On the first day of his 11th year as the president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College back on July 1, Dr. David Bridges said his number one goal for the year was to add agricultural education to the lineup of bachelor’s degrees on the ABAC campus.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia recently gave its approval for ABAC to offer a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in agricultural education at its regular monthly meeting in Atlanta.
“The State of Georgia has had a deficit of vocational agriculture teachers for 30 years,” Bridges said. “Thanks to the positive vote from the Board of Regents, we are now in a unique position to provide a solution to that problem.”
ABAC introduced bachelor’s degrees to its curriculum in 2008 when 42 students began taking junior and senior level classes. The number of students enrolled in bachelor’s degrees at ABAC now exceeds 1,800 of the total ABAC enrollment of 3,477 students.
“We are uniquely different from any other state college in the University System,” Bridges said. “The other state colleges have a limited number of typical bachelor’s programs, such as education, business, or the liberal arts.
“We have those too but ABAC has national name recognition unique programs in agriculture, natural resources, and rural studies, and a biology program that prepares students for a professional field of study. We also have a beautiful rural campus and modern housing which allows us to attract students from all over the world.”
Dr. Jerry Baker, Dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources at ABAC, said the primary goal of the degree is “to achieve and maintain a level of graduate production and job placement to contribute to the sustainability of agricultural education programs in Georgia’s middle and high schools.”
Baker said the new degree is “designed for students who desire to teach agricultural education in secondary schools or pursue other careers as educational specialists for industry, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
“We currently have 107 students at ABAC who have expressed an interest in pursuing the Ag Ed major,” Baker said.
“We are excited about the addition of this new program to our other excellent degrees. We have seen growth in our programs because our graduates have good skills, and they are prepared for the work force.”
Bridges said the agricultural education major fits in perfectly with the new ABAC strategic plan, titled “Destination ABAC.”
“As Georgia’s Agricultural State College, our focus is on programs in agriculture and natural resource management that prepare students for careers in Georgia’s leading industry, which has always been agriculture,” Bridges said.
“ABAC’s existing degrees in agriculture and ag-related fields provide a strong infrastructure on which to build a premier agricultural education program to help provide needed professionals in an important area of the state’s work force.”
ABAC now offers bachelor’s degrees in agriculture, biology, business and economic development, nursing, environmental horticulture, natural resource management including tracks in forestry and wildlife, and rural studies including tracks in writing and communication, politics and modern cultures, social and community development and ag communication.