For the past decade, Dickinson State University’s Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies has been providing its agricultural students with an annual opportunity to network with future employers and a spotlight for seniors to present their capstone projects. This year’s 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture returns with keynote speaker and DSU alumna Jacki Christman.

The 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture will take place from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17, at the Biesiot Activities Center, with a 2 p.m. speech by Christman — who graduated DSU in 2006. As co-owner of JC Farms in Adams County, Christman will share her experience of farming approximately 250 head of cattle with her husband Jordan for the past 10 years. She’ll also touch on agricultural advocacy, the concept of farm-to-table, raising children and managing cattle and crops.

Christman will provide a perspective for not only females in the agricultural industry, but males also, DSU Agriculture and Technical Studies Department Chair Chip Poland said.

“… We try to use the keynote speaker as a means to speak to a particular issue. Frankly, our enrollment with females is significant, which is not necessarily unique. If you look across the country, (there is) a healthy contribution of young ladies in agriculture,” Poland said. “But sometimes when they look at opportunities, they find it difficult seeing themselves there. So we try to create with some level of frequency, people who can speak to that demographic as to opportunities. Jacki Christman is certainly going to provide an opportunity for the males to see opportunities in agriculture, but it also illustrates, ‘I don’t have to be a male in this stereotypical field to be a participant.’”

With last year’s event being staged a little differently to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Poland said he’s excited that the department is able to return to a sense of normalcy.

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“... Most people that have interest in agriculture tend to be more hands-on (and) more critical thinking with a heavy dose of working together. I think that’s sort of where they come from. So when you isolate them, it’s not that they can’t handle it and figure it out, but they would prefer to be in these situations where they are problem solving together (in person),” he said, adding, “And that’s harder to do in a virtual setting for a typical hands-on (crew). So both faculty and students are pretty pleased about being back together.”

A Dickinson State University student interacts with an employer during the career portion during a previous Opportunities in Agriculture event. The 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture is scheduled for Nov. 17, in Dickinson. (Contributed / Dickinson State University's Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies)
A Dickinson State University student interacts with an employer during the career portion during a previous Opportunities in Agriculture event. The 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture is scheduled for Nov. 17, in Dickinson. (Contributed / Dickinson State University's Department of Agriculture and Technical Studies)

The DSU Department of Agricultural and Technical Studies initiated this event as a way for students to learn more about what the agricultural industry has to offer in the region and a forum for graduating students to present their senior capstone projects, Poland noted. With 15 vendors registered for the Career Fair, the event also engages students with potential employers to make connections after graduation. Several graduate schools will also be attending, Poland said, adding that this year’s event will have graduate school representatives from Bozeman, Mont.; Laramie, Wyo.; and Fargo.

Senior capstone projects include both an oral and poster presentation at the event. Presentations range from “Postfire Vegetation Response in the North Dakota Badlands” to “The Effect of Prairie Dog Towns on Vegetation Density in Western North Dakota.”

The event is free and open to the public. Though it's directed toward students, Poland said he hopes to see more of the public in the audience this year to learn more about agricultural careers and studies.

“If you’re inquisitive in agriculture… (and) you want to see the best that we have to offer, this is the program to come to,” Poland said. “... See how they placed the context of their work into the bigger picture of the literature on a particular subject.”

For updates on the 10th Annual Opportunities in Agriculture, visit the DSU Dept. of Agriculture and Technical Studies Facebook page.