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Issues-360: An Issues Engagement Fellowship Program for Students

Issues in agriculture are in the news daily and the ability to successfully deal with and understand issues is a vital skill for those in the industry. As today’s students become the future faces of agriculture, it is urgent that they understand how to engage in and react to controversial issues in a professional and socially responsible manner.

Trends become issues when they elicit strong sentiments either for or against them. Many times these trends or changes evoke concern among certain stakeholders and others. By anticipating and planning for these changes, individuals and organizations can help themselves and others work through those concerns. Thus, issues engagement is a proactive process, rather than reactive.

Issues engagement is not advocacy. Our proposed issues engagement approach is not about setting one side against another or polarizing an issue. We assess that when issues are understood, points of common ground may be found. When engaging in issues — rather than advocating for them — relationships can be built and solutions sought to issues of mutual interest.

It can also mean that individual perspectives change as new information and experiences emerge. Being open, listening, reflecting and seeking new ideas are a part of the engagement process.

Engaging in an issue does not guarantee a resolution. However, the experience can still be enlightening and hopefully at least garner a better understanding of the issue from other perspectives.

Currently, the trend in interacting and seeking information on controversial issues is the tendency for people to gravitate to those sources with similar views. Those in agriculture are told to “tell our story” but missing is the need to listen to others’ stories. Often a defensive stand is taken against those whose views differ.

However, to be truly informed on issues, often means engaging with groups that might be considered adversaries. Such interactions provide a more complete picture and help develop better understanding of issues and their impact. Critical thinking, seeking diverse views and conflict resolution are skills to proper issue engagement.

This planned program would provide educational experiences for our Purdue Agriculture students to help them become more skilled in issues engagement. The combination of formal and informal activities are designed to intensely impact a small core group of students and provide additional opportunities for the broader college as well.
For more information on this program please contact Mary Helen Halsema at or Lara Rodgers at​, or by calling 765-494-8473.