Southwest Minnesota State plans new ag majors

MARSHALL – Southwest Minnesota State University is planning two new degree programs, a bachelor of science in agricultural solutions, and a bachelor of applied science degree in agriculture.

The programs have been approved by the SMSU administration and faculty and are currently undergoing a review by the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU).

“They were conceived as part of a task force, as the president asked faculty for new curriculum proposals with input from industry and the community and technical colleges in the area,” said Gerald Toland, director of the department of business and public affairs.

The proposed agricultural solutions program is built around a multi-disciplinary curriculum based on a foundation of agricultural production and management and includes agricultural and environmental science, agricultural economics, leadership and communications.

The goal of the four-year program is to produce graduates who understand both modern technologies of food production and the importance of environmental awareness.

“We’ve talked about how we can adapt sustainability courses in both agriculture and the environment,” said Sangnyeol Jung, associate professor of agribusiness management and economics.

The bachelor of applied science program aims at a similar result but is geared toward the needs of students who have already graduated from a two-year degree program and wish to upgrade to a four-year degree. The BAS program would enable them to make use of a full two years of credit from another institution.

Stephen Davis, associate professor of agribusiness management and economics, called it a “transfer friendly program” designed to meet the needs of people who need a four-year degree to move ahead in their careers.

The university plans go beyond the two new majors, according to Toland. SMSU would like to consolidate the agricultural programs with the culinology and hospitality program into a new school of agriculture and food. The approval of the two programs would be a big step toward implementing those plans.

Toland said he hopes MnSCU will give the go-ahead by the end of the month.

“Right now the job market is very strong for our graduates,” Toland said. “Basically what industries said was, ‘We want this kind of people,’ so we developed a curriculum in that kind of way.”