Women in Agriculture

We have a lot to celebrate this month at Fox Valley Technical College. March is Women’s History Month. Today, March 23, is National Ag Day. When I take a moment to reflect on both of these distinctions, my mind gravitates toward remarkable data coming from our College’s Agriculture department and what the future looks like for women entering this traditionally male-oriented field.

Over the past three years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of female students enrolling in our Ag-related programs. In 2018-19, 26% of our students were female. This year the number of female students has jumped to 54%.

One reason why we see this growth is because we added a veterinary technician program, which is traditionally a female dominated field. However, Agribusiness department chair Dr. Lori Nagel says growth in the Agribusiness area can also be attributed to the female role models we see in agriculture today.

Dr. Nagel points out that women have been able to enter several of the animal care fields, such as Dairy Herd Management and Large Animal Veterinarian, due to advancements in animal handling facilities and animal care practices. What were once considered physical barriers for many women, are no longer standard practices. Advances in technology have also opened the agriculture field to a broader population beyond just those who grew up on a farm.

Agriculture continues to be an important sector in Wisconsin, contributing $104.8 billion annually to our state’s economy and 437,700 jobs. FVTC is proud to educate and train many of those who will enter and continue to develop this essential segment of the workforce, male and female alike.

Changing World of Court Reporting

Who hasn’t watched a scene from “Law & Order” when legal counsel asks a court reporter to read back testimony? I’m sure you’ve seen the camera cut to the reporter seated in front of a curious looking stenotype machine.

While the court reporter will always be essential to proceedings, I’m pleased we’re helping the judicial system evolve with our new Digital Court Reporter program at Fox Valley Tech.

The program was developed after department chair Jeff Meverden learned Wisconsin is facing a court reporter shortage. Within the next three years, two-thirds of our stenographic court reporters will either be retired or eligible for retirement.

Jeff clearly understands our mission and how important it is to work with employers to solve employee shortage challenges.  Jeff and his team created this curriculum to not only address the gap, but also address evolving technology. Courtrooms are now being equipped with new hardware and software to digitally record cases. As a result, our students are no longer learning speed typing on a stenotype machine. They’re learning the fundamentals of court reporting, but also how digital hardware works, how to record proceedings and how to store digital transcripts.

Our Digital Court Reporter program is the only one in Wisconsin and one of only two in the nation. It’s a great feeling to help fill such an important need for the judicial system of the future.  And significant advancements such as this can only happen with this level of responsiveness by our faculty and staff.

Democracy is a Fragile Thing

Have you ever held something precious in your hands – a delicate piece of crystal, an old family heirloom, perhaps a baby bird that’s prematurely fallen from its nest?  These days I’ve been thinking about our democracy as precious, fragile, and needing our attention and great care, not unlike these things we’ve so carefully once held. 

Democracy represents a set of ideals that we’ve strived for as a nation, never likely to be perfect, but we’re aiming high.  I’m concerned that we have, too often, taken our democracy for granted as though it will always exist and always be there for us. 

Our democracy is based on foundational principles, values, rights, and the rule of law.  It requires people to be engaged, to govern, to advance legislation and the laws of our society, to monitor and oversee actions of our elected leaders, and to vote. 

This delicate system also requires truth, honesty and people working together in good faith for the wellbeing and collective good of our citizens.  American democracy is so important to other countries with similar aims across the world. We’ve all likely said the Pledge of Allegiance a thousand times, but when was the last time you really focused on the words of our American pledge?