As Huntington University President Sherilyn Emberton approaches her 10th anniversary at the small, faith-based institution in northeast Indiana, she shares on the upcoming episode of the Agbioscience podcast one of her first impressions of Indiana from the air.
“I’m flying into a rural airport and looking over and I cannot believe what I see in crop production,” said Emberton to podcast host and AgriNovus Indiana CEO Mitch Frazier.
Emberton, who grew up in Texas, says she attended a land grant university and understands agriculture, but she was taken aback by Indiana crop production.
Her mind immediately went to job potential for Huntington University undergrads.
“I’m thinking, ‘okay, who’s got the workforce here? Who’s developing the degree professionals for advanced jobs that can do that,” reflected Emberton.
She says she kept getting the same answer “over and over again” that Purdue, as the state’s land grant school, was the place for an ag-focused education.
“That’s great. I love that. But that meant there was room for a Christian rural college to do what they do best, which is love on their community,” said Emberton.
Undeterred, Emberton began the process to add an agricultural program to the school that has an undergraduate enrollment of about 1,000 students.
Within three years of landing at Huntington, Emberton’s wish was fulfilled. In November 2016, the Indiana State Board of Education approved its agricultural education program
“It was a little bit of a struggle at first to convince them that you could do ag on a smaller scale. And so that took a lot of old-fashioned shoe leather work,” Emberton said.
Since the launch, Huntington has added animal science, crop science, and ag research. It continues to grow.
“My kids graduate with multiple options with those degrees. So, for parents, I’ll tell you ag is a good choice. Agbioscience is a good choice, or a field that will support ag. It all works.”
Emberton also professes the bedrock message of the Christian school: “Being able to lead boldly with faith, family, farming is a really nice place to raise your young people.”