The Academic and Strategic Plan for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has served as the foundational guide for how we continue to uphold our land grant mission to serve the public through research, academics and public service. The strategic plan has played a critical role in guiding our work these past five years, including the decisions we’ve made to recruit and hire faculty, expand experiential learning opportunities for students even in the face of budget constraints, and develop new and creative programs that expand our undergraduate curriculum. The four priority themes developed in the 2015 plan provided a framework for future goals and programmatic development, and have guided many of our activities over the past five years, including departmental position requests and conversations with donors. The priority themes include:
- Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems
- Equitable, Healthy Communities
- Ecosystem Viability and Functionality
- Meeting the Challenges of Climate Change
These priorities still remain relevant to our overarching mission to promote agricultural, environmental and social sustainability through research, teaching and public engagement to meet the challenges of global change in the 21st century.
We envision the current 2020 Academic and Strategic Plan will position the college to continue building upon these efforts. In addition to the four priorities, the 2020 plan includes three conceptual goals to help guide our work over the next five years:
- Provide high quality, supportive and diverse learning environments and educational opportunities to promote student success and well-being to meet the challenges of a changing world.
- Enable excellence, innovation and meaningful impact as a global leader in agricultural, environmental and societal research that promotes healthy and sustainable food, ecosystems and communities.
- Extend the influence of our research activities beyond the boundaries of the university in support of sustainable agricultural, environmental and human advancement.
Read the full 2020 Academic and Strategic Plan online.
Goal 1: Provide high quality, supportive and diverse learning environments, and educational opportunities to promote student success and well-being to meet the challenges of a changing world.
As a university of higher education, a core component and mission of the college is to provide an effective learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students that is accessible, equitable and inclusive. A core philosophy of the college is to help students of every background see themselves, their experiences, and their history as integral to the future of agricultural, human, and environmental sciences. We have the opportunity to communicate this value to our students through our classroom instruction, our interactions with students, and by providing high quality educational opportunities. As such, the college should create guidelines, policies and professional development that continually improve the learning context for all students, ensuring they have an equal opportunity to learn and thrive in the academic community. The result should be that every student feels valued and included, receives the support needed to graduate on time, and has gained the skills to meet the challenges of a diverse and changing world.
The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences fosters diversity and integration across all areas, where students of every background see themselves, their experiences, their families, and their history as integral to the future of agricultural, human, and environmental sciences. The implementation of this principle will require adoption of evidence-based innovative and experiential teaching methodology taught by a diverse set of faculty who represent the student body. Curricula must be rigorous, inclusive, and integrated across areas of faculty and departmental expertise. The college should lead in the use of equitable, effective teaching methods through increasing collection, analysis, and dissemination of new and existing data to guide more widespread implementation of best practices within the college.
Active, experiential learning at top-notch facilities that reflects modern, forward-thinking approaches is essential for the intellectual development of solution-oriented, critically-thinking leaders. The college has an important responsibility to educate the next generation of students and effectively prepare them for future careers. We are uniquely suited, and indeed given the breadth and expertise of our research faculty, obligated to provide experiential learning that is directly applicable to diverse future careers. The college should engage stakeholders to identify the skills and experiences they value most in our recent graduates, and document any gaps in student training and experiences that may be present. Such information should be used to improve teaching and other learning experiences so that the college may continue fostering excellence in scientific mentoring at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels, and provide instruction, networking, and hands-on training to meet diverse career trajectories in industry, government, public policy, and academic appointments.
The college trains the next generation of scientists and policy makers by maintaining and growing our ability to deliver educational excellence at the graduate level. The college should identify and address gaps in graduate education with relation to equity in educational experiences, training and alignment with the needs for diverse career trajectories. The college should lead in the development of skills and research experiences that are valued for future placement of graduate students, as well as engage stakeholders to identify target or emerging areas of expertise that are necessary. Departments within the college should be mindful of the role of new hires in the contribution to graduate mentorship and training.
High quality, supportive, and diverse learning environments and educational opportunities to promote student success and well-being
The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences fosters diversity and integration across all areas, where students of every background see themselves, their experiences, their families, and their history as integral to the future of agricultural, human, and environmental sciences.
- Encourage scholarly innovation in pedagogy that facilitates equitable world-class educational experiences and student exposure to the breadth and depth of CA&ES disciplines that address student interests and societal needs.
- Evaluate student learning outcomes across multiple levels (e.g., student, course, and program) to inform continuous improvements in teaching as well as timely graduation within departments and majors. Ask, “for whom” teaching and advising strategies and programs are working or not working and “why” they work or do not work (i.e., testing the theory of change.)
- Provide training to faculty and staff to increase their understanding of what constitutes equitable education, such as current best practices as well as practices that do not work or are biased. Provide updates regarding current efforts and new results from program evaluations.
- To facilitate systematic high-quality programming and evaluation, consider creating a Diversity Teaching Fellowship in which faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students participate as a team in choosing new strategies and/or programs, receive training, collect data, have group discussions, (e.g., struggles and wins with implementation, interpreting data), and provided recommendations for the following year’s Diversity Teaching Fellows and for the college and university(e.g., at the above suggested annual training).
- Recruit diverse faculty to represent the diversity of the undergraduate programs, so that students have role models and opportunities to receive mentorship from faculty who have common experiences.
- Foster approaches that include STEM disciplines in the context of social, historical, environmental, and technologic impacts on people and communities.
- Recognize teaching excellence through awards, merit and promotion, and funds to support further curricular development.
Active, experiential learning at top-notch facilities that reflects modern, forward-thinking approaches is essential for the intellectual development of solution-oriented, critically-thinking leaders.
- Provide experiential learning through field courses, laboratory courses, and opportunities at our Natural Reserves and field stations.
- Encourage career development for emerging pathways in agriculture, biotechnology, food systems and communities.
- Promote partnerships with state, federal agencies, and stakeholders to develop formal internship programs for both graduate and undergraduate students.
- Use generalizable sampling methods to assess quality and equity of educational experiences, such as graduation timelines, job placement, financial support, mentoring, and physical and socioemotional health.
- Use systematic methods to develop or facilitate targeted support for graduate research in priority areas. Evaluate and disseminate outcomes, following an integrated model of both education and research.
- Recruit diverse faculty to represent the diversity of the graduate programs, so that students have role models and opportunities to receive mentorship from faculty who have common experiences.
- Increase training capacity and acceptance of non-academic jobs for graduate students, such as faculty and advisor trainings of career paths and best practices for mentoring a student for those careers, facilitate internship partners for graduate students, host career fairs for masters and PhD degrees.