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New Degree Programs Meet Ag Industry’s New Needs

Posted by | September 8, 2009

Growing the next generation of agricultural producers and professionals is a primary mission of our college. Doing that well means anticipating, understanding and adjusting to meet the emerging needs of the ag industry in Washington and beyond.

It’s been awhile since CAHNRS revisited its academic offerings – too long according to some. Associate Dean Kim Kidwell and our academic department chairs did yeoman’s work last spring in working through the nitty-gritty details of our course offerings, accreditation standards and more to develop what I consider a fresh, new, much more practical approach to preparing future leaders in agricultural. I applaud and appreciate the work they put in to refine the Agricultural and Food Systems degree and create the new Integrated Plant Sciences degree.

The AFS degree, which originated in 2006, is delivered collaboratively by a variety of departments with the college, including crop and soil sciences, horticulture, entomology, plant pathology and economics. That integration reflects how the real world works and emphasizes a systems perspective n studying and understanding the complex biological, economic and physical systems that comprise our food system.

Majors within AFS include agricultural education, agricultural technology and production management, agricultural and food business economics, agricultural and food security and organic agricultural systems. It is an extreme point of pride that we were the first in the United States to offer a full-blown major in organic agriculture.

The new degree in Integrated Plant Sciences also takes an integrated, inter-disciplinary approach. It is offered jointly by crop and soil sciences, horticulture and landscape architecture, entomology, plant pathology and food science. Focused on the science of plant life from molecule to market, the new IPS degree prepares students for careers in a variety of agricultural professions.

Majors within IPS include agricultural biotechnology, field crop management, fruit and vegetable management, nursery and greenhouse management, landscape design and implementation, turf grass management and viticulture and enology. The V&E program is the only four-year wine education program offered in the Pacific Northwest.

Both degree programs still include plenty of opportunities to learn by doing – a hallmark of WSU and of CAHNRS. Immersion-based internships are required for both AFS and IPS majors – just one more way to connect students with the industry they will someday lead.

These new degrees are fresh, engaging and reflective of what industry wants (and needs) from our graduates. Development of these degrees required faculty and administrators to step outside of department silos and trust in a completely new paradigm of education. We already are seeing the fruits of this labor; agricultural enrollments and interest in our programs greatly exceed levels observed in recent years.