Nathan Rice grew up in a third-generation ranching family with a 2,000-head feedlot, 250 registered Angus cattle, and a small farm. He says he loves agriculture and the outdoors but doesn’t plan on being a fourth-generation rancher.
"The reason I’m not going back to the family farm is that the hours are crazy," he says. "You never know when you’re going to have a day off, as your life is dictated by the weather and the health of your cattle."
Instead, he says he would like to give back to the agricultural way of life in an "unconventional way" and, to do so, is earning his master’s degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in agricultural and biological systems engineering.
"I chose engineering in general because I love technology," he says. "I love what it can do to help improve the earth, and I see a lot of big challenges coming and facing the world soon. My dream is to help make our food system network more sustainable, so that the agricultural community and my family can continue to prosper in a changing world."
One way he is doing that now is through his master’s project, developing an agricultural video game, "Agpocalypse 2050," to educate Nebraska’s youth.
"It’s a game designed to educate them on system thinking, and it focuses on the corn, water, energy and livestock nexus here in the Midwest," he says. "We’ll be testing it through 4-H programs and camps and then it’ll go to high schools across Nebraska and be implemented in their agricultural education courses. My job is developing the educational curriculum that goes along with it."
He credits Professor Jeyam Subbiah and other professors with getting him involved in the project and the larger university community.
"When I came to the university, I was a pretty introverted student," he says. "I never went to office hours. I would go to class and then go home. The professors sought me out in a lot of ways and got me involved. Had I gone to a different university, I don’t know if that would have been the case. They were awesome role models and convinced me to go on to grad school and got me involved in two or three different internships."
Rice says he hopes to work as an extension educator or consultant for crops or livestock after graduating and also hopes to have leisure time he can plan to spend on outdoor activities like fishing.
"I would love to fish in every state in the United States," he says. "That would be my dream, to try out at least one spot in every state."