Continuing and Professional Education and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics have launched a program to deepen the skills of Farm Credit Administration employees. The $1.3 million deal with the federal agency includes graduate-level courses and noncredit graduate certificate programs.

The Farm Credit Administration is an independent federal agency that regulates the financial institutions that provide credit to people working in agriculture and living in rural America.

“This project is a great example of a partnership that is truly mutually beneficial in that the Farm Credit Administration will gain access to the high-quality educational programs needed by their employees and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics will have an opportunity to learn more about the needs within the lending industry and how best to address and serve those needs,” said Alan Grant, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “This project portrays another way that Virginia Tech carries out its land-grant mission.”

The first cohort of employees started classes this fall. Cohorts will stretch over two academic years plus two summers, with 12 to 18 students from across the nation expected to participate in each.

Participants will broaden their skills and understanding of applied microeconomic concepts as they pertain to markets and individual choices regarding food and agricultural products. They will also increase their knowledge regarding the role of global trade in food and agricultural products and the factors impacting trade.

“Our program already emphasizes the development of strong analytical skills to address real-world economic policy issues impacting our food supply chains. This approach will continue to be emphasized in our program with FCA,” said Matthew Holt, head of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics. “In addition, students will obtain training in quantitative financial risk management, agribusiness management and marketing, and agricultural and food policy.”

The certificate programs may be customized to meet the administration’s needs. The programs will be delivered online but may also include short retreats where faculty can work with employees.

The master’s courses will not be explicitly tailored, but Holt said his department will continue to engage in conversations about what the participants find most useful.

“This program provides us with the opportunity to grow our graduate program, which has been a long-standing departmental and college goal,” Holt said.

Continuing and Professional Education, part of Outreach and International Affairs, will help shepherd participants through the application process, handle tuition payments, and serve as a liaison between participants and faculty members.

“We make sure all the administrative logistics are covered so faculty members can fully concentrate on course content and instruction,” Director Shelly Jobst said. “This program is a fantastic example of how Continuing and Professional Education connects the expertise of university faculty to the needs of communities across the commonwealth and beyond. Through contract programs like this one, we not only deepen the skills of the workforce, but we also help boost interest in excellent programs already available here at Virginia Tech.”

Holt said that with all of the potential options at the administration’s disposal for partnering, “that they picked Virginia Tech speaks volumes about the quality of our educational programs and the faculty who develop and deliver them.”

— Written by Diane Deffenbaugh