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Graduate Student Spotlight: Ronnie Cowan

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Carrie Ann Stephens, Graduate Coordinator

As a faculty member and graduate advisor, I have the privilege of working with many outstanding Extension agents across Tennessee. Each graduate student works extremely hard to complete his or her Master of Science degree in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. In addition, some graduate students elect to write a thesis as a part of their degree program. Ronnie Cowan, a University of Tennessee Extension Director in Lewis County, recently completed his thesis entitled 4-H Wildlife Habitat Education Program: A Qualitative Study in Career Exploration. Ronnie then worked diligently to convert his thesis project into a journal article which was recently published in the Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research. Congratulations Ronnie!

Graduate Student Spotlight: Ronnie Cowan

Abstract: Previous studies have documented the Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) builds life skills of 4-H participants. Furthermore, youth education and development of life skills are enhanced through 4-H educational efforts that provide hands-on learning projects and concepts that ultimately assist in career development (Bandura, Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 2001; Bourdeau, 2004. The purpose of this study is to describe WHEP participants’ perceptions of careers in wildlife management after the completion of the annual program. The central research question guiding this study was how do 4-H members view careers in wildlife management after participating in WHEP? A focus group comprised of nine WHEP participants was conducted at the Tennessee 4-H Wildlife Judging contest to determine participants’ perceptions of careers in wildlife management after completion of the annual program. Focus group participants indicated participating in WHEP peaked their interest in wildlife and provided an op- portunity to experience the importance of natural resource management. Future research should be conducted on a national level that measures the perceptions of outdoor enthusiasts regarding the fundamentals of wildlife management. This question could give insight on the transfer of knowledge between adults and youth.