One of my greatest work pleasures this summer is welcoming 4-H groups as they visit the University of Minnesota. Whether on day trips or as part of overnight immersion experiences, 4-H youth from all over the state have been spending time on campus –exploring learning environments, meeting staff and faculty and thinking about the studies they might enjoy as college students.
Finding a place to belong
My colleague Dr. Joanna Tzenis recently published research about the value of spending time on college campuses. When youth engage in campus activities, meet with current students and try out college life, it can give a good feel for if that place is the right fit. Yes, youth can search websites and even dream of going to a specific school, but there is no replacement for actually getting on campus and exploring what a school has offer.
Being on campus is not just high schoolers by the way. I’ve met with 4-H’ers as young as 3rd grade this summer, along with older youth, who are curious to learn and plan to make their college aspirations a reality. No matter what a young person’s age, being in the college environment can help youth begin to chart a path toward higher education and a career to love.
So many career options
Last week, a group of youth from Houston, Goodhue and Winona counties visited with me before heading off to tour the U of M research barns and check in with the student leaders in the dairy lab. Another group, from Freeborn, Rice, Mower, Steele and Waseca counties stopped for lunch at our student center before spending the afternoon exploring natural history and sciences at the Bell Museum. And I recently saw photos of 4-H camp at the U of M Morris campus where youth were exploring engineering, industrial design and agronomy.
These subjects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the study options that higher education has to offer. What are you curious about? Come to campus, any campus in fact, and see how your curiosity and ambition can flourish.
I encourage youth to connect with local 4-H staff to discover the next campus visit or immersion experience that’s coming up in your area. And when the opportunity comes, say yes and go! No matter what campuses you explore, have fun and be adventurous. Meet new people, try new things and imagine what it would feel like to live and learn as a college student. A whole world of opportunity is at your fingertips.
And if your campus explorations bring you to St. Paul, please let me know. I’d love to welcome you.
Dr. Jennifer A Skuza
State 4-H director