Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - Future Farmers of Turkmenistan chapters could soon sprout throughout the former Soviet republic, thanks to the efforts of New Mexico State University's Randy Andreasen.
Andreasen, who joined NMSU this fall as an assistant professor in agricultural and extension education, has helped start FFT clubs in four of Turkmenistan's five states as part of a Winrock International project.
After visiting NMSU student teachers in Melrose, Clovis, Moriarty, Capitan and Mosquero, Andreasen traveled to Turkmenistan in late October to meet with top-ranking officials and make presentations to university students and schoolchildren.
"We did lots of leadership development work with individuals, small groups and classes," Andreasen said. "Because the Soviet teaching tradition used a very rigid, lecture-only approach, getting students to do hands-on leadership exercises was an idea that took them by storm. We've been invited back to do some work on innovative teaching methods."
The minister of agriculture and deputy minister of education are eager to build "human capital" in Turkmenistan, where 80 percent of the population is involved in agriculture and students take a two-month break from school to pick cotton, he said.
Andreasen said a number of universities, including NMSU, have done agricultural outreach projects in Turkmenistan. In fact, one host proudly displayed an irrigation exchange certificate from Craig Runyan, a member of NMSU's extension plant sciences department.
But the current project's emphasis on leadership development in youth ages 10 to 24 is a new approach in Turkmenistan.
Andreasen, whose own children have participated in FFA and 4-H, believes successful American youth organizations can be adapted. "I've seen what a difference these groups can make in the life of students here in the states, who have a lot," he said. "But I'm optimistic about the impact it can have on students who have so little."
Currently, FFT chapters meet outside school, similar to American 4-H clubs. Andreasen hopes to see FFT courses offered in schools in an FFA-like format. Other goals are to work with teachers, organize a national convention and arrange exchanges with former FFA members and host families in Turkmenistan.
"It will take strong national leadership and a groundswell of support to perpetuate the idea of FFT in Turkmenistan," he said. "The impact it can make in a developing country is significant."
Andreasen, whose previous international experience includes annual trips to Costa Rica while he was at Southwest Missouri State University, hopes his international work will provide new opportunities and perspectives for aspiring teachers and county Cooperative Extension Service agents.
"I've gained professionally and personally, and I owe it to the students here to bring that experience back to the classroom," he said. "I hope they will appreciate that these ideas have worldwide application, not just in the classroom or in an FFA office here. It's important that students develop an awareness and appreciation for other cultures."
Andreasen's teaching experience includes three years as an assistant professor at Southweest Missouri State University, a year at Iowa State University and seven years as a high school agriculture teacher in Utah.
At NMSU, Andreasen teaches educational methods classes and supervises the department's student teachers.
He earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural education with a minor in animal science and teaching endorsements in Spanish and biological science from Utah State University. He earned a master's degree in agricultural education from Utah State and a doctorate in agricultural education from Iowa State University.
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