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The Hoot, Fall 2022

Letter from Department Head

As I sit here in Indianapolis writing my first department head remarks for The Hoot, I am filled with both a sense of nostalgia and optimism for the future. I first want to express my deep appreciation for the 14 years of dedicated service that Jim Connors has given to the department as head. He has exemplified the words I see outside the Indianapolis Convention Center “Living to Serve.” Under his leadership, the department has nearly doubled in size, both in number of students and number of faculty members. He has worked diligently to ensure that the student experience in our department is robust and meaningful; he has always kept students in the forefront of his mind as he guided the work of the department. He will continue to teach and conduct research, please thank him for his service as department head if you have the opportunity.

The fall of 2023 brought the largest first-year student class to U of I as well as to our department. I have the pleasure to teach the AGED 180 Introduction to Agricultural & Extension Education course where I was pleased to greet this historic class. Looking forward, I am passionate about keeping this upward trajectory. It is essential that our department grows to meet the tremendous demand for our graduates. We face a severe shortage of agriculture teachers in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest, putting the future of high-quality agricultural education programs at risk.

Agriculture companies are clamoring for employees, particularly those with superior communication and leadership skills. Our graduates have outstanding success stories, and I am proud that our department is a part of their journey. The task ahead of us is purposeful recruitment and retention; we simply need more students to fill the needs of the industries we serve. I ask for your help in this initiative. Think of the effects if each of our graduates and current students becomes an advocate and intentionally recruits prospective students into our department — what could the impact be? This week, as I volunteer at the National FFA Convention, I try to see every interaction with students and advisors as a recruitment opportunity. My goal is to share the positive story of our institution, our department and our students with anyone who will listen. Will you join me in sharing this story?

Kattlyn Wolf


Kattlyn Wolf, Ph.D.
Interim Department Head
Department of Agricultural Education, Leadership and Communications

Our Stories

Alumni Spotlight

Marvin Heimgartner graduated from our department in 1998, 2003 and 2011. His first degree was a general agriculture degree. In 2003, Heimgartner graduated with a degree in agricultural education. He later pursued a masters in agricultural education, which he obtained in 2011.

Heimgartner has impacted the agricultural education sector in a multitude of ways in the last 20 years. He taught two years of high school agricultural education and has been an instructor at the University of Idaho for the last 18 years. Heimgartner currently holds the position of senior instructor for the agricultural systems management program in the Department of Soil and Water Systems. Heimgartner said he would have never imagined he'd ever be in the position he is in now but looks forward to coming to work every day.

When asked what advice he would give to students, Heimgartner said he would encourage students to take advantage of every opportunity they have. He would encourage those embarking on their professional career to make a positive impact on the lives around them.

GOALS Program — Fall Immersion

Our department recently sent 10 students to the World Food Prize to learn about global food security through the Global Orientation to Agricultural Learning (GOALs) program. This program is in cooperation with Penn State, which sent an additional nine students for a total of 19 students in the fall immersion experience.

Students were able to meet influential players in global food security and gain knowledge that they will later apply in the classroom both during their spring immersion and in their future classrooms when they become educators.

When discussing the impact of this experience, students keyed in on the idea of bridging the gap between education and science.

Cassie Moody, a sophomore agricultural education major, said the thing that stood out to her the most about her conversation with Per Pinstrup-Andersen (2001 Laureate) was his and his wife's ability to connect their work to agricultural education.

Makenna DeWitt, a sophomore agricultural education major, shared the impact she had from this experience, "When you are granted a seat at the table to share your ideas and make a difference there should be no question if you would take it or not. You can’t have growth unless you’re uncomfortable.”

Scholarship Appreciation

The William Wendt Agricultural Education Student Award is now available for students studying agricultural education, established by a gift through Wendt’s estate. The department would like to extend our gratitude and thanks to those involved in Wendt's Estate.

Alissa Whitaker, an agricultural education major award recipient, expresses her gratitude for scholarships and the benefit they've had on her education. "Scholarships have allowed me to get a quality education at a school wanted to attend. Being able to earn scholarships has relieved stress and allowed me to focus on school."

Our department students are honored to receive scholarships from many donors. Today we would like to highlight The William Wendt Agricultural Education Student Award.

William “Bill” Wendt was born on March 21, 1944 in Cheyenne, Wyoming as an only child to Arnold and Ruth Wendt. Wendt graduated from the University of Idaho in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education. After graduation, he returned to his family farm in Rupert. His father passed away in 1968 leaving Wendt as the sole operator of the farm. He passed away on April 16, 2020 and is interred at the Rupert Cemetery. During his time at U of I he was active in the Collegiate FFA chapter with other agricultural education majors.

The award fund will be used to support students seeking an agricultural education degree. The scholarship may be used for financial support in travel and participation in workshops, conventions, internships and/or professional development opportunities. The AELC department will be responsible for disbursing funds to deserving students.

Course Connections

AGED 101

  • Goal: Help students develop verbal communication skills when discussing agriculture, food and natural resources topics
  • Course credit: Three credits in general education oral communications
  • Course offering/schedule: Spring only
  • Instructors: Kasee Smith and lab instructors

Instructor's course vision — In general, Associate Professor Kasee Smith is looking forward to seeing students engage with a curriculum that is tailored for students to develop specific skills in sharing agriculture, food and natural resource topics. During finals week, students will have the opportunity to present AFNR speeches in front of stakeholders. This class has been a long time in the making and is crucial in helping bridge the gap between professionals in agriculture and natural resources and those who interact with AFNR as stakeholders, policymakers and consumers.

AGED 263

  • Goal: Provide students with knowledge of agriculture over the last 10,000+ years
  • Course credit: Three credits in humanities
  • Course offering/schedule: Spring only, considering expansion in future
  • Instructor: James Connors

Instructor's course vision — "Most students know about modern agriculture in the past 50 years. But they have no knowledge of the 10,000 years of growth and development of agriculture in all parts of the world... As students at a land-grant university that has a College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, it is important that students have the chance to learn this long history of agriculture around the world." — James Connors

Student Spotlight

Agricultural sciences, communication and leadership student Lauren DeVries-Mink spent her summer as an Idaho FFA Foundation communications intern.

DeVries-Mink was able to broaden her skills in event planning, communications and digital media by working alongside the foundation to create engaging social media content and assisting with fundraising events. She played the role of communicating on behalf of the foundation through social media, blog posts and a newsletter. DeVries-Mink gained networking skills and now better understands the importance of it for organizations. Lauren was an FFA member herself. She explains that her personal experience within the organization benefited her when speaking with donors.

Agricultural science, communication and leadership sophomore Katie Russell, interned with Willoughby Sales and provided the following account of her experience.

I found myself in Reno, Nevada for the first time this summer. Not for the glitz and glam of the lights and casinos, but for a livestock show alongside Willoughby Sales. They travel annually to the Nugget Casino for their All-American Show and Sale. I worked with them during the week of their show as an assistant livestock photographer. I took many candid photos of people prepping their sheep for the show, walking to the wash rack, or laughing together as they relaxed until their next round. I also took posed photos of the winners. In addition to sharpening my communication skills, I practiced having content put out in a timely manner. We would need photos of the sheep up within ten minutes for buyers to look at and for the showmen to be able to find. They posted a daily recap at the end of the day, so I would often walk around and take photos then shortly after, download, edit and send them out. Without this experience, I would not have learned about the show industry, livestock photography and made connections with the whole Willoughby crew. The Nugget All-American Show and Sale is truly a unique atmosphere for staff, buyers and showmen. I was grateful to be part of it.

Students in our department are well-rounded individuals prepared to play many roles within agriculture. Agriculture education student Sophia Cori spent her summer in the Salinas Valley of California as an intern for Central Coast Water Quality Preservation (CCWQP). CCWQP is a non-profit organization internally funded by farmers. They are the third party program to the Water Board and work closely with them and farmers to keep growers in the region in compliance with agriculture orders.

“During the summer our office was knee deep in doing groundwater well sampling for the Irrigated Lands Program. I spent a lot of time answering phones and emails when farmers had questions,” Cori said. “I also scheduled well sampling and did quality control on all of the reports coming from the various labs we were contracted with and then sent out the sample results.” Cori worked under many inspiring people within agriculture. The director of the company, Sara Lopez, is a water biologist. She keeps the office running smoothly while coordinating projects and collecting data for the Water Board. Cori was able to work closely with Lopez while shadowing her in the field at farms where they were piloting the new sustainable practices. Cori enjoyed learning about the importance and value of water to the growers in the Salinas Valley. Cori was able to sharpen her skills in membership outreach through communications and increase her knowledge in the fields of agricultural sustainability.

Commodity Commotion

Sarah Reisenauer, a senior studying agricultural education shared her experience working on her husband’s farm. Reisenauer Farms, located in Colton, Washington, produces wheat, peas and garbanzos. There are around 300 acres of wheat and 200 acres of alternating peas and garbanzos. Their farm utilizes dry land and tillage practices. They rotate yearly between their winter wheat, spring wheat and legumes.

Reisenauer Farms is a small family operation, and they use old-fashioned farm trucks instead of semis. They utilize some technology with GPS in their tractors and use soil sample testing. RoGator machines are used to spray fertilizer, but the rest of the farm practices are typically manual. They have been with the Pacific Northwest Famers Cooperative for at least 20 years.

Unpredictable weather can be a challenge in farming. All the moisture last spring allowed for there to be a great crop season. However, a flash flood hit, and they had an inch of rain within a half hour. The flood washed out their whole pea crop and there was a debate whether it was worth it or not to try again. "It is one of those risk management decisions,” Reisenauer said she was uncertain with the unknown amount of moisture to determine if fertilizer was needed."

Reisenauer Farms has a lot of passion and legacy with family traditions tied up into one big thing. The farm was founded in 1881 and has gone through different ownerships. Reisenauer is all about pride, precision and longevity. Reisenauer Farms does what they can to keep their soil healthy and maintained for future generations.

Teacher Tips

Technology is advancing every day and there are many resources that can help teachers keep their students engaged. Nearpod is a great program that allows for interactive lessons, videos and activities. McKenna Ford, an agriculture educator at Mountain View High School and an alumni of the Department of Agricultural Education, Leadership and Communications, uses Nearpod frequently.

“Nearpod helps with sub plans or in person because you can assign it or have it live action. I love that it helps me give formative assessments right off the bat and keeps my students engaged because it is like playing a game on their computers.”

Another useful tool is ClassroomScreen. Utilizing this website allows you to project onto a smartboard or projection screen offering 19 different widgets. Some popular widgets are: Timer, Drawing tool, Traffic light, QR code generator, Student name selector, Sound level tracker and Poll taker.

You can have several widgets displayed at once. This program can be beneficial for teachers with classroom management and can set clear expectations for your students. This program can collect feedback from your students which can be extremely useful for improving lesson plans.

CFFA Corner

A University of Idaho club, Collegiate FFA supports high school agriculture programs, prepares members for careers in agriculture, and serves the local, college and national communities.

Pictured are the CFFA members who attended the 95th National FFA Convention. They assisted the Extemporaneous Speaking LDE. Members worked as room hosts, moved students and coordinated the awards ceremony. The skills gained will help students in their future careers as agricultural educators.

2022-23 Officers — President Elizabeth Bearden; Vice President Tanner Anderson; Secretary Makenna DeWitt; Reporter Amy Heikkila; Fundraising Committee Chairs Jacob Falk and Kennedy Cox; Programming Committee Chair Cassie Moody; Membership Chair Rachel Lyman; Community Service Chair Caylie Browne; Social and Recreational Chair Saeli Pechhia

Note from the Editors

We are honored to have the opportunity to share with you what’s happening in our department. This department has impacted our experience on campus. It has given us a sense of community and career readiness. We would like to thank you for all you do to impact our department.

Hannah Ruth and Katie Russell are both majoring in agricultural science, communication and leadership. Hannah is interested in marketing as well as feature writing. Katie has enjoyed being able to combine her agriculture and media knowledge throughout her courses. Emily Meredith is a freshman agricultural education major. Her favorite thing about college has been meeting others that have a similar passion for agriculture.

Many thanks to Jeremy Falk, Kasee Smith, Sarah Swenson and Amy Calabretta for their supervision of this newsletter.


University of Idaho

Physical Address:
Agricultural & Extension Education Building, Room 102
1134 West 6th Street

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2040
Moscow, ID 83844-2040

Phone: 208-885-6358



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