Program allows student to follow her passion


JASPER — Maya Smith’s eyes light up when she talks about agriculture.

The 19-year-old freshman at Vincennes University Jasper Campus fell in love with agriculture as a member of the Future Farmers of America in high school. Now, thanks to a Growing the Pipeline for Agricultural Education Teachers in Indiana scholarship and the direct admission partnership between Vincennes University and Purdue University, Smith is pursuing a degree that will let her be a high school agriculture teacher and an FFA adviser.

The direct admission program Smith is part of is the latest development in a decades-old partnership between Vincennes and Purdue. In the new development, students can take the first year of Purdue’s agriculture or engineering program at Vincennes University Jasper Campus, the second year at Vincennes University’s Vincennes campus, and the remaining two years at Purdue. Previously, students could take the first two years in Vincennes and the last two years at Purdue.

VUJC launched the agriculture program in 2018, and will launch the engineering program this year.

According to the program, students will complete their first year at VUJC, getting their general education and foundational courses out of the way. The second year, they’ll take classes at Vincennes University, then transfer to Purdue University for their junior and senior years, assuming they meet Purdue’s grade-point-average requirements.

The goal of both programs, according to VUJC Dean Christian Blome, is to make a Purdue degree more affordable and accessible for students.

That has certainly been the case for Smith. Were it not for the agriculture direct admission program, she said, she probably would not be pursuing a degree.

“I don’t like to think that, because I’m extremely passionate about it,” Smith said. “I love agriculture, and I love learning new things about it.”

But she knows she couldn’t afford four years at Purdue, and even splitting it between the Vincennes campus and Purdue would have been a stretch. However, taking the first year at VUJC allows her to work her full-time job at MasterBrand while also pursuing her degree.

So far, Smith is one of two students to take advantage of the offering at VUJC. Blome said he hopes more students will participate in the future, and figures the low participation in the agriculture program’s first year was due to a lack of marketing. He’s optimistic more students will participate in the program in the future.

“The benefit for the student is cost savings, of course,” Blome said. “But then both of those majors are very heavy in mathematics and science. The benefit at VU is you take advantage of that average class size of 20 students.”

Attending VUJC for their first year can save students at least $9,692 in room and board, according to the numbers on Vincennes University’s website.

Students who enroll in the direct admission program through Vincennes University take the same curriculum as Purdue’s students, Blome said, so when they transfer to Purdue their junior year, they’re at the same level as students who began the program at Purdue. When students graduate, they also graduate with a Purdue diploma.

“Our program is the exact same,” Blome said. “It’s just in a different location.”

The partnership between the two universities is a way for Vincennes students to earn a bachelor’s degree in agriculture or engineering, as Vincennes only offers associate degrees in those fields. Moving the first year of the programs to VUJC was a way to make the degrees even more accessible for people in Dubois County and the surrounding area, Blome said. It will also be a way to showcase career opportunities Dubois County offers in both fields.

“It’s a win for VU, it’s a win for the students and it’s a win for local industry,” Blome said.

It’s a little early in her college career for Smith to decide whether or not she’ll pursue a career in the Dubois County area — she’s leaning toward not — but she knows she’ll at least have to start her career in Indiana as a requirement of her scholarship. But she’ll worry about that in a few years. For now, she’s just thrilled to have the chance to follow her passion for agriculture education. She’s an aide in Andy Helming’s agriculture classes at Jasper High School, and she’s taking her first college agriculture class this semester.

“It’s like, ‘Yea!’” she said. “It’s what I’ve been dying for.”

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