One year ago, 13 Bachelor of Science in Equine and Ranch Management graduates walked across the stage, culminating a unique journey as the first ever bachelor’s degree graduates from Feather River College. Only 15 community colleges offered an applied bachelor’s degree as part of a statewide pilot program, and this has proven to be a successful venture from both the quality of education and the employment obtained by the first class of graduates. The following provides a glimpse into the current status of the first FRC bachelor’s degree students one year after graduation.
Starting a new bachelor’s degree program
The initial cohort in 2016 began with 25 students, consisting of 21 who began at the junior level having met lower-division prerequisites and four students who began at the freshman level. Out of the 21 junior students from the initial class that started in Fall 2016, 13 graduated two years later, three are on track to graduate next year, and five withdrew or transferred to another institution.
When the pilot program began, the question was asked “Why should community colleges offer a bachelor’s degree?” This is a fair question and the response includes the fact that community college bachelor’s degrees are technical in nature and not available at any CSU or UC campus. They are also necessary to fill unmet needs in the workforce, as demonstrated by the hiring of recent graduates.
The students in the initial cohort learned how to develop a ranch and manage livestock. They were successful with both artificial insemination and embryo implants in cattle. They helped birth, raise, and sell high-end breeding stock. They learned about beef composition, horse training, small business, government regulations, environmental concerns, water rights, and a multitude of other aspects in running a ranch.
Summer internships and training occurred at feedlots, championship training facilities, cattle associations that track specific genetics, bee-keeping operations, and dude ranches. Required courses included chemistry, accounting, technical writing, and environmental studies, in addition to equine and cattle-specific classes.
Where are the graduates one year later?
Ten of the graduates are working directly in the agricultural industry, mostly in higher-level positions, including a few small business owners. Two are working in a non-agricultural field and a third graduate is not working while she is expecting a child.
Three graduates have employment in the agricultural financial industry with titles ranging from Farm Loan Officer, Accountant or Member Service Representative for Entrepreneurial/Developing Agriculture Businesses. All three of these individuals report they are happy with their employment and one responded there is opportunity to advance in her current position due to the degree. Two said they are involved in entrepreneurial consulting for start-up agricultural businesses.
Another three graduates landed jobs that include support to obtain a master’s degree or further agricultural training. Their jobs include Livestock Research Technician, Office Technician/Ranch Hand at Veterinary Hospital and Ranch, and Horse Specialist at a therapy business for individuals with trauma, disabilities, or other brain injuries. One specifically mentioned that the FRC summer internship led to the permanent employment offer.
Four additional graduates are working directly with equine operations with job titles such as Stable Assistant Manager, Performance Horse Ranch Hand, Horse Trainer/Barn Manager, or Owner/Manager/Horse Trainer. One reported back that her FRC training has prepared her to compete for National and World titles in Team Penning and Sorting. Another specifically mentioned that a promotion was expected soon as the skills learned in the program are highly valued by the employer.
One graduate commented,
I can’t believe it’s already been a year since we graduated! Please inform Dr. Trutna, as well as the rest of the FRC staff, that I am forever grateful for what the program provided us. I take a lot of pride in telling people where I’m from, and I hope things are continuing to grow. Keep up the good work!
I began working here in July 2018. On January 1, 2019 I was promoted to a position that includes benefits and an opportunity to pursue a master’s degree.
In my position, I am expected to meet a wide range of responsibilities that correlate with that of a working ranch and a scientific research station. We work with research faculty, as well as other affiliates throughout Montana’s agricultural community to conduct research to advance the agricultural industry.
I hope to continue building upon the skill sets, knowledge, and horsemanship traits FRC helped provide me.
In summary, three of the graduates are now small business owners or consultants for small businesses, while seven work directly with livestock. Seven of the graduates are working in California, two work in Montana, two in Washington, one in Arizona, and one resides in Nevada.
The success of the first year graduates at FRC speaks for itself. The education they obtained prepared the students to directly enter agricultural leadership positions in the workforce. In a few weeks, another cohort of students will walk across the graduation stage with the second class of bachelor’s degree students. FRC will report on their achievements in the future for this positive and successful statewide program.