One hundred rising high school junior and seniors from across the commonwealth have been selected to participate in the 2013 Governor's School for Agriculture, held June 30 to July 27 at Virginia Tech.

Established in 2001, the month-long summer residential program for gifted students was developed to provide hands-on, cutting-edge, scientific and academic instruction to future leaders and scientists. The rigorous curriculum advances their understanding of the scope, opportunities, and challenges offered in the broad fields of agriculture, human health, natural resources, and veterinary science.

Students receive instruction from Virginia Tech professors and graduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. In addition, agricultural education teachers from school districts around the state participate as members of the school’s faculty.

"The Virginia Governor’s School for Agriculture is a great way to introduce Virginia’s youth to the science of agriculture," said Curtis Friedel, Governor's School for Agriculture director and assistant professor of agriculture and extension education in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Many of the students attending our program don’t have an agricultural background, so it is very informative for them to see all the possible careers in agriculture available to them. We hope they have a positive learning experience here at Virginia Tech and consider a future career in agriculture."

Each student is assigned to a "major" of 20 students based on his or her interests. Students in each major complete the same specialized courses designed to provide major-specific instruction and to prepare them to work on a major-specific project.

This year's school offers two new fields of study — food science and agricultural engineering. Other majors include animal science, plant science, and agricultural economics, with leadership classes integrated into each program.

Students are further divided into work groups that undertake group research projects based around the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s main initiatives. The projects culminate in a symposium and poster session on the last day of the program.

"The [governor's school] will also be used as an educational outreach program for externally funded research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences," Friedel said. "I am looking forward to collaborating with faculty to make this happen."

Although the curriculum is intense, students also participate in a variety of recreational activities, field trips, and industry tours during the program.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.