President Merchant announces Agriculture and Rural Entrepreneurship Center at BVU

Olivia Wieseler, News Editor

On February 21, President Merchant announced plans to begin an Agriculture and Rural Entrepreneurship Center at Buena Vista University (BVU). The plans for this new institute and programming are still in the early stages, but President Merchant feels confident about the formation of center.

“The goal is that we would have majors that would live in individual schools, but that it would be interdisciplinary,” said Merchant. “And so, it’s a blend of business and science and arts and communications and other [disciplines].”

Merchant says there’s a general misunderstanding about agriculture which the center hopes to solve.

“Sometimes people get confused and think agriculture, farming, small-town. Not true. Agriculture is all over, and it’s everything from energy, to food, to natural resources, to you name it,” said Merchant.

Merchant says he wanted to find a way for BVU’s entrepreneurship program to be distinctive. So, he thought, “What if we became the institution in the region that really focused on helping educate young adults, and putting them back out into rural communities to help rural communities thrive?”

Merchant recognizes that BVU is an integral part of a rural, agriculture centered community as it is, so to him, it is quite clear that “rural America needs some love.”

Vice President of Enrollment Management Mike Frantz, says adding this program makes complete sense.

“It’s embracing who and where we are. We are an agriculturally-related and supported rural community. And we think we can be a thought leader, but for rural places, Iowa, Midwest, wherever, we think we might have something to offer,” Frantz said.

Frantz says admissions research shows an increased interest in agriculture and rural entrepreneurship, and BVU has many students looking for these kinds of programs.

“We certainly have lots of evidence, primarily from recruiters and coaches both here in Storm Lake and at our sites, there is demand for Ag related degrees. Since we haven’t offered those previously, that’s a part of the market we have not been able to attract,” Frantz said.

Because of these kind of responses, Merchant wants to bring more opportunities to BVU in areas like Agribusiness and Ag-science. While the program still needs to go through a process holding it subject to approval from faculty senate, BVU will likely post a position for the director of the institute this spring.

“[We want to] get someone in here to work with the faculty to develop the curriculum, develop the majors so we can start promoting that in the fall,” said Merchant.

Merchant is excited for this new program, and he feels it is a perfect fit for further identifying who BVU is as an institution.

“Everything that we are about — our mission of education for service, and our focus on civic engagement– just feels right, like there are ties to it. It just feels like they are part of that same family,” Merchant said.