Penn State Senior Aims to Create Positive Impact Through Agricultural Education

Dec 08, 2023


By Kelly Jedrzejewski

 Senior Brandon Bixler has packed a lot of experiences into his four years at Penn State. From conducting undergraduate research in Nepal to being named a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, Bixler credits the support of faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences and the agricultural and extension education major with making his journey possible.

When Bixler, of East Earl, decided on a career in agricultural education, he said his choice of where to study was easy.

“Penn State is known nationwide for the quality of its agricultural education program and vast professional network,” said Bixler. “The faculty, advisers, administrators, staff and my fellow students are first-rate. The college provides a tight-knit community within the larger University. I’ve had access to deep and genuine relationships alongside abounding opportunities for learning and growth.”

Bixler noted that within Pennsylvania and around the United States, there is a critical shortage of agricultural educators.

“I’ve been blessed with many of my truest friends and mentors in the agricultural education family,” he said. “The major prepares students with a well-rounded background to educate and lead effectively in formal and nonformal education settings. You’ll be well prepared to make an impact regardless of where you go following your undergraduate career.”

Bixler, a first-generation college student, had an interest in global agriculture before coming to Penn State, and several experiences, including his minor in international agriculture — often referred to as INTAG — have supported this interest.

As part of an internship with the Global Teach Ag Network,Bixler traveled to Nepal in 2022. His role supported the delivery of a professional learning network and professional development events that equip educators from all backgrounds to teach with a global perspective. After the trip, Bixler presented his research at the Association of International Agricultural and Extension Education conference in Guelph, Canada, and at the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

“My internship experiences, coupled with the INTAG 100 course, led me to enroll in the minor, which has become one of my favorite parts of my college experience,” Bixler said. “I’ve had the chance to conduct research in Nepal, travel to Kenya in an embedded course, work with farmworkers in our local community, and gain experience delivering globally focused agricultural education to high school students.”

Noel Habashy, assistant teaching professor and coordinator of the INTAG minor, said Bixler is “a tremendous example of a student tenaciously seeking out opportunities to learn well on campus and around the globe. He engages in opportunities around campus, asks thoughtful questions about food and agriculture around the globe, and works to listen and learn in different cultures humbly.”

In 2022, Bixler was among five undergraduates recognized with a Student Research Expo Award from the Penn State chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, the agricultural honor society.

For his work as a Savings Group intern with HOPE International in Lancaster, Bixler received a College of Agricultural Sciences Alumni Society 2022 Internship Award. The award was created to encourage students to participate in a credit or noncredit educational internship program related to their field of study.

Earlier this fall, Bixler was named a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship, a fully funded postgraduate award that empowers young people worldwide to study at the University of Oxford.

Although Bixler was not selected for the scholarship, he said he was “truly humbled and sincerely grateful” to be named a finalist.

Bixler is a Schreyer Honors Scholar and a Penn State Presidential Leadership Academy enrollee. During his time at Penn State, he has served as the college’s representative and deputy chief of staff with the University Park Undergraduate Association, the co-chair of the University Faculty Senate Student Caucus, and the president of the Coaly Society. Bixler also is a member of the Ag Advocates, the Collegiate Farm Bureau, and the Penn State FFA Alumni and Supporters Society.

In January, Bixler will be a student teaching intern at Athens Area High School in Athens. After graduation, he hopes to be engaged in work related to agriculture and education.

“The college has provided a sense of home over the past four years and has given me a space to learn and grow far beyond what I could have imagined,” Bixler said. “Put simply, I want others to be better off and empowered to solve their challenges because of my work. I’m excited about the opportunity to be an agricultural science teacher at the secondary level or to work within the international agricultural development sector. Hopefully, I’ll do a bit of both during my career.”

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