Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Agricultural Education and Studies


Agricultural Education

First Advisor

Mark S Hainline


The purpose of this dissertation was to assess the relevance of Iowa State University's Agricultural Education and Studies 450 capstone course based on industry, alumni, and students' perspectives. This dissertation utilized quantitative and qualitative approaches to address the following three research objectives: (1) identify the professional and technical skills agricultural industry employers expect agricultural graduates to possess upon employment or entering the workforce, (2) describe alumni perspectives regarding the skills learned in an agricultural capstone course, and how those skills have been transferred or utilized in the agricultural workforce, and (3) describe students' agricultural experiences before and during the Ag 450 course and also describe their perceptions in terms of the professional and technical skills that have been identified by agricultural industry experts.

To address objective one, a Delphi study was conducted to identify the most important professional and technical skills that agricultural industry employers expect graduates to possess upon entering the workforce. A panel of 23 agricultural industry experts provided the data for the Delphi study. A total of 52 items reached consensus, which included 18 technical skills and 34 professional skills. It was concluded that agricultural employers place a high value on many technical and professional skills that graduates should possess, which could be used as a guide to evaluate current agricultural curriculum.

To address objective two, a qualitative approach was utilized and interviews were conducted with former Iowa State University Ag 450 alumni. The interviews helped to describe the alumni's perspectives regarding the transferability of skills learned in the Ag 450 course and application to the agricultural workforce. Ten alumni of the Ag 450 course shared their perspectives regarding the transferability of skills learned in the Ag 450 course. A common theme relating to the value of the Ag 450 course produced sub-themes associated with the value of the curriculum and experiential learning experiences were discovered. It was concluded that learning experiences and acquisition of skills learned in the Ag 450 course are being applied by graduates who are involved in the agricultural industry. An adaption of Finch and Crunkilton's (1997) systems program model was designed that highlights the elements of the Ag 450 farm.

Addressing objective three, a survey of Iowa State University's Ag 450 students was conducted over the course of two semesters regarding their perceived competence and confidence of certain technical and professional skills expected by agricultural industry experts before and after completion of the Ag 450 capstone course. It was concluded the Ag 450 capstone course is improving student competence of technical skills and on average, students somewhat to strongly agreed they were confident regarding professional skills needed for the workplace.

The results of this dissertation suggest agricultural industry employers and professionals require agricultural graduates from a four-year institution, such as Iowa State University's Agricultural Studies students, to possess a certain amount of professional and technical skills upon employment in the workforce. Furthermore, it was discovered that a capstone course such as Ag 450, focused in farm management, business, and operations, is helping to prepare students to enter into the workplace based on the needs of industry and is also providing students with skills and opportunities that are being transferred to the workplace and the day-to-day aspects of the agricultural industry. Further research should include an assessment of learning objectives of agricultural capstone courses and their alignment with the expectations of an evolving agricultural industry. Research should also examine the effectiveness and design of other capstone courses or agricultural programs, designed to prepare students to enter into the agricultural industry.


Copyright Owner

Skyler Perry Rinker



File Format


File Size

153 pages