New Iowa State agricultural communication major approved for fall 2023 semester

Mike Retallick
Mike Retallick

Innovative and interdisciplinary program expected to see growth

AMES, IA – The Iowa Board of Regents approved a new undergraduate major – Bachelor of Science in agricultural communication – in Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on April 20. The interdisciplinary major received strong support throughout the approval process and is expected to be a popular choice for future students. The major debuts in August with the university’s new catalog.

Housed in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies, the new major will offer core coursework in foundational agricultural communication. Students will have the flexibility to choose pathways in agriculture and various communication courses, including those from Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.

“Students can take advantage of the best courses all over campus to build the agricultural communication program of their choice,” said Virginia Hanson, associate teaching professor in agricultural education and studies. “Our ideal location in central Iowa also positions students well for learning outside the classroom with endless opportunities connected to our agricultural industry.”

Virginia Hanson
Virginia Hanson

Students in the major will be required to participate in field experiences and internships to gain hands-on experience and enhance their educational training.

Previously, students interested in agricultural communication could enroll in the communication option within the agriculture and life sciences education major. The new major will offer additional credits of coursework, providing students with critical knowledge and skills to communicate about agriculture with diverse audiences.

Job placement for agricultural and life sciences – communication option graduates has remained at 99% for the last five years. Demand for individuals to fill agricultural communication-related roles is expected to remain high in the coming years.

“The demand for ag communication students, especially in the digital marketing space, has been incredibly strong over the last two years,” said Mike Gaul, director of career services in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Our office has seen impressive opportunities for full-time positions and internships at the corporate, commodity group, agency and non-profit levels.”

Current Iowa State students are already interested in the major, especially those involved in the university’s Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club. The club hosts industry speakers at its monthly meetings and publishes an agricultural magazine each semester. Logan Schmitt, senior in agricultural and life sciences education – communication option, and international agriculture, said the new major will provide “momentum and motivation” for the club’s officer team as they work to implement new opportunities for members.

“It’s an exciting time for ag comm students and faculty! Establishing agricultural communications as its own major will put Iowa State University students at industry standard with other universities,” Schmitt said. “As President of the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow Club, I am extremely eager to see how this will impact club membership and alumni support.”

In addition to support from the Greenlee School, the marketing, communication studies and English departments submitted letters of support for the new major. The proposal passed unanimously in Iowa State’s Faculty Senate.

“The demand for professionals who can communicate about agricultural science and its related issues through effective means has never been greater,” said Hanson, who also serves on the Faculty Senate. “This process reminded us that many expert faculty on campus want to be a part of helping to meet that need.”

Implementing an agricultural communication-specific major has long been the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies’ goal.

“We are so pleased the agricultural communication major has been approved, and we can begin enrolling students in it,” said Mike Retallick, Department of Agricultural Education and Studies chair. “Preparing students in our department with the skills necessary to go out and find success communicating about agriculture- and life sciences-related topics has always been our priority. This new major will allow us to continue that effort and expose our students to the latest practices and technologies in agricultural communication.”