UF CALS courses, majors evolve to meet changing demands

Classroom, students, learning, auditorium.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

See caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida prepares to embark on the 2015-16 academic year, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers several courses and majors that reflect how the institution adapts to industry and stakeholder needs.

The courses and majors aren’t brand new for this fall. They evolved during the past few years. But they reflect the growing menu of courses and majors offered to the more than 3,700 undergraduate students expected to enroll at UF CALS this fall.

Just to name a few of the relatively new majors and course offerings, UF CALS offers a major in marine sciences that leads to a bachelor’s degree, a new undergraduate certificate titled “Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change” from the Challenge 2050 Project and three new majors offered in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department that were previously specializations under one major – Food Science and Human Nutrition.

A marine sciences major seemed natural with peninsular Florida bordered by water on both sides, said Joel Brendemuhl, associate dean of UF CALS.

An interdisciplinary program in collaboration with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that launched in the summer of 2012, the marine sciences major stemmed from an industry need for graduates with quantitative and resource management skills, said Shirley Baker, associate professor in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.

“Coastal resources are important to the Florida economy,” Baker said. If you measure just aquaculture — the controlled production of seafood, ornamental fish and other aquatic life — you get an idea just how important the Atlantic and Gulf are to the state’s economy, she said. In 2012, the state’s producers earned $70 million in cash receipts, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey.

“In developing our core courses and elective curriculum, we consulted with stakeholders and employers,” Baker said. “Our students have been accepted into highly competitive internship programs, including the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville.”

Marine Sciences students also study sharks in South Africa and marine mammals in the Netherlands.

Through the Challenge 2050 Project, UF CALS works with industry, policy makers and UF students and faculty across a variety of disciplines to develop the human capacity to meet the needs of a world population projected to exceed 9.6 billion people by the year 2050. This integrated process distinguishes UF/IFAS from other preeminent universities.

CALS administrators say all UF students can benefit from the coursework within the Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change Certificate, and participation in related activities to develop critical thinking, communication and leadership skills.

“We are doing something that has not been done before with the Challenge 2050 Project,” said Tony Andenoro, assistant professor in agricultural education and communication and director of the Challenge 2050 Project. “We are setting the foundation for something great – something that has the potential to save our world.”

“These opportunities develop the skills and capacities most desired by employers across industry sectors and most critical for sustaining our world,” Andenoro said.

Until a few years ago, students in Food Science and Human Nutrition were all in one major and selected one of three specializations. But what used to be specializations are now majors. Students earn bachelor’s degrees while majoring in nutritional sciences, food science or dietetics, said department Chair Sue Percival.

A dietetics major from an accredited program like in UF CALS leads to an internship, the national exam and the credential of registered dietitian, Percival said. Nutritional Sciences is a pre-professional track, and its graduates go on to medical and dental school.

“Food science offers great careers in the vast food industry,” she said. “It’s not something they talk about in high school, so it is a ‘found’ major when they come to campus.”

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Caption: Students at the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences are taking advantage of relatively new courses and majors offered at the college. Those include majors in marine science and dietetics, as well as the Challenge 2050 program, which aims to find ways to meet the needs of the expected global population of 9.6 billion people by 2050.

Credit: Tyler L. Jones, UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Sources: Joel Brendemuhl, 352-392-1963, brendj@ufl.edu

Shirley Baker, 352-273-3627, sbaker25@ufl.edu

Tony Andenoro, 352-294-1999, andenoro@ufl.edu

Sue Percival, 352-392-1991, ext. 217, percival@ufl.edu