Last evening WAEF students took part in a special focus group at Central Washington University to provide input on the new agribusiness certificates and degrees the university is proposing. This was one of the exploratory steps University officials were undertaking to determine how to design, package and market these programs to provide the most value to industry and students.
The office of CWU Provost Dr. Katherine Frank spearheaded the effort. WAEF got involved a few months ago when the University was reaching out to industry to determine needs of ag employers. In conversations between WAEF and CWU we identified that one of the hurdles is providing education to potential enrollees about agribusiness and the types of employment opportunities available in this field. At that time, CWU asked if WAEF could help organize a group of our students to provide input.
Five WAEF CWU students participated in the focus group last night led by CWU College of Business assistant professor Claudia Dumitrescu. Her goal was to understand students' interest in an Agribusines Program at CWU. At the onset, she defined for those present that the agribusiness major would cover roles in the food industry from farm to table. Some examples of those roles are marketing, sales, logistics, supply chain management, product management, accounting and more.
Extensive outreach and market research had already occurred in the regional ag sectors to determine needs of employers and potential employment opportunities. This information was presented to students in the form of some potential short and long-term University offerings.
The five WAEF student participants ranged in enrollment from freshmen to seniors. Their career interests included philosophy, STEM education, business, public health and counseling. In all instances, they had one or more parents employed in a tree fruit orchard or warehouse. They represented communities from Tonasket to Yakima.
A variety of questions sparked input from students about what they believed their parents would think of their employment in agriculture, specifics on how they would include an agribusiness specific field certificate in their current degree plans, the importance of returning to their home communities, and their friends' impressions of "work in agriculture". Students also shared about the types of classes that interested them with hands-on, scheduling flexibility, and the opportunity to tour work sites of top interest.
Those of us present from WAEF left excited about the efforts underway at CWU and yet again, thoroughly impressed with WAEF students. WAEF donors should feel proud of the kids you support! Their involvement last evening provided value to the organizers and their comments were insightful, mature and shared with a desire to add to the greater good, not their own needs.
Our thanks to Central Washington University for the efforts they're making to provide opportunities for students and business in central Washington and to WAEF students Amairani Martinez, Edgar Apolinar, Erika Betancourt, Esmeralda Perez and Omar Calderon for attending last evening and helping move forward this endeavor!