New major concerns CFANS students

The college’s leaders are still working out kinks in the year-old food systems major.

Vanessa Nyarko

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences launched two new majors this academic year, but some say one has serious problems that need to be fixed.

Students in the college’s new food systems major — approved at the same time as the new plant science major — have raised concerns, including redundancies in the program and concerns about how it will prepare them for graduation.

College leaders say they plan to address these problems in the coming years and should have some changes in place by fall, when the major’s first freshman class begins.

Tom Michaels, the food systems major coordinator, said he plans to sit down with faculty members and students in the major this summer to discuss how their classes went and go over changes they should make in the program.

Students are aware the major is brand-new, so they’re always willing to give feedback, he said.

There are currently 26 undergraduates in the food systems major.

“I think as the guinea pig class of it, unfortunately being the first people coming though, it’s a little bit on our shoulders to give feedback back to the professors and administrators,” said food systems junior Calder Michienzi.

For students who enroll in a new major, some uncertainty is par for the course.

Michienzi said many of his peers have questioned their readiness for the job market because no one has graduated from the major yet, so there aren’t any alumni examples to follow.

Additionally, he said, a few classes in the major are redundant — though that’s to be expected of a new program with kinks to work out.

Food systems junior Rosalyn Murphy said she doesn’t want to take courses with redundant materials, but she still enjoys the new major because of its diverse curriculum.

“This is the first year that it’s been a program, so I’m taking a few classes this semester that are pretty unorganized, and I feel I’m not really benefitting from that,” she said.

CFANS Associate Dean Jay Bell said the criticism of redundant courses is legitimate, but the college plans to hire two new faculty members who will be developing more specific courses for the major.

The food systems and plant science majors replaced the University’s horticulture degree.

When those programs launched in the fall, new students could no longer enroll in the horticulture major. Those already enrolled in the program were able to continue it through graduation, but many transferred to food systems.

A problem for food systems faculty is that the major’s broadness attracts a variety of students, some of whom don’t have a scientific background.

Though a wide array of students can enrich the program with fresh perspectives, it can be tough to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

“We have to make sure we are challenging all the students,” Michaels said, “but making sure that those who know a lot or who know little are equally brought to speed.”