Teacher and student at a table

Plant Sciences Learning Center Needs Improvements

Authored on
Nov 04, 2021

The Learning Center in the basement of Loftsgard Hall is an important place for students and faculty in all areas of crop production study at North Dakota State University. “This is the garden level of Loftsgard,'' says Learning Center director Brenda Deckard, quickly correcting the terminology while touring the facility. 

Deckard, along with her husband Dr. Ed Deckard, spearheaded the development of the Learning Center in 1988, the year after Loftsgard Hall was completed. Since then more than 1000 students annually have utilized the space for study and tutoring sessions; hands-on learning with plant identification samples, models and displays; computer-assisted learning; student organization meetings; outreach activities for 4-H, FFA and  elementary and high school groups; career development and networking events; and student recognition celebrations.  

Eleven Plant Sciences courses including horticulture science, weed science, crop and forage production, genetics, plant breeding and other topics utilize the Learning Center during the school year. Undergraduate and graduate students alike study and hold meetings.  The space is designed to encourage collaborative learning and is set up for groups as well as private study. Accessibility to all students of all abilities is a high priority. 

The Learning Center is now in need of updates and the NDSU Foundation has designated a fund for the Plant Sciences Learning Center during the annual Giving Day, which will be November 30, 2021. 

Proposed updates for the Learning Center include an enhanced media and computer center with a Smartboard computer, a scanner and improved technology; storage and display spaces for student organizations; study areas with improved lighting and large whiteboards; and office space for meetings, career development, counseling, tutoring and coaching of current students. After more than 25 years of heavy use, updated furniture and flooring are necessary, including snacking and coffee space for student use. Students helped develop the list of needs for the Learning Center through discussions with the Deckards and anonymous surveys. 

“Ed and I feel that you cannot possibly overestimate the power of an actively engaged educational environment (each student actively engaged with peers, teachers, and  content) in developing young adults as learners, teachers, and leaders. This has been the force behind the initial development of the Learning Center and continues to be the driving force for updating and improving the Learning Center to meet the needs of today’s learners,” says Deckard.

The Department of Plant Sciences will be sharing resources and information on making designated gifts for the Learning Center in the next four weeks, with a final push on Giving Day. Please watch for updates and notifications in social media and emails. More information is available at