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Nicholas Uilk named Klingbeil Endowed Educator in Precision Agriculture

Nicholas Silk stands in a field.
Nicholas Uilk is the inaugural Klingbeil Endowed Educator in Precision Agriculture at South Dakota State University.

Nicholas Uilk was recently named the inaugural Klingbeil Endowed Educator in Precision Agriculture at South Dakota State University. 

Shortly after graduating from SDSU with his bachelor’s degree in agricultural systems technology in May 2008, Uilk completed his Master of Education degree in August 2011. He began his teaching career at SDSU in January 2009 as an instructor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, a position in which he served until he later became a lecturer in 2021 before being named to his newly endowed role.

“We are honored and humbled to name Mr. Nicholas Uilk as our Klingbeil Endowed Educator in Precision Agriculture,” said Kasiviswanathan Muthukumarappan, Maynard A. Klingbeil Endowed Department Head and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. “With his many years of farming background and nearly 15 years of teaching experience in the department, Nic is well positioned and prepared to lead our precision agriculture program into the future.”

Over the past 14 years, Uilk has taught various agricultural systems technology and precision agriculture classes covering topics such as construction techniques and materials, microcomputer applications in agriculture, industrial and outdoor power, farm machinery systems management and emerging technologies in agriculture. Additionally, he has designed, developed and implemented two new courses—chemical applications in agriculture and the introduction to precision agriculture class and lab.

As an endowed educator, Uilk will be responsible for encouraging further excellence in student recruitment, teaching, academic advising and student retention specific to the precision agriculture program.

“I am very honored to receive the Klingbeil endowment,” Uilk said. “It will be used to help provide an educational experience for our students unmatched by any other university in the nation.”

Outside of teaching classes, Uilk serves as the faculty adviser for the Jacks Agricultural Technology and Engineering Club and advises more than 80 agricultural systems technology students. He also spends time developing curriculum to meet current industry and student demands and is a member of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Advisory Council.

Throughout his years at SDSU, Uilk has been an integral force in driving a 250% enrollment increase in the agricultural systems technology program since his start in 2009. He is especially proud of the impactful hands-on learning experiences he has provided to students by utilizing Kubota utility vehicles that are fully equipped with Raven precision agriculture equipment.

“Agriculture is an ever-changing and evolving industry, and technology plays a very important role in the future of production agriculture practices,” Uilk said. “Our goal in the precision agriculture program is to provide students with hands-on opportunities to support the content they are learning in our classrooms and labs, allowing them to apply the theories to the real world. I like to say, ‘You didn’t learn how to ride a bike by reading the owner’s manual!’”

He has also made it a top priority to create opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to connect and build meaningful relationships with industry professionals. Specifically, Uilk has enjoyed contributing to the Precision Connect student-industry networking event that has resulted in higher placement rates for students enrolled in internship programs across several diversified degree areas. In late September, the annual event will bring together nearly 200 students and industry partners for its third year.

Uilk’s most notable achievements and awards include the 2013 Walt McCarty Academic Advising Award, 2015 Gamma Sigma Delta Outstanding Teacher Award, 2020 USDA Excellence in Teaching Award for teaching and student engagement, 2020 PrecisionAg Awards of Excellence Educator/Researcher Award and the 2020 Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities National Teaching Award. Well respected among students, Uilk was also nominated for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Prexy Council Teacher of the Year Award in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2023.

His professional memberships include Gamma Sigma Delta and the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

In his new role, Uilk looks forward to continuing to work alongside other faculty members to increase the number of hands-on activities and grow learning-based education within the precision agriculture program.

“I am excited for the opportunity to drive progress in precision agriculture through our undergraduate program and prepare the students who will go on to be leaders in the agricultural industry,” Uilk said.