US Veterans Finding Good Fit with MSU Dan Scott Ranch Management

by Andy Schwab

Montana’s oldest land grant institute recently started one of the nation’s leading ranching systems degrees that prepares students for Montana’s number one industry.

The Dan Scott Ranch Management program was started in 2019 so graduates could have knowledge and skills to employ prudent ranching practices that create value and improve the state and country’s natural resources. However, the program has since drawn students that didn’t always have ranching backgrounds. No, it’s actually becoming an excellent fit for men and women who have given all they can to this country.

Out of the 31 current students, four of them have signed off on a dotted that could have led to the ultimate sacrifice for you and me. One of those was Greg Collins, who served the US Army in the 82nd Airbourne Division and did two tours overseas. Collins has been with the program since its inception and will be one of the first graduates with the four-year degree.

He knows his fellow veterans bring a strong work ethic to the program that includes interdisciplinary coursework while combining business, economics, and environmental science with animal husbandry, range management and on-ranch internships.

“It’s far easier to turn a veteran out that knows what he or she is doing or knows what they want to do, than it is an 18-year-old that maybe just graduated and got away from their parents and doesn’t really know what they want to do yet,” said Collins. He added, “It’s been great. They offer a side to the industry that I don’t think a lot of people think about, they’re highly sought after in my opinion. They work hard, they show up every day, and if they don’t bring experience, they bring one thing and that is work ethic and timeliness to the job.”

Kellen Marlow, the BART Farm’s livestock operations manager, is himself an Army veteran and an MSU graduate. He told Northern Ag Network’s Andy Schwab, not only does the curriculum offer an outstanding opportunity for the students, so does the location of the class.

“This agricultural research facility here in the middle of Bozeman, in the heart of it, is actually very beneficial for those students,” said Marlow. He added, “Because depending upon the time of the day, we’re 5 minutes from campus. You know, kids can walk out here, kids can have their classes out here and we’re being able to go right from a classroom setting right out into an agricultural setting at that point, where you get to see cows, you get to have horses, you get to see the feedlot, and you get to understand everything along those lines that you’re not going to have at any of the other Universities around the intermountain west or even around the country for that matter.”

As for what draws student veterans to the program in such a high proportion, Jeffery Courchaine told me on a Teams call, the opportunity for hands-on work through internships and preparation for a career away from a desk. He also believes programs like the Veterans Readiness Employment program see this as a good fit for a lot of veterans right now and could get a little competitive in the future.

“They look at the industry you want to go into and they have a bunch of websites and it shows that ranching and ranch management is supposed to grow in Montana by 4 to 5 percent over the next five years,” said Courchaine.

In addition to the growth, Couchaine believes the program is about to fully take off.

“Also, the program is relatively new, the Dan Scott Ranch Management program pretty new, so they’re continuing to try and expand it. I would say, now is the best time to get in, because there’s not a lot of competition, but I can’t imagine after it gets its feet under it and the word gets out that it wouldn’t be extremely attractive for veterans or for anybody that really wants to get into ranching so the program will be limited by the amount of ranches that can come on board that can provide those internships, so I see it being much more competitive in the future,” said Courchaine.

The Dan Scott Ranch Management Program, partners with MSU’s Veteran Services Office each year to provide guidance to students who think ranching systems may be the degree for them.  


Northern Ag Network – 2023

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