Agriculture used to be a department dominated by men; few women, if any, enrolled in its courses at Southeast Missouri State University. Now, women such as Mahala Harpster are making their presence known in the field.
"Being a female in agriculture is actually not that unheard of anymore," Mahala, a Southeast student from St. Peter, Ill., said. "It's quite nice to walk into a classroom and see just as many girls as there are guys in the room, and it is also nice to know that men in agriculture know that women can do just about anything they can do."
Anything they can do and maybe more.
Mahala is president of Southeast's Collegiate Farm Bureau and a previous member of the Agriculture Club. Through her involvement in the Department of Agriculture, she has had the opportunity to attend an annual conference in Kansas City, Mo., and will travel to Washington, D.C., over spring break with the Collegiate Farm Bureau. She also had a brief stint working at a pet hospital, which reinforced her decision to major in agribusiness with an option in animal science.
Mahala has had a passion for animals since she was a child, so her degree path seemed to be the obvious choice for her when she arrived at Southeast.
"I knew I wanted to work with animals, and I hope to have my own dog boarding center eventually. It was brought to my attention that an agribusiness degree would prepare me for the future when I can own my own business as well as work with animals until I have the means to do so. It has been an amazing fit for me," Mahala said.
While Mahala enjoys the content of her courses at Southeast, she says the best thing about her classes is the size of them. Few universities these days can boast a small student-to-teacher ratio, but that is one thing on which Southeast prides itself. The average class size is approximately 20 students.
"My classes are so small that I get to know all my teachers on a personal level, and I just love that about here. It's nice to know just about every single one of your classmates as well," Mahala said.
This intimacy allows for great opportunities, Mahala says, and students should take advantage of them.
"As a Southeast student, you are in for excellence, so be prepared for it. This is a place where you can learn and have fun while you do it," Mahala said.