Murray State University selected as top postsecondary agricultural education program in Kentucky while also named a national finalist

By Shawn Touney | Aug 8, 2022

Pictured are Mr. David Black, Dr. Kimberly Bellah, Mr. John Martin, and Dr. Brian Parr

Pictured from left to right: Mr. David Black, Dr. Kimberly Bellah, Mr. John Martin, past president of KAAE, and Dr. Brian Parr.

MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University’s agricultural education program has been named the top postsecondary agricultural education program in Kentucky by the Kentucky Association of Agricultural Educators (KAAE), and has also been named by the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) as one of four national finalists for the Outstanding Postsecondary Agricultural Education award.  

Housed within the Hutson School of Agriculture, the Murray State agricultural education program offers teacher certification in agricultural education, as well as options to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, Educational Specialist degree, and Agricultural Education Leadership doctoral degree. There are typically around 100 students enrolled in the agricultural education program at any given time.

The program’s mission is broad, ranging from preparing agriculture teachers for the classroom, to hosting FFA activities, to Collegiate FFA and Alpha Tau Alpha participation, to providing online graduate education for high school agriculture teachers. 

A very important part of Murray State’s agricultural education program is the Racer Academy dual credit classes offered to high school agriculture students all across Kentucky. There are more than 500 high school students statewide who are enrolled in Racer Academy each semester. Many of these high school students matriculate into various academic programs at Murray State including agricultural education. 

The agricultural education program hosts four statewide career development events at Murray State each year for high school FFA members, one at the state fair, and coordinates multiple events at the state FFA convention each year. This not only serves as good experience for college students preparing to be high school agriculture teachers, it gives high school students more opportunities to participate in competitions. 

The program also coordinates a regional FFA STARS program, which selects approximately 50 high school FFA members and invites them to attend an elite student program on campus. Murray State agricultural education students also participate in state and national Teach Ag Campaign efforts, connecting them with the profession well before they have their own classrooms to lead. 

In addition to the overall award, several Murray State alumni and students also received individual awards. Murray State alumnus J.T. Payne, ‘19, ‘21, is a Teacher Turn the Key award winner, while another Racer alumnus, Steve Keown, ‘84, is an Indiana Teacher Mentor award winner. James Kash, recipient of the Early Career Teacher award, is currently in Murray State agriculture’s graduate program.

Said Dr. Tony Brannon, dean of the Murray State Hutson School of Agriculture: “Our Murray State University agricultural education program has established a long and proud tradition since it began in 1967. Agricultural education is the backbone of our highly successful Hutson School of Agriculture. We are proud of both our people and our program. As a previous graduate of this program, I have studied under, taught with, and/or hired every one of the people who have been involved in this program. From charter faculty member Dr. Eldon Heathcott to present leader Dr. Kim Bellah, we have a proud leadership legacy of people who have provided faculty guidance. In addition to our overall award, we are also proud of these current and all past individual award winners. The people who have gone through this program have impacted a broad network of exponentially impactful teachers of agriculture and agricultural professionals. Next, I am proud of our program. Our program has a broad mission that ranges from preparing teachers in the classroom and for student teaching, to hosting FFA contests and service activities, to providing statewide leadership, to collegiate FFA participation, to providing statewide dual credit opportunities through Racer Academy, to providing online graduate education for secondary teachers across Kentucky as well as many other states. We are so proud of our people and our program, and for this well deserved state and national recognition.”

The KAAE is the professional organization for individuals involved in school-based agricultural education at any level. To support its members, KAAE advocates for agricultural education, provides professional development opportunities, and works to recruit and retain educators in the profession. KAAE is part of the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE , which has more than 9,000 members nationwide.

For more information on Murray State University’s Hutson School of Agriculture, please visit, email or call 270-809-3328.

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