At OSU's Ferguson College of Ag, Dr. Tom Coon is Excited About Students on Campus and a New Building to be BuiltTue, 14 Sep 2021 15:33:16 CDT
There is much going on at the Ferguson College of Agriculture at Oklahoma State University this fall. Dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture Dr. Thomas Coon, talked with Ron Hays today, about navigating in-person classes, record-high enrollment and construction of the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.
“We have our second-highest number of Freshmen ever in our college,” Coon said. “We have had the most transfer students come into our college than we ever have - We did really well in recruiting students this year.”
Within the Ferguson College of Agriculture, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences saw its largest ever Freshmen class this fall, he added. He said the response to recruiting efforts has paid dividends for the college.
The high number of new students adds to the challenge of in-person classes during the ongoing COVID pandemic, Coon said. For Coon, it has been a matter of learning how to carefully manage his college, keeping in mind the fact that there is a highly contagious virus still active.
“Of course, students are thrilled to be back in-person,” Coon said. “We are not out of the woods yet - this pandemic has not gone away. At times, it has been uncertain about how we are going with this.”
Coon said last year, classes sizes were dialed down to ensure social distancing and masks were required. Now that requirements are more relaxed, a level of uncertainty looms in the background of everyday campus life.
He credits OSU President Kayse Shrum with guiding faculty and staff so that the university can offer the best public health setting possible, given the present restrictions, and encourage people to get their COVID vaccination and wear a mask indoors. He also said University Health Services is doing a good job of making it easy for people to get vaccinated and tested.
Although the virus is concerning, Coon said he enjoys students being on campus again.
“It is great to have students walking around campus, doing what students do,” Coon said.
If you happen to be walking around the corner of Farm Road and Monroe Street, Coon said you may notice that the streets are, fittingly, dusted orange. Construction of the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall is in the process.
“We brought a lot of fill dirt into the site … from southern Payne County,” Coon said. “By the end of the summer, Farm Road had been turned orange.”
Coon said the New Frontiers Hall is going up just west of the Noble Research Center, right across the street from the Animal Sciences building and the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.
“As you come by the site, you realize that this is going to be a big building,” Coon said. “This is going to be a bigger building than I realized it was going to be.”
Coon said the new construction will be a fitting home for the Ferguson College of Agriculture, the Oklahoma 4-H state office and a new version of the old Dairy Bar.
A generous donation from the Ferguson Family Foundation paved the way for the $100 million project, Coon said.
“We have been so fortunate,” Coon said. “We have university and state agency funds lined up to cover half (of the total cost) … now, we are just short of $46 million.”
The project is a fulfillment of what Coon sensed about the Ferguson College of Agriculture when he took on the position of Dean seven years ago, he said. With the tremendous goodwill from donors, alumni and the agricultural industry Coon said he is sure they will reach their goal - hopefully by the end of the year.
If you want to see what construction looked like this summer, check out this time-lapse courtesy of the OSU Division of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resources.
Photo: The building site for the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, cleared and ready to be built on.
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