November 12, 2015
By Hank Bounds
President, University of Nebraska
This month we are celebrating an important milestone within the University of Nebraska. The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, our two-year college of access and opportunity in Curtis, is turning 50. That’s a half-century of providing students with access to affordable, high-quality programs that meet vital workforce needs and advance Nebraska’s most important industry.
I’ve visited NCTA several times since becoming president, and each time I’m impressed. First of all, being on campus is like walking down memory lane. I grew up on a family farm in Mississippi and graduated from a small agricultural high school there – where, incidentally, we were also called the Aggies. So I feel at home in Curtis, a warm and welcoming community that has been a champion of the college since its early days.
As we celebrate its 50th anniversary, there’s never been a better time to be an NCTA Aggie. The energy of the students, the talents of the faculty and the feeling of momentum on campus are difficult to describe. I encourage Nebraskans to visit the college themselves to get a firsthand sense of the excitement there. NCTA’s continued success will play an important role in our goal for the University of Nebraska to be a giant in higher education, doing even more to serve students and people across our state.
When it launched in 1965, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture had no state appropriation and offered two programs – agricultural machinery and agricultural drafting – to 31 students. From those humble beginnings, the college has grown into a unique and valuable Nebraska institution, offering a range of programs in agriculture, veterinary education and related disciplines to a record 500-plus students.
“NCTA has tremendous potential to continue to expand opportunities for students and advance agricultural innovation. With a growing global population that will require twice as much food by 2050, the need for a highly skilled agricultural workforce is as urgent as it has ever been.”
Investments by the Legislature and generous donors have made impressive physical growth possible, including new facilities for education and student life that are enhancing the learning experience. An infusion of state funding provided by the Legislature and Governor in the last legislative session will further advance NCTA’s quality, allowing the college to hire a veterinarian and provide more competitive faculty salaries that will help attract and retain top talent. We are grateful to policymakers for their support.
Innovative public-private partnerships are leveraging university and industry expertise for the benefit of students and Nebraska’s economy. A new irrigation technician concentration, the result of a collaboration between NCTA and Reinke Manufacturing Co., will prepare students to meet modern irrigation needs. NCTA’s Agronomy Scholars program opens internship opportunities for students at leading companies like Ag Valley Coop and Cargill. The Heifer Link Program allows students to own a donated heifer during their academic career, then leave school owning a bred heifer, giving them a significant advantage in the challenging process of building a herd.
And the college has found creative ways to expand its reach. A new urban agriculture program offers Omaha residents the opportunity to learn about horticulture and farm production. The nationally recognized “Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots” program helps members of the military transition into farming and ranching careers after their service. Those are just a few examples.
NCTA is succeeding in workforce development. When I participated in NCTA’s commencement ceremonies this spring, every student I talked to had a job lined up. Not only that, but they’re able to begin their careers without overwhelming debt: Most NCTA students receive financial aid, making the college’s competitive tuition rates even more affordable.
The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture has tremendous potential to continue to expand opportunities for students and advance agricultural innovation. With a growing global population that will require twice as much food by 2050, the need for a highly skilled agricultural workforce is as urgent as it has ever been. NCTA will play an important role in meeting that need.
Congratulations to the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture on its first 50 years of success. I’m excited to see what the next 50 bring.