May 17, 1996
Agriculture College gets Expanded Name
When Wisconsin's agriculture community contacts UW-River Falls for educational information or assistance they'll find that a "new" college is responding.
They'll be served by the College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences, a name addition approved by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents in May.
The change is the culmination of a five-year effort to operate with a name that appropriately reflects the breadth of the college's academic training, according to Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau. It was approved by the Regents as part of the University's massive "Reach for the Future" strategic plan to prepare UW-RF for the 21st Century.
"This lifts up the commitment on the part of the institution for our undergraduate students through a name change that demonstrates that agriculture interfaces with a variety of environmental issues. This takes into account the public's concern with environmental issues.
"This new name for the college reflects that as our students graduate they will be prepared to deal with these issues."
Dean Gary Rohde said that pursuit of the name addition began in 1991 as it became apparent that "College of Agriculture" was too narrow in describing the academic array.
Rohde elaborated that the standard dictionary definition of agriculture is the science or art of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock.
"What we do in this college is more than that. Therefore, how do students, especially those from a non-farm background, identify and even discover alternatives within the college that are potentially of great appeal to them? They do that through the name of the programs and the name of the college."
Rohde said the expansion is a logical evolution for the University's program, which dates back to 1912. In the 1960s, the College was formed to expand students' educational options. Over the past two decades the college has significantly expanded its course offerings, which, Rohde said, makes it apparent the name "College of Agriculture" was too narrow.
Among the majors that extend beyond a narrow definition of agriculture would include, horticulture, conservation, land management, food science and technology, marketing communications, biotechnology, geology, and agricultural engineering technology. The college also is exploring an environmnetal science option that will further develop the resource management and conseration areas.
Following a "lateral review" in 1993-94 of all agriculture and environmental sciences programs in the University of Wisconsin System, UW-RF strengthened its offerings in the environmental sciences through an environmental engineering option as part of the agricultural engineering technology major, and an environmental science option in the soil science major. This has been reinforced by additional specialized courses and workshops in such areas as water quality, and the addition of a hydrogeology minor.
"We will be seeking faculty expertise in the environmental sciences area, and want them to work with students."
The college continues to offer its traditional majors of animal science, agricultural business, agricultural education, agronomy, soil science, and broad area agriculture.
Polls of faculty, students, alumni and the college's advisory board found them overwhelmingly in favor of the name change, and the clear winner among 10 choices to be College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences.
"The timing was very good for this," Rohde said. "It's appropriate. It's a name that more properly represents the sum total of what we do."
Rohde notes that over the last decade, the number of students attending the college from an agricultural background has been slowly declining, now to about half. The student population also is changing, mirroring national trends: about half are now female, compared to only 25 percent back in 1970. Moreover, more than 80 percent of its graduates enter agriculture careers other than production.
The dean said he expects the name change to have a positive impact on the college, both in recruiting new students and in placing its graduates. Presently, it has an enrollment of 1,315 undergraduates, and 22 master's candidates, producing about 225 graduates per year. As the number of Wisconsin high school students begins to increase over the next five years, Rohde expects enrollment to rise to about 1,500 students, and then be capped unless more resources are made available. The college has 55 faculty and academic staff.
For the college, that growth will continue to represent a unique relationship. CAFES' enrollment will represent about 25 percent of the University-wide undergraduate population. Thus, UW-RF will have more agriculture students proportionately in its student body than any other four-year agriculture program in the nation.
"We're doing very well because we focus on what we can do best. We work hard at undergraduate education to maintain and enhance it. Our reputation as a college is growing and getting stronger." That's evidenced, he said, by increased enrollments, up-to-date academic offerings, a strong teaching faculty, and strong business relationships through internships and excellent employment opportunities.
"We're well-positioned for the future. We spend all of our money on undergraduate education. That's our hallmark and our competitive advantage, because we're not diluted. We're very good at that."