Interest in enviro, ag jumps

This year, CFANS has more than 2,000 enrollees, one of the college’s highest numbers ever.

Raj Chaduvula

Alec Brown, a junior in the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, is part of one of the school’s largest student pools ever at 2,021 enrolled undergraduates.
 
Brown, an environmental science, policy and management major, said his interest in environmental sciences was inspired by a high school teacher who encouraged him to take note of how the environment impacts daily life.
 
Brown is in the same boat as many students who are attracted to the hands-on learning commonly found at CFANS.
 
A high demand for agriculture graduates prompted by an expected surplus of agriculture jobs has also contributed to the record number of enrollees at the college since its inception in 2006, the college’s leaders say.
 
Mike White, associate dean of CFANS, said students generally don’t begin as CFANS students when they enter the University, but tend to discover it later in their education.
 
He said that 60 percent of last year’s graduates were transfer students.
 
“They find us when they see we are blending the math and sciences with interesting topics that really [are] the grand challenges … of the world,” White said.
 
Issues such as maintaining water resources and feeding the world, he said, will be important topics for future CFANS graduates.
 
Within six months, 90 to 95 percent of graduates are either employed or in grad school, according to White.
 
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report found that between 2015 and 2020, nearly 60,000 environmental jobs will open up.
 
“We don’t graduate enough students to fill all the jobs that are out there,” White said.
 
White said students see that CFANS deals with issues familiar to them since grade school and realize they can apply other interests like math, biology and engineering in a concrete, real-world way.
 
Daniel Gallaher, a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, said good instruction and lab experience are strong points that also attract students from other colleges.
 
Gallaher said he teaches a laboratory class where students take samples of their own blood and test it for cholesterol and other indicators of nutrition and health.
 
“Employers are looking for people with that kind of experience, that kind of education,” White said.
 
Brown, the environmental science, policy and management junior, said he thinks CFANS deals with real-world problems.
 
“I want to understand how environmental changes affect everyone’s daily life,” he said. The hands-on approach and laboratory experience attracted him to CFANS, he said.
 
White said these are attractive aspects of CFANS and the type of education it offers. 
 
“There’s expanding interest across the country and the world,” White said.