Undergrad Program Makeover

The curriculum for undergraduate majors in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE) has a fresh face after receiving a makeover that kicked off in July 2015.

June 7, 2016

students at computer

The curriculum for undergraduate majors in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics (AFRE) has a fresh face after receiving a makeover that kicked off in July 2015.

Students in the new program can expect to graduate better prepared to solve problems and meet the high expectations of their prospective employers.

The new curriculum focuses on analytical reasoning and experiential learning. Students majoring in Agribusiness Management (ABM), Food Industry Management (FIM), and Environmental Economics and Management (EEM) must take two new courses focused on decision making and data interpretation. They must also participate in one of three learning experiences, including professional internship, study abroad or undergraduate research.

A special committee, chaired by Brent Ross, designed the curriculum based on information collected from focus groups with employers, surveys of students and alumni and review of similar programs at other universities.

“We found employers are giving great weight to internship experience,” says David Schweikhardt, professor in AFRE.

Employers often offer full-time jobs to interns, and alumni reported that internships helped them get more out of their classes.

“Alumni told us: ‘I looked at my coursework differently after doing an internship,’” Schweikhardt says.

Hands-on learning experiences, like internships, both supplement student learning and allow students to tailor their degrees to their interests. So AFRE has made them a requirement.

Employers also reported a desire for graduates to be better equipped in quantitative, analytical thinking. They need students to be able to manipulate data and make economically sound business decisions.

The new curriculum responds to this need with two new courses that mainstream foundational economic ideas (ABM/FIM/EEP 303) and data analysis skills (ABM/FIM/EEP 203) into the department’s business management curriculum. The courses will be required of all majors.

The undergraduate program changes coincide with larger college curriculum changes that align course activities with student learning objectives. AFRE Associate Chairperson Jim Hilker says he expects to continue tweaking these changes align with evolving university standards.

 

Marie Orttenburger

 

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