Filling the Gap

"The 21st century agricultural communicator needs to be able to do everything," said Jamie Loizzo, one of the newest faculty members with the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Communication degree program in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Lozzio

AESC graduates are expected to quickly produce all types of electronic materials for their workplace. This includes, but is not limited to writing news releases, taking photographs, shooting videos, planning events, creating promotions online, managing social media and designing web pages.

"I'm preparing students to be dynamic, innovative problem solvers and critical thinkers," Loizzo said. "They will be able to communicate complicated scientific information in a variety of ways to a variety of audiences."

To keep up with an increasingly digital world, Loizzo said AESC graduates must learn how to use technology to produce content that promotes products and services for their company.

"Graduates don't always have access to high-end, specialized equipment to produce content that promotes their company's mission or services," Loizzo said.

Employers often expect graduates to use equipment that is readily available, such as smartphones or tablets. To prepare students to be successful in their future careers, Loizzo takes real world situations right into her classroom. She teaches without the high-end equipment and has students utilize tablets and smartphones, such as iPads and iPhones instead.

iOgrapher, a company that was started by a media arts high school instructor, offers cases that fit any size iPad or iPhone. The cases are equipped with handles for video recording, a tripod mount, and "shoes" which secure different attachments like lights, microphones, wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

With Loizzo's mentoring and expertise, students engage in hands-on learning and transform tablets and smartphones into professional tools. Students create multimedia content, immediately share their projects on the Internet, and receive feedback from Loizzo in class – just like they would in a career.

Not only do AESC students learn how to promote products and services by crafting web content quickly, they learn how to, "bridge the gap between scientists and the public," Loizzo said.

"We are at a time where communicating about the relationship between agriculture and the natural environment is crucial," Loizzo said. "Agriculture, the environment and how we use our natural resources affects all of us. We all live on this planet, we all eat, we all wear clothing. We need to understand how these resources come about and understand the technology that's being used."

AESC graduates learn to communicate these issues by earning a Bachelor of Science degree. Students take both science and communication courses in the unique AESC curriculum.

"AESC students work with scientists to break down the content, understand it and deliver information in ways that make sense to different audiences," Loizzo said.

Students have an advantage when searching for jobs; not only do they have a scientific understanding of agriculture and the environment, they comprehend and use many different communication methods.

"Students are getting the best of both worlds in this major," said Loizzo. "That's where the AESC program fills the gap."

AESC students have completed photo essays projects to raise awareness of Nebraska Extension, a program that provides research-based education to the public. Student work will also be used for a program in the future, created by Loizzo called, "Streaming Science," which will feature videos, podcasts and electronic field trips to connect UNL scientists with elementary and middle school students.

You can view student projects by searching "University of Nebraska–Lincoln" in YouTube's search box at, clicking on "Playlists" and choosing "Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication."