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College of Forest Resources and Environmental Science


The landowner–tenant relationship is important to the implementation of conservation on agricultural lands. Women own or co-own a significant portion of U.S. farmland yet are underrepresented in conservation research. The next generation of agriculture professionals can benefit from first-hand experience in assisting women landowners and their tenants in navigating the complexities of conservation decision-making. This article analyzes undergraduate student perceptions of landowner–tenant relationships in conservation management through their engagement in case studies with women landowner–tenant pairs in the Western Corn Belt. Student groups were asked to complete a management improvement plan that both incorporated the agronomic and conservation goals discussed by the landowners and tenants, following a field trip and interviews with the landowners, tenants, and other key stakeholders. Assessment data included a quantitative survey of career goals and conservation attitudes, qualitative reflections at start and end of course, and autoethnographic observations. The case studies presented students with new knowledge challenging previously held assumptions, leading some students to reconsider landowner–tenant relationships and conservation decision-making. However, students returned to existing gendered norms and production-oriented stereotypes when applying this knowledge in real-world farm management plans. Although students gained firsthand valuable experience from the case studies, a one-semester case study was insufficient to significantly shift student perceptions. We recommend that more curricular experiences incorporate the complexities of agricultural decision-making to better equip future agricultural professionals with skills to ensure environmental and social sustainability outcomes.

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Natural Sciences Education

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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