Lake Michigan College (LMC) and Michigan State University’s (MSU) Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) will partner to ensure the continued expansion of the agricultural sector in southwest Michigan, a major economic force and employer in the region.


MSU’s Institute of Agricultural Technology offers certificates in several agriculture-based programs, but does not offer an associate’s degree. Lake Michigan College offers the associate’s degree, but does not offer the specific programs available only through the IAT.


The partnership between the two will see two programs added: a viticulture program and an applied plant science program. The applied plant science program offers concentrations in commercial horticulture operations, landscape horticulture, and commercial turfgrass operations.


“These programs recognize the importance of agriculture in all its forms and the need for a skilled work force to ensure its continued success,” said Eunice F. Foster, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the IAT. “The programs that the Institute will offer at Lake Michigan College are region-specific, and determined by the local community.”


“Lake Michigan College’s partnership with a global leader in agricultural research and education will be as important to the region’s agricultural industry as our nursing and medical imaging programs are to the delivery of quality healthcare, and our energy production technology program is becoming to power generation,” stated LMC President Dr. Robert Harrison.


 “This program is another example of Lake Michigan College’s commitment to direct its resources toward the development of outstanding programs and services that address key needs of our communities and provide new career opportunities for our students,” stated LMC Board of Trustees Chairman Pat Moody.


 The partnership and programs will meet local needs as determined first by an industry survey, followed by focus groups in the area. The work culminated in the formation of an advisory group representing industry, local and state agencies, workforce development boards, high schools and other stakeholders, explained Thomas Smith, associate director of IAT at MSU.


“This advisory group will help identify and guide the programs to make sure they are relevant, practical and meet the needs of employers,” he said. “Michigan’s agri-food and agri-energy system is a $71.3 billion industry, and one that continues to grow.”


Students do need to be accepted into both institutions, and may enter the program through one of two paths:

Students may begin taking general education courses at LMC, and apply to the IAT for admission to a specific program; or
Students may be admitted first to a specific certificate program in the IAT, then decide to enter the program to earn an associate’s degree from LMC.

            In terms of job placement, IAT’s students are already readily placed in-state and statewide. They complete internships nationally and internationally.


A significant portion of the state’s increased revenue in the agricultural industry was generated by apples, blueberries and grapes, important crops in southwest Michigan. Processing and high-value wineries are well represented in southwest Michigan and agri-tourism continues to expand.


Additionally, southwest Michigan is home to numerous greenhouses and nurseries, many of which distribute nationally, growing material for both retail and wholesale markets in the robust green industry. The golf and commercial turf segment in Michigan continues to be strong in the area. Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor is one of the new up-scale golf developments in the state.


“These important economic drivers, coupled with the diversity of agriculture in southwest Michigan and the proximity to major markets like Chicago, positions this region as a leader in agriculture. More importantly, the scope and breadth of agriculture in southwest Michigan represents a major source of employment in the region,” Smith said.


The IAT was formed in 1894. It offers career-ready programs in a time frame of one to two years. It offers certificate programs that are respected throughout the state and nation and several have international reputations. Among its graduates, IAT includes Heather Nobozny, head groundskeeper for the Detroit Tigers.


On Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 p.m., LMC and MSU will host an informational open house about the new agricultural programs. The open house will take place in the LMC Mendel Center, Room F-103. Representatives from LMC and MSU will be available to discuss details of the programs. Those interested in attending can pre-register at www.lakemichigancollege.edu/agriculture.

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