A Study of the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences' Ecological Paradigm Model

By Agunga, Robert; Connors, James J. et al. | NACTA Journal, September 2005 | Go to article overview

A Study of the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences' Ecological Paradigm Model


Agunga, Robert, Connors, James J., Chen, Hsing-Ying, NACTA Journal


Abstract

A general outcry by environmentalists on unintended outcomes of agricultural practices has many land-grant universities searching for plausible ways to explain how they do business. From 1994 to 2000, The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences experimented with an "Ecological Paradigm Model" as a logical framework illustrating how agriculture and the environment can co-exist. The model focuses on a curriculum aimed at ensuring that agricultural and natural resources graduates understand the interrelationships between agriculture and the environment. This study was carried out to determine: a) faculty's perceived level of involvement in decision-making regarding the Ecological Paradigm Model; and b) their perceived knowledge, attitude and behavior towards the model. The study found that faculty members were generally satisfied with their participation in decision-making regarding the model. They also demonstrated a high degree of knowledge of the Ecological Paradigm Model; were highly supportive of the College's decision to adopt the model; and indicated active involvement in activities related to the Ecological Paradigm Model.

Introduction

The 21st century is witnessing a rethinking on

the role of the Land-Grant University (LGU) in meeting the needs of the people it was established to serve. LGUs are also taking measures to re-establish public confidence in and support for higher education, which appears to be waning. Above all, use of the model can remind agricultural organizers they must pay attention to broader environmental and societal contexts. At The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (OSU/CFAES), this reinvention of the land-grant university came in the form of an "Ecological Paradigm Model," an explanatory device showing that agriculture and the ecological system can mutually co-exist. The model was introduced in 1994 and faculty members were encouraged to incorporate it into their teaching, research and community outreach. Through the curriculum, research publications, and extension activities faculty members were encouraged to inform their audiences of the links among agriculture, the environment, and humanity. This paper reports a 2003 study that examined faculty members' perceived level of participation in the Ecological Paradigm Model decision-making and their perceived knowledge, attitude, and behavior towards the model.

Literature Review

Since the 1970s, Americans have grown increasingly concerned about the safety of their food and the potential impact of agriculture in degrading the environment (Agunga & Kazan, 1997). By the early 1990s, public concern about these issues had become so pronounced that many Land-Grant Universities (LGUs) had to reinvent themselves to remain relevant. For the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University, this reengineering came in the form of the Ecological Paradigm Model. Dr. L. H. Newcomb (1994), Associate Dean and Director of Academic Affairs of the College, explained the rationale for this bold new initiative, thus:

We reached a decision that we could not continue business as usual. We had listened to the voices of our critics around Ohio and across the country. We seized an opportunity and made a commitment to respond to those concerns (p. 3).

The response was the Ecological Paradigm Modek, representing a new vision for food systems education for the 21st century. It urges agricultural stakeholders to take a systems view of their professionthe integrated nature of the food, environmental, and human systems. In particular, the OSU/CFAES felt that the model was comprehensive enough to address the concerns of environmentalists, farmers, and the public as a whole. For decades, proponents of the alternative agriculture paradigm accused land-grant universities of aligning with conventional farmers by promoting research that destroys the ecosystem (Beus & Dunlap, 1992). …

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A Study of the Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences' Ecological Paradigm Model
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