Posted: Thursday, September 08, 2011 11:00 AM
Eight departments collaborate on new bachelor's degree
By CECILIA PARSONS
For the Capital Press
An effort to return to land grant university basics -- connecting science with action in the real world -- has resulted in a new major at the University of California-Davis.
This fall, the university will offer a bachelor of science degree in sustainable agriculture and food systems. Eight departments at the school's College of Agricultural and Environmental Science collaborated on the new major -- a rarity for the school, said Thomas Tomich, an adviser for the new program and director of the Agricultural Sustainability Institute at Davis.
Tomich said establishing an entirely new major is so rare that no one was familiar with the process.
"This was a major collaborative effort of eight different departments," Tomich said.
The plan is to give students a broad background in crops, soils, economics and other areas that are part of the food production process. The degree will provide students with an understanding of the issues facing modern farming and food systems including production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste management.
Tomich said the program will also have practical aspects such as internships where students will receive real-world production experience. They will also be required to share their experiences with other students. Nine faculty members of the eight departments will teach in the new program.
"This will be a mix of classroom and farm experience," Tomich said.
Students who complete the lower division preparatory courses may choose one of three tracks in the sustainability major: agriculture and ecology, economics and policy, or food and society.
Tomich said students will be prepared for a wide range of careers in food production. Few are expected to go into production agriculture, he said, but they will be prepared for work in agri-business, food processing and marketing. Tomich hopes some will enter public service to share their knowledge of sustainable farming and food production.
Mark Van Horn, a UC-Davis instructor, said the program is about the future of agriculture and taking a solutions-based approach to new challenges in food production. Van Horn said the goal is to produce students who are better prepared for agriculture's new challenges.
Students can now transfer into the new major. Any student can also begin taking courses designed for the major.