Schwass takes reins of MSU agriculture program at WSCC

February 2, 2023

Dr. Constance Schwass is the program coordinator of Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology at West Shore Community College.

Schwass takes reins of MSU agriculture program at WSCC

WSCC News is a presentation of West Shore Community College in partnership with Mason County Press. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — In 2017 West Shore Community College formed a partnership with Michigan State University’s Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) to offer MSU classes in Mason County. Upon completion graduating students earn a two-year MSU agricultural technology certificate along with an associate degree from WSCC. 

Recently, a new program coordinator took the reins of the program offering over 30 years experience in college-level teaching along with extensive agricultural experience. Dr. Constance Schwass retired from WSCC in August 2022 after teaching there for 33 years as a business and accounting professor. That retirement didn’t last too long as she recently was hired by Michigan State. 

MSU’s agricultural courses offered at WSCC currently include agricultural operations, fruit and vegetable management and agricultural business. 

Students who complete the agricultural technology certificate at WSCC have the choice of entering the work force or transferring to MSU to complete a bachelor’s degree program.  Students with a 3.0 GPA or greater are guaranteed admission into the four-year agricultural program at MSU. MSU offers the IAT programs at Bay College in Escanaba, Delta College in University Center, Glen Oaks Community College in Centreville, Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Lansing Community College in Lansing, Monroe County Community College in Monroe, Montcalm Community College in Sidney, Muskegon Community College in Muskegon, Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Southwestern Michigan College in Dowagiac, Wayne County Community College in Taylor, WSCC, and on the Michigan State East Lansing campus. 

Schwass’s family owns Springdale Farms, a multi-generational family farm based in Riverton Township that operates in multiple counties throughout northern Michigan. There, she helps run the business side of the farm operation. Schwass is a 1979 graduate of Reed City High School, has a bachelor’s degree in business education and computer science from Ferris State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Grand Valley State University and a PhD in education leadership from Western Michigan University. 

Schwass is not a stranger to the MSU program. She has taught the agricultural business class there for several years and has also served as a part-time advisor. In her new role, she is not only faculty, she is a counselor/advisor, admissions department, recruiter, marketer, and administrator. 

“When I was faculty at West Shore I was not involved in any other aspect of the students’ experiences,” Schwass said. “There are experts who work in admissions, advising and financial aid. In this role, I pretty much oversee all those aspects and also teach four classes. I have the students from the time they enroll until they graduate.” 

There are currently 15 local students enrolled in the IAT program at WSCC. Schwass said those students are at various stages in their educational journey. About half of the students are alumni of the West Shore Educational Service District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) agriscience class taught by Mark Willis. The MSU classes are taught in the same classroom as the CTE class and Scwass’s office is adjacent to the classroom. She said her classes are also offered online to students enrolled in the other IAT campuses across the state. 

“We have a variety of age groups in the program but most of the students do come from an agriculture background,” Schwass said. “Several of the students are non-traditional students (older than the average college student) who are returning to college and want to gain more knowledge in farming and earn a degree that matches their life pursuit.”

Students enrolled in the IAT are dual-enrolled at both Michigan State University and West Shore Community College. This presents a challenge as the two institutions have various schedules, procedures and policies. WSCC, however, does oversee the financial aid for the students. 

“I think it’s important to note that the students enrolled in the Institute of Agricultural Technology are just as much of a Michigan State University student as someone who attends classes in East Lansing,” Schwass said. “They have the same benefits of any other student.”

For more information about the Michigan State Institute of Agricultural Technology contact Dr. Schwass at 231-843-5939 or 



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