An outstanding CFANS visit for greater Minnesota youth

April 8, 2024

Kittson and Roseau County 4-H youth group gets warm CFANS welcome on a winter’s day

4-H students from Kittson/Roseau Counties pose with Goldy Gopher.

4-H students from Kittson and Roseau Counties visited the U of M in January 2024

A group of 4-H students from small towns in northern Minnesota got a big, warm welcome to the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) on a chilly day in January 2024. Led by U of M Extension 4-H Youth Development Educators Kaiya Novacek of Kittson County and Sandi Weiland of Roseau County, the youth traveled 300+ miles south from home to spend a great weekend in the Twin Cities, including a day on campus with CFANS.

“In conversations while planning the campus immersion opportunity, the youth talked about the excitement of visiting a campus they had not been to before,” said Novacek. “CFANS offers such a wide range of programs and majors, and the students were excited to get an opportunity to hear more about those in addition to general aspects of campus life.”

The CFANS agenda included connecting with faculty and staff from the Department of Agricultural Education, Communication and Marketing to learn about programs and Agricast, a student-produced digital resource and website dedicated to sharing science concepts and stories. The students also toured campus, got a demonstration at the Meat Science Laboratory, and met with Freshman Admissions Counselor Avery Fessler.

4-H students visit CFANS.

U of M Extension 4-H State Specialist, Education and Career Pathways, Department of Youth Development Joanna Tzenis explains that visits like these are important because they allow youth to experience what it feels like to be a student at CFANS. “This is especially important for young people living in more rural areas of the state, whose academic interests might be a perfect fit for the College, but who might not be able to picture themselves living in the Twin Cities,” said Tzenis. “Visits like this give them the opportunity to imagine what going to the U might be like based on real experiences, not assumptions or perceptions.”

Weiland adds that visits like this open the doors of possibility for students. “The 4-H program offers educationalopportunities for youth to broaden their experiences,” she said. “The staff at CFANS did a great job introducing program ideas for youth to consider. It is important for youth to be introduced to a wide range of experiences to expand their possibilities.”  Weiland emphasized how much the students especially enjoyed attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute Concert hosted by the U of M’s Office for Equity and Diversity and the School of Music. “This was an amazing experience,” she said.

4-H students visit CFANS.

When asked what she thought the students from Kittson/Roseau found the most surprising about their visit, Associate Professor of Agricultural Education, Communication and Marketing Amy Smith commented on the personal connections that were made. “Sometimes ‘the Cities’ can seem big and impersonal until you visit and interact with folks on campus,” she said. “By the end of the experience, I think each of the participants was surprised at how small the St. Paul campus, and CFANS, felt,” she said.

Smith, a former high school agriculture teacher who loves to interact with middle and high school students, was delighted to share what she enjoys most about having a career in agriculture, food, and natural resources with students from greater Minnesota. “Because of the geographical distance between Kittson and Roseau Counties and the Twin Cities, these young people won’t have as many chances to get to campus as young people from the metro area,” she said. “To determine if a college or campus is the right fit, it’s critical to visit. I hope that this experience helped more of these young leaders see themselves as future CFANS students!”

4-H studentttttt doing an activity on campus at a computer screen.

Prior to meeting with CFANS faculty and staff, the 4-H-ers spent the weekend doing a variety of fun Twin Cities activities. In addition to attending the MLK Tribute Concert at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, they visited two very popular St. Paul campus destinations — the Bell Museum and the Raptor Center — and took in a Gopher hockey game at 3M Arena at Mariucci.

“Many of our youth noted how much they enjoyed attending the Gopher hockey game on Saturday evening, especially seeing a hometown favorite from Roseau, Aaron Huglen, score a goal!” said Novacek, noting that during their visit, students got to see the small town lifestyle of the St. Paul campus while hearing from students and staff about the benefits of attending a Big 10 school and the great experiences available on the Minneapolis campus and in the Twin Cities, as well.

Novacek was thrilled to bring these youth to her alma mater (she is a 2022 graduate of the CFANS Agricultural Education program). “Being able to accompany youth in experiences like this where they are willing step out of their comfort zone, where we can have those reflective conversations — and I can see those gears turning and connections being made — makes me so proud to continue to be part of the U of M and do the work we do to serve Minnesota youth,” she said.

“The youth were very impressed with the opportunities on the campuses and the smaller community feel to them,” said Weiland. “They didn’t realize the extent of hands-on learning in the programs and really enjoyed all the activities introduced by CFANS.”

The CFANS community looks forward to many more visits from 4-H students and other youth across the state. “There are many CFANS students and faculty enthusiastic about connecting with prospective students; often, all it takes to make it happen is a request,” said Smith. “I hope that more parents, teachers, and leaders consider reaching out to craft similar experiences for the young people in their lives.”

Apply to CFANS! 4-H students who apply to the U of M receive waived admission fees.

Deciding which college is the best fit for you is a big step. At CFANS we are committed to helping our students make the world a better, more sustainable place. We believe that everyone has a role to play, it’s only a matter of finding your passion. As one of the colleges within the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, our small class sizes, hands-on learning opportunities, and career resources are available to make your transition into college life easier so that you can learn, create, and discover. Learn more about CFANS admissions