Recommendation #19 refers to Horticulture/Plant Sciences receiving stable funding/merge. The Plant Science Department wishes to clarify the record. We have merged 5 majors (Agronomy, Ag Bio, Horticulture, Soils, and LIS) into a 180-unit curriculum package for the Plant Science Major and Department. Planning for this merger took place between 2005-2007 and it is being implemented Fall, 2007 (this quarter). The Plant Science Department hopes future correspondence reflects this change throughout all phases of P & R to avoid confusion.
The Department has already responded negatively to the merger of colleges. We are also opposed to being placed within an Environmental Science Division, away from our Agricultural colleagues. Plant Science is the fundamental cornerstone of all agricultural programs, without which meat, fiber or food products would not exist. Even though our students take 7-9 courses in general science (Botany, Biology & Chemistry), our program is focused on agricultural disciplines such as Integrated Pest Management, Landscape Maintenance & Management, and Irrigation and Water Management in Urban and Rural situations.
The agricultural industry demands job-ready graduates that have an industry applied focus. Our curriculum is specifically designed for our in-demand graduates. Employers do not want a generally trained scientist they will have to invest 2-years of on-the-job training. Our students obtain professional licenses and certifications which are only available to graduates in agricultural disciplines with specific coursework. The Department fails to see how our curriculum will be maintained in a larger college.
Some of our students do go on to environmental careers specific to our industry. They manage agricultural ecosystems created to maintain our food supply. Students are heavily grounded in basic science and, additionally, understand how agricultural systems work. This is why our graduates are in demand-not because they are grounded in “environmentalism” as perceived in the Phase 2 recommendation. These recommendations separate environmentalism and sustainability into a non-science arena.
Our Department favors building centers of research resulting from natural alliances and activities as opposed to mergers. We feel that Plant Science will lose both focus and resources in a merged college. A good example, led by faculty, not administration, is our current effort to develop an interdisciplinary food safety minor encompassing many departments and colleagues. Another good example is a research group, proposed by Hoyt, to address all aspects of environmental concerns – policy, design and implementation. These types of multidisciplinary research centers have been proven to be a successful model where faculty stimulate thought, projects and research dollars by collaboration. These collaborative centers have better chances at being funded than individual projects. Mergers without focus just put groups of people together.
The Department is acutely aware of recruiting issues not only in our department but nationwide. Currently we are actively pursuing major USDA/HSI funding as well as refocusing our college recruitment strategies.
Our Department has done everything asked for by Administration the past 5-years – developed online courses, produced FTE (and turned it off when needed), assessed the program & coursework, has a service and public component, has one of the best research programs, been proactive with development and partnerships, merged programs, and is shifting to an urban focus. We have all of this in place and it is still not enough. Mergers create dilution. We want to build bridges and centers for the future, not re-invent the wheel as in 1992 and 2007. Demand for our industry-specific graduates in Plant Science is at its peak now. Our ability to prepare students is dependent upon maintaining a strong and viable Plant Science Department which a merger will work against.