Full-time program proves ranching takes time

Students like Gretchen Berns and Kevin Roach are working through the Ranch Management Program with the goal of one day running their own sustainable ranches.

Berns, a current student in the program, said she applied for the program because she wanted to be able to play an active role in her family’s ranch in Kansas. 

“I thought I understood the idea of time management, but in this program it is a whole new ballgame,” Berns said.

It is a full-commitment program where students work 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week on projects or homework. But Berns said it was worth it, and it paid off in the end.

“I have grown so much as a person,” she said. “I have learned so much about ranching as well as problem solving.”

In ranching, the answers are not in black and white. Students are taught that answers depend on each unique situation and how to make the best decisions at that time because that is how it is in real life, Berns said.

The program requires a major time commitment from students and is academically demanding, Kerry Cornelius, director of the Ranch Management Program, said.

Students attend classes, have daily quizzes and are assigned six major projects. They are also required to participate in week-long field trips throughout the school year, Cornelius said.

It is a tough program, but the professors and directors are helpful and make themselves available to the students, which is essential to the learning process, Berns said.

Students have grown close to each other over the past two months because they all struggle together, she said.

Prior to being accepted into the program, students go through an extensive interview process during which they are told what will be expected of them. Directors of the program use the interview process to see how serious students are about the program, Cornelius said.

Berns said it was important to have a true passion for ranching, otherwise it would be impossible to get through the program.

Kevin Roach, a current student in the Ranch Management Program, said the time commitment to the program meant he was only able to see his wife and five-year-old son on the weekends when he visited them back home in Breckenridge.  

Roach said his wife came with him to the interview before he was accepted into the program so that she would also know what the expectations would be.

“My wife is very supportive and believes in what I am doing because in the long run it is a good thing for our family, but it is definitely a challenge,” Roach said.

Roach, who has three years of ranching experience, said he came to the program in order to learn how to operate a profitable ranch.

“You have to be committed,” Roach said. Established in 1956, the Ranch Management Program, was designed to prepare young ranchers at the university for the opportunities as well as the challenges ahead of them, according to the Ranch Management website.

Part of that preparation includes learning time-management skills, Cornelius said.

Ranch Management is a closed enrollment program that allows 36 students to be enrolled each year, according to the website. Only 24 students are currently enrolled in the program for the 2011-2012 school year.

“We’re more interested in the quality of the student than the quantity of students,” Cornelius  said.