Ag school, dean receive national recognition

Tony Brannon, dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture, recently received the 2012 Outstanding Career and Technical Educator Award from the Kentucky Association for Career and Technical Education.

The Racer Academy of Agriculture, started by Brannon, received a national grant worth $136,138.

The KACTE is a statewide professional association representing all levels of career and technical education.

Brannon has been a faculty member at the University for 24 years.

“I am a product of the agricultural and career and technical education system and to come full circle and receive this award for my success as a teacher and administrator is a highlight of my career,” Brannon said.

The Association for Career and Technical Education will place the winners of the 2012 awards in nomination for 2013 national recognition.

“Actually I feel like a turtle on a fence post … I’m glad to be where I’m at but I realize I didn’t get there by myself,” Brannon said. “Fortunately, I’ve surrounded myself with some people that have made me look pretty good.”

Kimberly Bellah, associate professor at the Hutson School of Agriculture, said Brannon is a champion for agricultural education and all career and technical education programs.

“He was a pioneer in establishing the CTE teacher education courses at Murray State and while most would sit back and be settled, he continuously looks forward to see what should be revised, adjusted, introduced or simply thrown out,” Bellah said.

Bellah said Brannon and the school of agriculture are continuing outreach and partnership opportunities with secondary agricultural education programs in Kentucky to help provide dual credit agricultural opportunities for high school agricultural students.

Increasing distance education enrollment for the University was another main goal for the group.

To help with increasing enrollment, the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded the $136,138 grant to expand the Racer Academy of Agriculture and develop new courses to increases the number of participants. The grant is also meant to improve instructional procedure and gather data for evaluation, analysis and refinement.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides the Capacity Building Grant for the Non-Land Grant College of Agriculture Program.

“This grant was designed to assist us in increasing course opportunities, improve on existing courses, provide better service to our agricultural teaching partners helping to facilitate this project with their students, and to evaluate and design our program based on desired outcomes,” Bellah said.

She said her expertise lies in curriculum development and teacher concerns in adopting educational innovations.

The Hutson School of Agriculture is also expanding a secondary partnership to help address the demand for increased rigor and emphasis on college and career readiness. The program will form a link between secondary agricultural education and postsecondary education.

In 2010 Brannon formed the RAA with help from Associate Provost Jay Morgan. The program offered two college courses in which high school students were able to obtain secondary and college credits.

In the last two years, the program has doubled in size and the need for a variety of additional courses increased.

Last year the program had more than 20 schools and more than 200 students.

The grant is part of the first round of funding, resulting from an effort to establish funding in the federal Farm Bill, specifically for non-land grant colleges of agriculture.

Said Bellah: “We will work from both of these angles to ensure that our secondary level students are best served in bridging this gap between high school and college.”

Story by Meghann Anderson, Assistant News Editor.