A Short Course by Satellite
South Dakota State University created a cattlemen's satellite short course as a distance learning program for people involved in the cow-calf phase of beef production. This program was conceived by the Cooperative Extension Service and consisted of 15 90-minute seminars broadcast via satellite on a biweekly basis to sites in 46 states and 2 Canadian provinces. Approximately two-thirds of each broadcast was devoted to lecture and one-third was devoted to questions that were either phoned or faxed in from viewers. A facilitator at each regional site coordinated the local meetings and assisted group discussions and interactions. Seminars were augmented with handouts and correspondence mailed to participants between seminars. The format allowed for many of the topics to be presented during the same time frame that viewers were making decisions on the farm or ranch regarding those issues. Viewer surveys reflected that 60 percent of the participants were cattle producers, 24 percent were involved in some form of agribusiness (banking, veterinary medicine, sales, marketing), and 16 percent were extension personnel.
and food system problems. Collaborative efforts in both teaching and research, and designing courses that fill both college and science or college and humanities requirements are ways to strengthen these linkages (see Chapter 3, Teaching). Greater integration of agricultural and resource economics programs with general economics programs, of biotechnology programs in colleges of agriculture with those in medical schools and other units, and of the plant sciences with botany, are examples of situations in which greater integration promises to have a high payoff.
The USDA's NRI program has been an important (in fact, the only formal) means of drawing scientists from outside the colleges' experiment stations into agricultural research, broadening the science base, and expanding the opportunities for collaborative research between experiment station and other scientists (National Research Council, 1994a). The extension component of the LGCA system also has an important role in building bridges between the college of agriculture and the rest of the university. Over the years, extension's programs have extended into nonfarm areas, reaching out to low-income consumers to provide nutrition education and to rural and nonrural communities to provide services in economic, community, and human development (see Chapter 4, Extension). The knowledge base for these programs may lie outside the college of agriculture, offering the opportunity to draw other components of the university into outreach and public service efforts coordinated or led by the college of agriculture, or by central extension offices with strong participation by colleges of agriculture.
The partnership between the colleges of agriculture and the federal government also calls for attention and enhancement. The importance of the federal partner as a funding source was highlighted during the economic recessions that struck many states in recent years. During the 1987–1992 period, for example, federal funding of LGCA, forestry schools, and veterinary medicine college research (including support from competitive and special research grants as well as formula funds) grew 10 percent per year, while state funding to the system increased 5 percent per year (nominal dollars) (Table 6-1, p. 76, in the Profile report). As constraints on all public funds for research continue to tighten, the LGCAs need (and should encourage and welcome) strong national leadership in building support among all U.S. residents and federal policy makers for food and agricultural science and education.