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Awe-Inspiring Grace

Turning Problems to Solutions

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The Man Behind the Cover

It's in the Bag

Making Everyday Matter

The Best in the West

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A Competitive Edge

Success without Studying

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Overseas with the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team

Striving for Honor in the Pursuit of Excellence





Higher Education from a Distance

Story by Chase Dunn


The importance of a degree has become even more essential in recent years. However, as times have changed, many of the requirements of employers have also changed. Now, many employers require additional credit beyond an undergraduate degree to continue to be competitive in the workforce.

AG*IDEA will soon make the goal of earning credit beyond a bachelor’s degree even more achievable for many prospective Texas Tech students. By allowing students to have more options when it comes to a degree path, AG*IDEA is helping students to be more successful under the parent organization of Great Plains IDEA.

Great Plains*IDEA started in the human sciences field, created in 1994, to allow different educational institutions to share courses, Great Plains IDEA has been helping students be successful for the past 16 years.

AG*IDEA is a consortium of educational institutions that has joined together and pooled their resources to create undergraduate and graduate programs. By sharing courses, the universities are able to offer more to their students.

A student can sign up and register through one of the different universities involved in the program. Once the student has signed up, the student will have the many different courses from the various universities to choose from.

Part of the common price goes to the university that has registered the student, the university that offers the course, and
Kansas State University receives part because that university in the lead institution for the consortium.

Norman Hopper, Ph. D, Associate Dean of College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources at Tech has worked to push Tech’s involvement in AG*IDEA.

“The universities got together and realized they didn’t have enough critical courses,” said Hopper.

By sharing courses, students could get a broader variety of classes and universities can save the cost of creating new courses, while offering more degrees.

“Students choose a home university and all of their courses will be recorded as home university courses on their transcript. They will also receive their degree or certificate from their home university,” said Joelle Pitts, AG*IDEA Coordinator at Kansas State University.

“We approached human sciences and discussed partnering with them,” said Hopper.

Instead of just an organization for human sciences, there could also be programs for students interested in different areas of study.
“Great Plains*IDEA has expanded to become an umbrella organization,” said Hopper.

Part of that expansion is AG*IDEA.  By partnering with human sciences, all of the logistics of putting together a program like this were already in place.

AG*IDEA is now working to develop new degree programs. Because the program is so extensive, it can be complicated to institute new programs and develop the courses.

The programs currently sponsored by AG*IDEA are agricultural education, agricultural mechanization, food safety and defense and grasslands management. These programs have been part of AG*IDEA since 2008.

“No one university has enough critical courses to offer a degree in certain areas, so we’re pooling our resources,”
 said Hopper.

Because of Dr. Hopper’s leadership, Tech has become the lead institution in developing a new horticulture program for AG*IDEA.  Hopper recognized Tech had the experience needed to lead the program, and offered to be the institution responsible for organizing the horticulture program.

Tech has a strong horticulture program. It is a program that is not common at many universities, said Hopper.
Now, because of AG*IDEA, no student has to be limited. A student can receive a certificate or degree wherever they are, or whatever they are doing.

Although it is a great opportunity for Tech, it is a large undertaking. The program is still being developed, and faculty is deciding what courses will go into the certificate that will first be offered.

“I think the hope is that once we get the certificate program in place, we will develop a graduate program,” said Hopper.
Cynthia McKenney, Ph. D, a Tech Associate Professor, served as the first chairperson of the development of  the AG*IDEA horticulture program.

“Dr. Hopper recognized that we had extensive online course offerings in horticulture, allowing us to participate in the AG*IDEA program” said McKenney, “We already have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree online.”

“Because AG*IDEA is so new, it’s hard to measure “success” at this point. However, enrollments in our courses and programs have been growing steadily every semester and we have already graduated several students from our Food Safety and Defense graduate certificate,” said Pitts.

By joining AG*IDEA, prospective Tech students have more opportunities to earn credit on the graduate level. Tech can also reach students that it never could have in the past.

AG*IDEA is making the goal of furthering their undergraduate and graduate education even more achievable for many prospective Texas Tech students.