New CFANS policies received well

The college added three new policies in attempts to better prepare students for jobs.

by Anne Millerbernd

The College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences revamped its curriculum this semester to include three new requirements.

So far, most faculty members and students have responded positively to the changes, which relax credit requirements to allow CFANS students to take more classes outside their major and require new students to engage in more learning outside of the classroom.

With the new policies, CFANS administrators hope to better prepare students for the job market, said Jay Bell, CFANS associate dean of academic programs and faculty affairs. He said faculty members had an “unexpected” reaction to the policy changes.

“They identify themselves and identify their curriculum where high-impact experiential learning and interdisciplinary learning is something that they encourage,” he said. “And I think they feel kind of proud about it.”

Professor Paul Porter, chair of the Undergraduate Policy and Review Committee, said though there are both positive and negative aspects of the change, faculty members seem mostly pleased with the outcome.

One of the biggest changes in policy requires students to engage in at least one “experiential learning” opportunity before graduation, Bell said, which could include things like studying abroad or internships.

Many CFANS majors already require internships for graduation. Before the policy change, students could do other experiential learning, but officials changed the policy because advisers said some students weren’t getting all they could out of experiential programs, said Dan Gallaher, food science and nutrition professor.

Now, students will have more advising resources. Gallaher said students will also have “preflection” and reflection meetings with advisers before and after the program.

Though Gallaher said he hasn’t seen pushback from students on this requirement, it’s too early to tell what student opinion will be.

Bell said CFANS hopes the experiential learning program will encourage students to study outside of the United States.

“The big goal we have right now is we want to get at least 50 percent of our students doing some type of international or intercultural experience,” he said.

Another policy gives most CFANS students 21 credits to explore areas of interest outside their major. Some won’t benefit from the policy change, like agricultural education majors, who can’t use the credits for different classes because they have to follow teacher licensure requirements.

With those credits, Bell said, students can have space to take classes they may not have been able to fit into their schedule before or put the credits toward a minor.

Tessa Ries, a plant science freshman who took PSEO courses at the University, said she thinks the credit freedom is beneficial. But because of the difficulty of CFANS classes, she said, some students may see an opportunity to take classes they think are easier as a way to boost their GPA.

“Students who are really determined to have a career when they graduate … will definitely use those credits to their benefit,” Ries said. “But on the other hand, a lot of students will see those as a great opportunity to get their GPA back up.”

Fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology senior Alex Halverson said he’s supportive of the credit policy and doesn’t think students will use the credits unwisely.

“I could see how it could go wrong and how students could abuse it, but I don’t know that many will,” he said. “I think it’s a good idea.”

Bell also said he believes the increased flexibility will help them meet CFANS’ graduation rate goal. The college’s graduation rate is approaching the University’s overall goal of 60 percent, Bell said.

A third new policy will generate more than 20 new classes within the college, most of which will be interdisciplinary to correlate with the college’s goal of a more well-rounded education, Bell said.

There was initially some difficulty with defining an “interdisciplinary” course, Bell said, and the college will continue to work with its current guidelines to better define them. But as of now, it considers about 15 courses interdisciplinary, Porter said.