Creating Premier Ranchers

The King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management, set to debut this fall, employs a unique curriculum to shape elite ranch managers.

A new ranch management program will make its debut this fall at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management is a master's degree program designed to train students in all areas of ranch management — from range and wildlife management to finance and personnel management.

“There are so many variables between the environment, the cattle production system, the rangeland resources, and on and on,” says Barry Dunn, the program's endowed chair and executive director. “The emphasis will be to turn out ranch managers who can manage rangeland landscapes, successful businesses, produce livestock and do it in all ways as to enhance wildlife habitat and production.”

Several industry experts, including Paul Gehno, vice president and general manager of King Ranch, Inc., and Ronald Rosati, dean of Texas A&M-Kingsville College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, developed the concept for the Institute.

It was brought to life with the first donation of $3 million, $1 million each from The Robert J. Kleberg Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, the James H. Clement Sr. Family and King Ranch, Inc. More than $7.3 million of the $10 million goal has been raised.

Dunn was hired to turn the concept into a workable program. He arrived in Kingsville in January, leaving his post as range livestock production specialist at South Dakota State University, Brookings.

“Barry brings a unique perspective to the institute,” Rosati says. “He comes from a long tradition of successful ranch management and he personally managed a large, successful ranch for more than 17 years.”

Dunn has been developing the Institute's curriculum, which will be tailored to strengthen individual students' weaknesses so they are well rounded in all areas.

“This means that if the student is very interested in animal science, their curriculum won't be designed to strengthen their animal science skills, it will focus on strengthening their business skills, range management skills, and skills in managing wildlife,” Dunn says. “Traditionally, master's programs have narrowed the students down, focused them on a specific area of study — that is not what we are going to do. We are going to have them graduate with a very broad background.”

Program Requirements

The King Ranch Institute for Ranch Management is a two-year, intensive study program, and includes two internships. Students will complete case studies on the most well-managed ranches in the U.S., and possibly international ranches.

“Most graduate degrees are research degrees. This degree focuses on case studies where students will be functioning in a natural system,” says Gehno, a member of the Institute's management council.

The management council is composed of ranch managers, wildlife research and management personnel and representatives of related disciplines. The council serves as Institute advisors and mentors for students.

“The students will also be required to defend their case studies to the management council,” Gehno says.

Dunn says the Institute's admission standards include a bachelor's degree in animal science, range and wildlife management or business, with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates must take the Graduate Record Examination and submit 3 references.

“We'd also like to see hands-on, real-life experiences. We think that is key for their success,” Dunn says. “That means some type of previous work experience on a ranch or farm.”

Two students will be accepted into the school this fall. In fall 2005, Dunn says enrollment will be open for four additional students.

“We are actively pursuing non-traditional type students — those who have been out in the workforce in some capacity and want to come back to get a master's degree,” Dunn says. “Those types of people will make excellent students.”