The main objective of the program is to train qualified professionals to work in organizations that provide direct or indirect services, to the rural areas. Among these organizations there are the extension and technical assistance agencies, research centers, universities, planning organs, organizations of producers and workers, private and public institutions of production and social action and social movements.
In order to achieve this objective, some more specific objectives are persecuted. They act as guiding means of the development of academic activities. Among them there are the following:
a. Critical analysis of alternative processes of generation and dissemination of agricultural technology to the Brazilian society.
b. Historical analysis of the conditions of technical progress and modernization in the Brazilian agrarian society.
c. Examination of the relationship between the processes of institutional development and socio-economic development in Brazilian society, especially with regard to agrarian society, with an emphasis on producing and generating of knowledge organizations and extension organizations.
d. Analysis of the conditions of extension teaching by questioning the work of the extension agencies and technical assistance, including universities and research centers.
e. Critical evaluation of plans, programs and rural development projects, including colonization and land reform.
These specific objectives can be summarized in one, which brings to the program an academic action policy: to problematize the Brazilian rural reality and its constraints in order to provide students of the course conditions to think about this reality critically and act on it.
In fact, one can say that these objectives enclose a “philosophy” of academic action. So that it serves as a direction guiding of the work of the program, there should be a close relationship between the content of courses, ways to address them, the interests of teachers and students who make the program, research lines and institutional support of the Department.
Profile of the Professional Being Formed
The purpose of the program is to train teachers, researchers and professionals interested in rural extension. There is no concern for the specialists versus generalists dichotomy. The concern is to provide theoretical and methodological elements to trainees, so that they can choose their ways, from a critical and problematizing view of Brazilian social reality. Therefore, it is proposed that the heterogeneity of arguments and world view, as well as the proposals discussed in the courses taught, be stimulated.
The student training is conducted, privileging the research objectives in graduate school. The emphasis on critical and problematizing aspects should lead to a serious and innovative research process. Thus, the search experience is a sine qua non for both the formation of researchers and teachers as to the technicians interested in other types of service activities.
The Department of Rural Extension (DER) has a long history, since the creation of the Rural Extension Institute in 1926. Thanks to its prestige and the coming of American teachers, through a partnership of USAID, the Department could rely on the great collaboration of Purdue University, which enabled it in 1961 to offer the first course of graduate studies in Rural Extension in master’s level, in a Brazilian institution of higher education. In 1968, it started offering graduation in Rural Extension, in master’s level and, in 1972, doctorate in Rural Extension.
Integrating the School of Agriculture of UFV, DER offers 54 courses in master’s and doctorate levels, and other 62, at the undergraduate level, that cater to different industry courses. It is responsible for Bachelor Degree courses in Cooperative Management and Agribusiness Management. The Department of Rural Extension has developed several studies of interest from government institutions, some for interinstitutional framework, involving teachers, technicians and DER graduate students as well as teachers and technicians from other areas of the University and other institutions. Financing obtained for these studies, contracted in the form of agreements, serve as subsidy for the development of several graduate theses and provide considerable support to the activities of DER.