(Michelle Felter/Standard Democrat)
And on Thursday, students, faculty and community members celebrated the brand-new four-year agriculture program at the Sikeston campus now available with a brief program, meal and ribbon cutting. The four-year agribusiness degree program specializes in crop production.
"We're here to celebrate a new beginning in agriculture in Sikeston," said Jason Landers, who co-chaired the event steering committee along with Matt Drake.
The one-and-a-half year process involved a lot of legwork and hard work, said Landers. "It was a real community effort," he said.
Michael Aide, chair of Southeast's Department of Agriculture, agreed that he's seen a real dedication from the community in the process. "The people of this region want this opportunity for their young people," he said.
A big part of the reason for offering the four-year program is that it will hopefully keep a lot of students local.
That's something that student Jordon Reno exemplified. The junior, who is from East Prairie, recently changed her major to agribusiness after being guaranteed a job for doing so.
"So I accepted," she said.
State Rep. Ellen Brandom said she's glad to see the new opportunities at the regional campuses - Malden and Kennett offer the same four-year program.
"This is incredible for our young farmers," she said. "They are assuring the Bootheel that we are going to become one of the leading ag producers in the world."
Reno said a guaranteed job isn't all that led to her changing her major. The ag program has smaller class sizes, which makes it easier to form relationships with instructors and other students. Additionally, many of the instructors only teach part time and give their real-world experience, too. "So we don't just learn from the text book," she said.
University President Ken Dobbins said he always knew a day like this would come - he just didn't expect it so soon. "This is due to the dedication of faculty and the community," he said.