekyll this year and I saw so many connections between what I have learned already in the program and what they do. I had Public Policy with Amy Howell, last semester. We studied some of the policies of the Farm Bill. She always said listen for these, you will hear them again.
Well, I did at the conference. I took a workshop on Farm to Table in schools, and Farm Bill information. If you are interested in rural life, you don’t have to be a farmer to enjoy this program or get a great education out of it.
There is something for you, even if you have to create it yourself.
ABAC’s four-year Rural Studies Degree is morphing, shaping itself into new forms based on its surroundings and the people driving it.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Writing and Communications concentration of the Rural Studies degree, where the new agriculture minor has added a broader dimension to the program. The ag minor was first offered this year, and five people have already signed up, said Dr. Bobbie Robinson, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. Last week, she had three sign up in one day. On Monday, she expects one more.
“It’s a very, very strong program, and I think it’s going to be the star in the crown of the Rural Studies degree,” Robinson said.
Looking back, the agriculture minor seems a perfect match for the Rural Studies concentration in Writing and Communication. But when the Rural Studies program was conceived in 2009, Writing and Communication was hidden beneath an umbrella called “Arts and Culture.” A year later, Writing and Communication emerged as its own concentration with a vision of preparing students for jobs involving grant writing, public relations and human communications.
But a true marriage of agriculture and communications did not occur until fall of 2013, when Cassidy Reeh became a Rural Studies Writing and Communications major with a minor in agriculture.
Robinson says the degree is now beginning to attract students with a passion for agriculture who do not see themselves as production farmers. The Rural Studies degree now offers them a new path to remain in the industry, and some of the top students are taking that path.
“These students are some of the best students I’ve ever advised,” Robinson said about the enrollees.
However, agriculture is just one of the success stories of the Writing and Communication focus. It now has 23 students enrolled, and six will graduate this semester.
They have moved onto graduate school or jobs in government and industry. For instance, Robin Padick, who graduated last spring, became a flight attendant with Delta Airlines just this month.
Writing and Communications majors have obtained internships with many organizations, including Wiregrass Farmers Market, Georgia Backroads Magazine, Ruth’s Cottage and Gin Creek. Weekly newspapers, small literary presses, non-profit organizations and governments have sought them out. One student hopes to spend this summer interning with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Students are allowed to complete up to three internships for class credit. Robinson said the internships allow students to apply the skills they have gained in class as well as to test their love for the industries they have chosen. Robinson says the internships energize the students and the program.
“Students come back from the internships committed and focused on what they are doing,” Robinson said.
The internships have also helped shape the program. For instance, Robinson pointed out that many student interns found themselves asked to work on their organization’s promotional and funding efforts. That need gave rise to classes in grant writing and document design.
The Writing and Communication concentration also provides the writing and analytic skills needed by students who plan to attend graduate school. They have moved onto graduate programs in English, history and other specialties.
Robinson is now working on designing programs that could help ABAC retain students in the two-year arts and music programs. Although Arts and Culture was once the dominant theme of the program, creating a Rural Studies degree path that leads to jobs in music or arts presents great challenge. Robinson is optimistic and committed, however.
“I think the future is terrific,” she said. “This really is the most interesting academic work I’ve ever done.”
Representative Jay Roberts of Tifton (front left) with Dr. Joe Njoroge ( front right) and students of ABAC during the Georgia General Assembly. Students in attendance were Lisa Adkins, Mizell Allen, Olivia Kline, Josh Little, Julia Smith and Russell Zirkle III, as well as Dr. Hans Schmeisser and Catherine Funk
When Dr. Joe Njoroge arrived at the Georgia state capitol in Atlanta in early March, he knew he’d hear “whereas this” and “whereas that.” But he didn’t expect the whereases to be directed at ABAC.
Njoroge, the leading professor in ABAC’s Politics and Modern Culture concentration of the Rural Studies program, was leading a tour of Georgia House and Senate for political science students. The visit had been set up by Andrew Smith, a Rural Studies student now serving an internship with the office of the Senate Minority Leader.
Smith had worked with Senate leaders to draft a special resolution:
“WHEREAS, ABAC also embraces Georgia's search for solutions for issues facing our rural areas with its program in rural studies, which continues to send highly skilled graduates into 26 government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local businesses; and
WHEREAS, among these include, Illya Copeland of the City of Ashburn, Sara Ervin of the United States Senate's Agriculture Committee, Devin Gibbs of Magnolia Manor in Americus, Stacy Ladson of the City of Forsyth's Main Street Authority, Ashley Morris of the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Economic Development Authority, and Andrew Smith of the Office of State Senator Steve Henson;…”
The Senate went on to unanimously resolve to congratulate ABAC for its past successes, and look forward to its continued accomplishments. A plaque commemorating the resolution was delivered to ABAC President David Bridges.
But Andrew Smith was the hidden star of the day. “He’s letting lawmakers know what excellent degree programs we offer at ABAC,” Njoroge said. “He’s really, really doing a good job for us.”
And Smith’s representation is just the beginning. He will be the first bachelor’s degree graduate of the Politics and Modern Culture concentration of Rural Studies. But 10 more students have entered the program, even though the concentration is still in its first year.
The concentration is designed to attract students who, in the past, would have left ABAC to study pre-law, history or political science at another university. “Many are interested in attending law school,” Njoroge said. “We help them put together a group of courses that will be more competitive.”
The concentration has a strong component in public policy that helps prepare students to work in local, state and federal government. But the program is well-rounded because of the interdisciplinary requirements of the Rural Studies degree, particularly the work they must do in writing and communication.
In addition, the emphasis on internships helps students find jobs. As with all Rural Studies degrees, the curriculum allows for up to three internships plus a practicum.
“Andrew [Smith] is a good example,” Njoroge said. “He wanted to work with state government. He got internships. He created a network. People are reaching out to him already. It looks like he will have a job offer.”
Njoroge said the emphasis on government studies and history courses will help students who want government jobs by giving them a firm understanding of government policy and institutions.
The faculty in politics and modern culture, which include Dr. Hans Schmeisser, Dr. James Galt-Brown, Dr. Russell Pryor and Mouyyed Hassouna, is “very strong,” Njoroge said.
He sees four reasons why students choose the Politics and Modern Culture concentration at ABAC rather than attend larger institutions. First, he said, the low professor to student ratio is very attractive, so students get more personal attention and direct interaction with top professors. Second, many students prefer to remain closer to home.
Third, the cost of education is very competitive compared to state universities, and fourth, some students join the concentration during the first two years because they have already developed strong relationships with professors. “Some tell us they love ABAC professors and that gives them great motivation to stay here,” Njoroge says.
The goal of the Politics and Modern Culture concentration of the Rural Studies degree is to grow the program in two ways. Njoroge will continue to emphasize the ability of ABAC’s program to prepare students for law school, graduate school and real-world jobs.
But he is also beginning to recruit incoming freshmen who approach ABAC as their primary higher education destination and place they intend to spend four years.
For example, Njoroge took a group of ACCEL students from Moultrie on this month’s trip to the state capitol. When the Georgia Senate recognized ABAC for its Rural Studies degree, it was a clear signal to those high school students that ABAC is no longer just a stepping stone to a four-year school.
“We really offer students a great opportunity,” Njoroge said.
Shelby Evans, Meaghan Kling, and Prue Benson
The Rural Studies Program is one of the most diverse programs available at ABAC. Possibilities are practically endless with a Rural Studies degree. Whether students are seeking immediate employment after graduation or looking to get into a graduate program, Rural Studies has the versatility to accommodate.
All of that possibility and versatility is wonderful, and maybe a bit overwhelming. To help navigate and understand life after graduating with a Rural Studies degree, past students discuss how the Rural Studies program shaped their lives, and built the foundation for future careers.
Jordan Gill, Writing and Communication
Jordan Gill graduated with a degree in Rural Studies Writing and Communications degree and is now a graduate student at Valdosta State University. Gill is eager to credit the Rural Studies program for her acceptance into graduate school. She was even told that it was rare for a student to be accepted straight out of college, but because of the Rural Studies program she had a lot of real world experience.
Gill did several internships, working at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture and with the Alzheimer’s Association. “If it hadn’t of been for the [internships] I wouldn’t have had anything to put on my application.” Thanks to the Rural Studies program, Gill was able to be invested and involved with the community. While interning, she frequently edited, advised, and wrote for a variety of purposes.
Gill was then able to use her experience to present herself as a unique and worthy candidate for graduate school. She also spoke on how unique the Rural Studies program is. “I guarantee you I was the only person that was applying to the English program that was a Rural Studies major.” She went on to explain how there are several Southern Study majors, but very few Rural Studies majors. “I was able to use Rural Studies to make me stand out.”
Jordan says that the Rural Studies program and the classes that went along with it gave her a different perspective on writing, something unique and appealing for a graduate program. Jordan was even able to travel to Nicaragua with ABAC and the Rural Studies program. She repeated multiple times that the trip was the highlight of her life.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Jordan. Jordan talked of her first plane ride and her experience in Nicaragua excitedly. While in Nicaragua students were able to learn ways to sustain a community. The students worked closely with ERSLA, a program focused on community sustainability, which includes maintaining a clean water system and ensuring well-built homes.
Jordan added gratefully, “I would have never [gone to Nicaragua] without the Rural Studies program.” Jordan was able to make great connections while in the Rural Studies program. Not only was she able to travel with the program, but she was also able to make valuable and lasting connections with faculty, professors, and other students. Jordan says she misses the feeling of home and community that ABAC provided.
“I love ABAC,” she said. She went on to say that ABAC and the Rural Studies program prepared her for graduate school. For others, she said, the Rural Studies program prepared them for a wide range of employment opportunities.
Jordan expressed her amazement of how many Rural Studies majors had very different jobs. Jordan’s final note on the Rural Studies program was simple and concise, “It prepares you for life.”
Elisabeth O'Quinn, Business
Elisabeth O’Quinn graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in Rural Studies Business and Economic Development. Elisabeth is currently employed at ABAC at the Stafford School of Business.
O’Quinn was quick to list off all the things she enjoyed while she was a student at ABAC. Among her many praises there were three prominent factors as a student she was grateful for: small class sizes, interpersonal relationships with faculty, and the use hands-on learning.
“In really about every class we had to do some type of presentation, some type of project.” O’Quinn said that the hands-on learning style was perfect for her. Most enjoyable were projects that worked within the community. “The experience I got in [the Rural Studies] program really helped me a lot, especially deciding what I want to do with my career.”
O’Quinn said she was a bit skeptical about the Rural Studies program at first, but because of it she was able to find a career. “Probably the most valuable lesson I learned [while in the Rural Studies program] was to just do your best. You never know who is watching. You never know who you're coming in contact with. Also, to be professional, which kind of connects to that.”
O’Quinn took a practicum with a class where she had to have 15 hours practical experience with an organization and the Georgia Peanut Commission was the one she chose. After completing the 15 hours need for the practicum, she was called by the Commission and told that they needed an intern. After an interview, O’Quinn was able to work part-time while in school.
Her next internship was with the Stafford School of Business. After interning for a while, O’Quinn applied for a full-time job at the Stafford School of Business. Soon after the interview she was hired to work full-time. O’Quinn speaks fondly of her job. “I like being behind the scenes. I do a lot of projects with Stafford Hall, get to plan events like the Manna Drop, which is a type of food drive we do.”
Despite the transition from student to staff, O’Quinn says she still gets involved with the community and students at ABAC. “I get to do a lot with this position.”
For O’Quinn, the Rural Studies program was a balance between school and community projects, which gave her the experience she needed for employment, and for building a career. Along the way she was able to become a part of a tightknit community, composed of faculty, staff, students, and leaders in the community.
Devin Gibbs, Writing and Communications
Devin Gibbs, Director of Communications at Magnolia Manor, a nonprofit senior care center, left ABAC with a story that I can relate too. “I usually tell people first that I 'accidentally' ended up in the Rural Studies program. I had tried nearly everything else that ABAC had to offer.”
Gibbs, like so many among us, approached college with a general idea of where she wanted to go in life, just not how to get there. She hesitantly gave the (at the time) new Rural Studies Program a shot, “I was worried that the program would be another failed attempt at finding my place at ABAC, but I was wrong on so many levels.”
Gibbs says that, in general, the purpose of college is to make you think, but the Rural Studies program “capitalizes on that and helps you to think independently about real world problems that we are facing now and will continue to face in the future.”
Currently, Gibbs is the Director of Communications at Magnolia Manor and she says that when she came to ABAC she knew she wanted to work with seniors. “I thought that I needed to be in the nursing program to achieve the kind of career I wanted, but I quickly realized that the nursing side wasn’t for me.”
With communications she gets the same satisfaction and opportunity of hearing individual stories, something that genuinely fascinates her, without forming such close ties with them, something she struggled with in the nursing program.
Gibbs claims that, like with every job, there are pitfalls. “The challenge is changing people’s opinions about us,” the Magnolia Manor staffer said.
However, with the Rural Studies program she learned the skills needed to spearhead not only the positive aspects of work but the negative as well. “If I need to do research, I can because Dr. Njoroge taught me how. If I need to write something eloquent, I can because Dr. Newberry and Dr. Giles taught me how.
If I need to be more understanding of someone and their situation, I can because my study abroad trips to Nicaragua and India taught me how. I could go on and on, but for every challenge I come up against all the way down to interoffice communications I can think of a peer, a professor, or an advisor, that taught me how to handle that situation.”
Ashley Morris, Business and Economic Development
Ashley Morris majored in Rural Studies Business and Economic Development and is now the Executive Director at the Fitzgerald-Ben Hill County Development Authority.
“The Rural Studies program has helped prepare me for my career field by teaching me an appreciation for the rural community, even more so than what I initially had.” Ashley is openly appreciative of the Rural Studies program and the people she met while a student. Specifically, Professor Earl Denham guided her and helped her gain practical experience in economic development. “[Practical experience] certainly helped me in terms of understanding terminology, statewide programs, and really having that basic book knowledge of economic development that you need to be successful in the economic development field.”
While in school, Ashley was able to have several internships that each gave her contacts to people in the economic development field. Even now she has working relationships with people she once worked with or met while interning. “I also did an internship through one of my rural studies classes with the Tift Regional Medical Center Foundation," she said.
It was a two-month internship that taught Ashley a lot about dedication and the wide variety of jobs available in the economic development field. Ashley’s internships got her into the community, where she could see in-person the effect that economic development has on people.
After graduating, Ashley continued to intern to maintain a current understanding of her work and to gain more experience. Through her internships after school Ashley was able to establish a career in a field she cares for. When Ashley first started college, “I did not know what economic development was and how it touched every sector of my life.”
Ashley continued, “I started taking two rural studies classes and fell in love with them.” Ashley then explained what economic development was. “Economic development encompasses so many different parts.”
She explained that economic development was about recruiting industry and recruiting business. “For a community economic development is the economic engine for your community.” Economic development includes, but is not limited to, tourism, recruiting retail, and bettering a community’s infrastructure.
“If you don’t have a lot of jobs in your community you don't have a lot of retail and retail touches your life every single day, jobs touches your life every single day and tourism indirectly touches your life every single day.”
Ashley’s average work day is unpredictable. “No two days are the same ever.” Ashley is definitely not complaining either; it’s clear that she loves her job because of its unpredictable nature as well as how it directly assists the community.
For future Rural Studies students who are feeling a bit timid, Ashley advises to give a couple classes a try, talk to the professors in the field that interests you, and talk to current students in that field.
Specifically, for economic development considerers Ashley says, “Economic development has so many parts that it fits a lot of people.” There is a place for the outgoing, for the shy, for the math-minded, for anyone.
As for the future of the Rural Studies program, Ashley is happy to see how far the program has grown even since she left. “I’m excited to see [the Rural Studies program] continue to grow.”
By Matthew Reid
Like many students in the Social and Community Development concentration of Rural Studies, Canesta Hicks knew she was interested in helping people, but she wasn’t sure exactly what to do.
Then, as Dean Darby Sewell tells the story, Hicks began a practicum with Literacy Volunteers of Tifton. “Through experience, she found what she’s passionate about,” Sewell said. “She saw she had a passion for working with adults who can’t read.”
The organization kept Hicks on and provided her with extensive experience in the literacy. Now she’s considering graduate work in adult education. The practical work makes her education more meaningful. And by the time she finishes her education, she’ll have as much experience in the field as many already working there.
“What’s wonderful about the program is the practical experience they’re able to get,” said Sewell. That has been one of the reasons the Social and Community Development concentration has grown to 27 students.
The concentration attracts students interested in course work in education, psychology, sociology and public administration who, in the past, would have sought degrees at other universities. However, they see at ABAC the opportunity for work their way into the field.
“One of the great things about the program is that students come from a variety of interests and disciplines, and the program can be tailored to what their end goal is,” said Sewell. For instance, because of community needs in economic development and grant writing, the program been able to develop strong components in both those areas.
Some grads move directly into the work force, as did Jessica Cone, membership manager of the Tift County Chamber of Commerce. Others aim toward graduate school. Rosa Miranda, who will graduate in May, is applying for three graduate programs and hopes to continue her training in sociology or American family therapy, Sewell said.
Many students are gravitating toward mental health and public health, in part because of the program’s partnership with the Albany Health Education Center , where some have done their practicums.
A panel of professionals recently spoke to graduates about how to enter the helping professions. They told students that they didn’t need a straight psychology or sociology degree to get a job as a social worker, counselor or public health employee. Experience counts, and that’s what the ABAC program offers.
Sewell said the best recruiters for the Social and Community Development concentration have been the students and graduates themselves. “The feedback has been very positive about what [graduates] left ABAC with,” Sewell said.
“Over the next two years, we’ll have more graduates out there. They’ll have stories to tell about their path,” Sewell said. As she has been doing for the past five years, she’ll tweak the program based on those stories, making sure it fits the needs of the graduates and their employers.
She’s confident the concentration will continue to grow based on the positive experiences of those who have blazed the trail for Rural Studies and Social and Community Development.
By Matthew Reid
Last week, five students from the Stafford School of Business competed in a business case competition at the Small Business Development Center in Atlanta. The business plan competition saw 12 schools vying for eight spots in the finals to be held next month.
Susan Driscoll, Dean of the Stafford School of Business, says the outcome of the event was a surprise to everyone there but ABAC. “Of all the schools, we were definitely the smallest in size and stature,” Driscoll said.
Those who competed included teams from Georgia Tech, Emory, Georgia, Georgia Southern and West Georgia. Lindsay Partridge, JT Ramsey, Gabby Hernandez, Allison Burke and Elizabeth O’Quinn represented ABAC, guiding the Stallions to the finals and beating out many major colleges.
The results of the Small Business Development Competition continues to show the growth experienced by the business school over the past couple years.
“When we first got here, the curriculum for the bachelor’s degree was very focused on economic development with not as much emphasis on general business management,” Driscoll said. “One thing we’ve accomplished is really good expansion of the curriculum. Private sector and public sector are both being covered in the curriculum now.”
The size of the curriculum isn’t the only thing that saw growth with the Driscoll’s arrival. Until 2012, the enrollment of the business school was in decline, reaching around 250 students at its lowest point. With enrollment now at 315, the business school is continuing growth seen by many of the other schools across campus.
“We anticipate we will be close to 400 next fall,” Driscoll said. “Where most of the growth is coming from is in students pursuing their bachelor’s degree. “
In addition to all of the changes and growth, the Stafford School of Business has started a popular speaker series which focuses on giving students that extra real world experience by talking with businessmen from around the country.
From former Navy Seal Coleman Ruiz to a former businessman turned former felon Aaron Beam, the Driscolls have offered a wide range of opportunities for students to ask questions to players in their field.
One of the student’s favorites was David Salyers, VP of marketing for Chick-Fil-A. The Stafford School of Business’s marketing class along with some of the Alpha Beta Gamma students will be traveling to the Chick-Fil-A cooperate headquarters in Atlanta in April to see a major company’s marketing office first hand.
“A lot of our classes had speakers,” Driscoll said. “All of our professors have embraced the idea of trying to bring real-world examples into the classroom.”
A few business school students also received a tour of Deer Run Plantation, a farm and ranch owned by former chairman of the Coca-Cola Company Doug Ivester.
“What was really cool about that trip was sitting down to lunch with Doug,” Driscoll said. “It’s not very often that a college student gets to ask any question they want to a guy that ran one of the world’s largest companies.”
These students also visited the world headquarters of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.
“Our goal is in four to five years from now to have 200 in each class, so a total of 800 students,” Driscoll said. “We just need to continue to evolve with the business world and to make sure we’re bringing in the new technologies, we’re continuing to have them have the chance to network with business people and to keep tweaking it to where they really are prepared for life when they come out of this school.”
By Shelby Evans
I have a prepared statement for people who mock my school.
If I feel like someone is even thinking about criticizing ABAC I tell them, “You’re welcome.” You’re welcome for the food on your plate and the clothes on your back because the people at my school know how to make the things you need to live.
That’s completely true, and when my momentary opponents realize that, they don’t have much else to say.
But I should probably admit something, I’m not one of the students that learn how to grow crops and properly care for animals. My main argument could easily be used against me; luckily it hasn’t yet. When I have to explain that I’m a Rural Studies major, I need to have an even better explanation of my presence at an agricultural college. But first I have to know, what is Rural Studies?
“Rural Studies is probably the most flexible, nimble interdisciplinary program on this campus,” Dr. Bobbie Robinson, Dean of The School of Liberal Arts, said, “and what the focus of it is actually two-fold.”
Robinson explained that on one hand the Rural Studies program’s focus is to take students who are interested in revitalizing rural communities and teach them how to get back into those communities after school to work from a knowledge base to help rural communities thrive and prosper.
On the other hand, the Rural Studies program is able to prepare students interested in working within a corporate world or government world where important decisions are made about rural communities.
“There may be next to no contact between that corporation or that government agency and the real rural world,” said Robinson. Rural Studies students can bridge the gap between those two, sometimes distant worlds. “We are training students to be liaisons between the rural and the distant professional.”
The Rural Studies program also works to adequately prepare students for graduate school. “[There is a] very broad based preparation for graduate school or, as I said, for working to help revive and make rural communities thrive again or to be the intermediary between decision makers in [rural] areas.”
According to Earl Denham, Assistant Professor for the Stafford School of Business, “[Rural Studies is] looking at the systems that we have, systems meaning quality of life living in a rural environment, what’s available in a rural environment, what opportunities do we have in a rural environment and the benefits, and what can be done to sustain our [rural communities and rural lifestyle.]”
Denham explained further that students in the Rural Studies program are able to understand what is happening in a rural community and see that there are opportunities for them to contribute to rural communities.
“I see it more as a modernist vision of America, one in which there’s still the possibility of expansionism of growth, of being more than you were in the last decade,” Dr. Thomas Grant, Assistant Professor of Journalism, said, “rather than a post-modernist view that most colleges have, in which we’re talking about trying to do more with less.”
Grant explained that Rural Studies symbolized what rural communities are based on, a perspective of independence and self-reliance. The Rural Studies program and the type of community it represents appreciate finding opportunity and “bootstrapping.”
“There’s that ability of people to make a world where they didn’t have a world before, so there’s a pioneering spirit within Rural Studies,” said Grant.
With a pioneering spirit comes an entrepreneurial spirit. Dr. Grant suggests that other people may see life after college as simply getting a job, but Rural Studies students see it as, “How am I going to prepare to make my way in the world?” and not, “How am I going to prepare myself to become a cog is someone else's machine?”
“Maybe that’s a subtle difference,” says Dr. Grant, “but I think that’s a significant attitude change.”
There is this idea of a system of working hard, making good grades, and getting a corporate job that will take care of you for the rest of your life. “But if you go back to our agrarian roots, and ABAC rises out of those agrarian roots, we have a world in which
one has to plant their own seeds, till their own soil, and then market their own goods. That’s a very self-reliant, a very independent, a very courageous kind of world they lived in. As we moved into the industrial age we’ve changed our attitudes about that.”
Rural Studies encourages students to embrace that agrarian philosophy of self-determination. “We are making [the Rural Studies program] very practical, so a large portion of your education is going to be out working with other people, and we are going to prepare you to work in places where you will have to make your own way.”
Grant went on to say that students who are capable of paving their own way are what industries are looking for, even what they need. “The monolithic organizations that used to hire people and care for them for their life are falling apart.”
The agrarian, pioneering, and entrepreneurial spirit does not guarantee job security for life. “You have to be self-reliant. You have to have your own skills, your own ability to see how to make things happen. And that’s what I think Rural Studies is about,” Grant said.
He addressed the fact that after graduation there are several possibilities for Rural Studies students. All of those possibilities include making your own space within a community.
“You might create your own space by going to school here, getting a couple internships with some community development organizations, and then getting out [into the community] identifying needs, building organizations. When people come out of ABAC, especially in small towns, they’re not going to be worker-bee followers; they’re going to have to be the leaders,” he said.
After graduation, Dr. Grant asks, what is ABAC seeing? Students are getting community development jobs or economic development jobs or communications jobs or working for small companies, where it’s important for them to help those communities grow. Students are getting political jobs; politics is always entrepreneurial. “They should feel confident to make their own way because they’ve made their own way here.”
Rural Studies is hard to explain because it is so broad and all encompassing. But that’s also what makes it so appealing. People enter the Rural Studies program as students and leave as leaders. Independence and self-reliance are easy for Rural Studies graduates because they had to establish themselves not only in school, but out in the real world, in their own communities.
As Robinson said, Rural Studies majors can revitalize communities, bridge gaps between the rural and the decision makers, and/or prepare for graduate school. As Denham said, Rural Studies students learn to seek, create, and take opportunities to contribute to their communities. And, as Grant said, Rural Studies students understand independence and possibility.
So despite the fact that I don’t have a direct relationship with agriculture, I have a place at ABAC. Rural Studies for me is different from every one of my peers, but it is for me and it is for them. Rural Studies is a shapeless mold, fit for anyone willing to learn, gain experience, and lead.
Because of ABAC and Rural Studies, I notice and appreciate my rural surroundings. I like that when I drive onto campus calves run alongside my car while nonchalant mothers pay me no attention. I like that when I look out of my car window, wide expansive fields greet me. I like that there is a history of independence and strength in my community and I get to be a part of that. My peers and I get to be a part of a better future for our rural community and for the rural world.
So if anyone asks, I’ll tell them, “Rural Studies is growing the future.”
I have a problem with jumping into the sheets too quickly with guys and then those relationships never go anywhere, but I feel like if I don’t go to bed with them they won’t hang around much longer anyways. How do I find a balance between things?
Dear Miss Trust,
This is turning into a more and more common problem as sex is becoming more casual. The hardest thing for you to do is to break your pattern. You must address the signs you are giving off that are allowing guys to think you are a one night stand, especially on the first date.
I know it’s tempting after dinner and a few drinks and he asks you to stay at his place, but you must prevail. A kiss good night and turning away will eventually tell you one of two things, either he was worth saying no and he will call back and take you seriously, or he was worth saying no to because he never called because he couldn’t get into your pants.
Give it at least a month before you sleep with a guy, but only if you know where your relationship is going. If you're still unsure if he is serious then don’t sleep with him.
Have a question? Need advice? Ask away!
The Stallion is the award winning student operated newspaper of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.