By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
The Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department added four new tracks to its environmental science major this spring, a move the administration hopes will boost the department’s numbers in the future.
“We anticipate by this fall, but more likely by the fall of ’07, that we will have 100 majors,” said Dr. Foy Mills Jr., chair of the Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department.
The department houses 68 total majors divided between environmental science, agribusiness and animal science.
Mills said the track additions stem from a 10-year plan the department developed in 2002.
“We took a look at where the current employment and projected employment opportunities were for our students,” said Dr. Kent Gallaher, associate professor of environmental science, “and wanted to craft the emerging technology with the emerging careers that would resonate with our current and future students.”
By fall 2006, students will be able to begin on the new concentrations, although students are already transitioning into the concentrations this semester, Mills said.
Each of the concentrations, which are phase two of the 10-year plan, partner with a different department on campus, which will help the students with this major in the future, Gallaher said.
“We’re reinventing the department to make it stronger, more focused and flexible, so students can focus on specific career objectives,” he said.
The concentrations, including Wildlife and Natural Resources Management, Outdoor Studies, Politics and Public Policy, and Field Technology, partner with the exercise science and health, chemistry, political science and biology departments, respectively.
“Frankly, we had to face reality and envision what the future would be like when we reviewed our department with the visiting committee in 2002,” Mills said.
By 2012, all three majors will have changed to provide students with more opportunities, revamping the department and projecting it into the future, with the mission of the university at the heart, Mills said.
The department, often stereotyped as the farmers’ major, produces graduates who serve in various fields across the world, Gallaher said.
Some of the recent graduates include: Alaska’s state botanist, wildlife biologists, lawyers dealing with land transfers, money lenders, environmental engineers who work with chemical plants, missionaries helping Brazilians farm effectively, and engineers who help clean toxic waste dumps.
“I challenge students to take one of our intro classes and rethink their stereotype, including our majors,” Mills said. “We have a lot of ranchers and farmers, which are important, but our majors offer students a variety of career choices.”
Gallaher said the majors are really just scientists who study science to solve problems.
“We’re not just learning for learning’s sake,” he said. “We’re scientists, not just cows and sows.”
Mills and Gallaher agreed they were excited for the future of the department because of its vitality to the world.
“As Christians, we have to realize God’s take on our role on earth,” Gallaher said. “He placed us here to be stewards of his earth; that means we have to take care of it for ourselves and for the future generations, too.”
He said this includes everything from learning how to deal with climate control, nuclear waste plants, food supply, and how to keep God’s creation beautiful.
“I get so much pleasure out of watching a beautiful sunset and looking at snow-capped mountains,” Mills said. “It’s just cool.”