Emerging Leader Extreme Fan

Story by Melea Reicks Licht

Image by Andy Abeyta

Jacob Hunter is a super fan. He proudly wears the “I-STATE” logo on his shirt and engages strangers in conversations about Iowa State University. But, Hunter admits he can’t name a single Iowa State University student athlete.

Hunter (’11 agricultural and life sciences education) is a top fan of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. His recruitment and advocacy efforts are introducing the college to the next generation of agriculturalists.

Rising to the top

As the agricultural instructor at North Scott High School in Eldridge, Iowa, Hunter draws in students from neighboring school districts. He formerly served as the director of Iowa education programs for the World Food Prize Foundation.

“Through his earlier work with the World Food Prize Foundation, to his current role at North Scott High School, Jacob inspires future leaders with his informed, passionate and steadfast commitment to the challenges facing global agriculture,” says Joe Colletti, interim endowed dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Hunter, a member of the college’s young alumni program—The Curtiss League, received the 2018 Emerging Iowa Leader Award in recognition of his efforts to advance agriculture and life sciences in Iowa through communications, education, engagement and outstanding alumni service. He was presented the award at center court of Hilton Coliseum during the college-sponsored Cyclone women’s basketball game February 10.

Shane Knoche, principal at North Scott High School, says Hunter is a leader in competency-based education.

“When we hired Mr. Hunter, we set the goal of having a top ten ag and FFA program in five years. In his second year, North Scott was ranked number two in the state,” Knoche says.

Melissa Garcia Rodriguez, a senior in animal science, credits Hunter for inspiring her to enroll in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“As a student from East High School in Des Moines, Mr. Hunter saw a potential in me that not many other teachers did. He didn’t judge me based on my background,” Garcia-Rodriguez says. “He worked with me to bring out the best in me and others in my classroom. I am at Iowa State today because of his guidance.”

Growth mindset

Hunter leads the North Scott program with fellow alumnus Andrea Kuffel (’16 agricultural and life sciences education). Together they strive to create a rigorous and relevant curriculum that inspires students to act locally and think globally.

During his first year as North Scott’s agricultural instructor, the program grew from 16 first-year students to over 70 first-year students.

“The growth of over 400 percent allowed us to add a second teacher at the junior high,” Hunter says. “And, we added an agriculture biology course that allows students to earn credits for high school graduation and meet the Regent Admission Index (RAI) requirements.”

North Scott also added online agriculture courses for students in neighboring school districts to take classes and join FFA. Students also are finding success in FFA contests.

“Just this fall we had North Scott’s first state championship team in Milk Quality and Products. They competed at Nationals in October,” he says.

Hunter has plans for continued growth of the program, specifically by reaching out to urban school districts—an area in which he is familiar. His student teaching experience was in the Chicago Public Schools and his first full-time positions were at Central Campus High School in Des Moines and Lincoln Community High School in Illinois.

“We are working to build North Scott into the regional agriculture center for the Quad Cities area. This would allow students from the metro schools to have easier access to an agriculture program,” Hunter says.

Cyclone story

A DeWitt native who grew up near Iowa City, Hunter seemed predestined to be a Hawkeye. Then his mother, an Iowa State alum, convinced him to attend State 4-H Conference at Iowa State University. His course for Cyclone adventure was set.

Hunter made the most of his student experience while at Iowa State. He served as a peer mentor to incoming freshman, and he was elected president of the Agricultural Education Club and secretary of the college’s ambassador program. A member of the Fred Foreman Leadership Scholars, his knack for inspiring others and his leadership acumen earned him
a position as state vice president of the Iowa FFA Association.

At graduation, Hunter was named 2011 Outstanding Ambassador of Agriculture and Ag Man of the Year by his peers in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Of all his experiences at Iowa State, Hunter says the most impactful was teaching about health and horticulture in Uganda’s rural Kamuli district with the college’s service learning program.

“Working hand-in-hand with our counterparts in Uganda taught me so much about myself, about how much good is being done in the world and about how much good still needs to be done,” he says.

Global outlook

Hunter says his experience in Uganda solidified his future as an advocate of global agricultural education.

In 2014, Hunter joined the staff at the World Food Prize as director of Iowa education programs. The World Food Prize, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, and created by Iowa native Norman Borlaug, recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State began to partner with the Prize in 2012 hosting youth programs as part of its Iowa Youth Institute.

“The institute encourages participants to stretch their thinking to address a global food challenge and consider careers in agriculture,” he says.

Hunter values his time at the World Food Prize and is thankful for the opportunities the position provided in developing future agricultural leaders.

When he felt the call to return to the classroom in 2016, he brought his passion for global agricultural education with him.

“I often tell my students I will be retired by 2050. It’s up to you to take on feeding the world,” he says. “They don’t know it, but they are the future scientists, policy makers, leaders, rebels, farmers and creative minds that have no choice but to take on this ambitious goal.”

Hunter is convinced his students will rise to the challenge.