Mentor-Connect Mentee Jay Olsen Speaks at STEM Thought Leaders’ Summit
Jay Olsen, a Mentor-Connect project mentee in 2015, was a featured speaker at the Equity and Inclusion STEM Thought Leaders’ Summit where he shared information about the successful agriculture systems program that Snow College created.
Florence, S.C. (November, 2018) – Jay Olsen, a Mentor-Connect project mentee in 2015, was a featured speaker at the Equity and Inclusion STEM Thought Leaders’ Summit where he shared information about the successful agriculture systems program that Snow College created with its first Advanced Technological Education grant.
“Don’t get discouraged,” was a key message he shared with the 15 teams of instructors and administrators who are from either minority-serving institutions or rural community colleges. The summit was held October 23 and 24 in conjunction with the 2018 ATE Principal Investigators Conference in Washington, D.C. The American Association of Community Colleges received ATE grant support from the National Science Foundation for this pilot project to broaden and increase participation in the ATE program.
During their panel presentation Olsen, Agribusiness and Agriculture director at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, and H. Scott Halliday, Digital Technology Center coordinator at Navajo Technical University, in Crownpoint, New Mexico, offered practical suggestions for attracting faculty and students to STEM programs at rural colleges.
Snow College, for instance, has used part of its $198.671 ATE grant (#1601397) to hire a recent Snow College graduate as a program “ambassador” who visits Utah high schools and interacts with Future Farmers of America chapters. His efforts have yielded a list of 400 students interested in the program and contact information for teachers throughout the state who are willing to work with the project.
ATE grant funds were also used to purchase equipment and provide release time for Snow College faculty as they developed the curriculum. Courses for the agricultural technology and mechanics AAS degree include traditional agriculture mechanics with instruction in advanced technologies such as those used in the GPS-controlled valves on pivot irrigation systems and drones that help monitor livestock.
Olsen credits questions from Osa Brand, the college’s Mentor-Connect mentor, with helping him and Michael P. Medley, the dean of Business and Applied Technologies, clarify their thinking as they wrote their first ATE grant proposal. Prior to applying for Mentor-Connect they had aligned a revitalization of the agriculture program, which had only a few dozen majors in 2011, with the college’s strategic plan.
Brand’s questions about the region’s hydrology and the economic impact of increasing demand for water from residential and business developments helped them shape the agricultural technology and mechanics degree program. The program prepares technicians with skills they can use for careers with commercial equipment companies and on family farms.
Because the STEM Thought Summit participants have not had ATE grants, Olsen offered this advice:
“Don’t write a grant that creates work for you. Find a grant that does what you’re already doing that will just enhance what you are doing, add to it—take you to the next level. You don’t want to get off on a tangent some place because a grant takes you that way and then you don’t succeed in what you’re currently doing and you don’t succeed with your grant work.
“First thing is surface the idea, talk about it, collaborate with others both on campus as well as off campus … have the courage to ask if somebody will be willing to share what they’ve done.”
Both Olsen and Halliday said clear writing that makes a strong case for one’s ideas is the key to successful grant writing. “Develop your story and learn how to tell it,” Olsen advised.
Mentor-Connect: A Leadership Development and Outreach Initiative for ATE is an initiative of the South Carolina Advanced Technological Education Center of Excellence (SCATE) at Florence-Darlington Technical College (FDTC) designed to actively engage more two-year technical and community colleges in the improvement of technician education. Mentor-Connect works in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to help STEM faculty teams from participating institutions apply for grant funding from the National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education Program (NSF ATE). Potential grantees are assisted in developing grant writing skills and leadership skills. Mentoring is used for knowledge transfer. Those with many years of experience with NSF ATE funded projects serve as mentors to those who are new to the program. The project itself is also funded through work supported by the NSF under grant numbers 1501183 & 1840856.
[Leading Photo: Jay Olsen on right]
Jay Olsen, right, listens while H. Scott Halliday makes a point during their panel discussion at the Equity and Inclusion STEM Thought Leaders’ Summit. Olsen, a 2015 Mentor-Connect mentee, is Agribusiness and Agriculture director at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah; Halliday is coordinator of the Digital Technology Center at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint, New Mexico.
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