Innovative Campus Grant Planting Seeds for Success at Southeast

STA-AgricultureKENNETT, Mo., Nov. 20, 2014 – Thanks to an Innovative Campus Grant, Joe Marshall Rouse, a senior from Campbell, Mo., is completing an agribusiness degree at Southeast Missouri State University-Kennett with an extra perk.

“The Innovative Campus Grant has allowed me to finish my degree without borrowing more money,” he said. “As a result, I feel that I will be in a better position to enter the right career for me and my family, without having a financial burden from the get go.”

Rouse is one of 46 agribusiness majors since spring 2013, including 13 this fall from the communities of Rector, Arkansas, and Bloomsdale, Fredericktown, Braggadocio, Hayti, Cedar Hill, Kennett, Steele and Campbell in Missouri, that has benefited from the grant. Southeast agribusiness majors from the Cape Girardeau, Kennett, Malden and Sikeston campuses with low to moderate annual family income for the county in which they live are eligible for tuition assistance through the program.

“The goal of the grant is to help students earn their degree as soon as possible and help eliminate student loan debt.  The notion is to get them employed as soon as possible and help them to be self-sufficient without big student loan payments,” said Marsha Blanchard, director of Southeast Missouri State University-Kennett. “Agribusiness degrees are one of the major targets of the Innovative Campus concept because it is a high demand area for the state of Missouri, where employers have a high need for employees who are trained and have earned bachelor’s degrees in agribusiness.”

The Missouri Department of Economic Development awarded the $1 million grant in 2013, with Southeast receiving $500,000 and the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center receiving $500,000 for tuition assistance for qualifying students in health and advanced manufacturing programs. The grant is administered by the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce.

Greg Wilson, a junior agribusiness major with a focus on plant and soil science at Southeast Missouri State University-Kennett, says receiving an Innovative Campus Grant has eased the financial burden of earning a college degree.

A native of Cobden, Ill., Wilson says he hopes to pursue a sales position or enter a master’s degree program and conduct research after completing his bachelor’s degree.

“Receiving this sum of money has given me peace of mind during this hectic period in my life,” he said.

For Rouse, the Innovative Campus Grant is helping jumpstart his career.

“All aspects of agriculture interest me, everything from ag lending to equipment sales,” he said. “I feel I am being well prepared for just about any ag career opportunity out there and will be entering the job market with an open mind. I plan to stay in the area to raise my family and want to work in the ag field. Other than that, I’m ready to see what is available and I look forward to getting started.”

They will join several Southeast Innovative Campus Grant graduates now employed in the agriculture industry at organizations including the USDA/FSA of Caruthersville, Missouri; USDA/NRCS of Jackson, Missouri; MRM Ag Services of East Prairie, Missouri; Crop Production Services and Triple D Farms, both of Sikeston, Missouri; McElwrath Farms of Kennett, Missouri; the Wildlife Rescue Center of St. Louis; Southeast Missouri State University David M. Barton Agriculture Research Center; VanGennip Farms of Advance, Missouri; HGS of St. Louis; Fastenal of Kennett, Missouri; Agri Beef Co. of Moses Lake, Washington; RDS Trucking of Senath, Missouri; Bluebird Gardens of Fergus Falls, Minnesota; and Southeast Missouri State University’s graduate program in environmental science, soils concentration.

These graduates are natives of Sikeston, Kennett, Cape Girardeau, St. Louis, Essex, Frohna, Advance, Holcomb, Sedgewickville, Dexter and Joplin in Missouri.

Southeast agribusiness students who apply for the Innovative Campus Grant award can receive up to $2,500 per semester or $7,500 during their course of study. Applications are now being accepted for students seeking assistance for the spring 2015 semester. For more information, call (573) 888-0513.