Updating Today's College Curriculum for Tomorrow's Agriculture

Article excerpt

College curricula must be dynamic and constantly modified in order to graduate students who are at the "cutting-edge" of knowledge and technology. Many changes are now occurring which will stimulate new directions in curricula in higher education - including agriculture. These changes include (a) states increasing graduation requirements for high school students, (b) state governing boards increasing requirements for admission into college, and (c) remedial/developmental skills programs being phased out in universities across the country, with the expectation that any deficiencies remaining upon graduation from high school will be corrected at a community/junior college.

The end result of these changes should be better prepared students matriculating in our colleges. To challenge these students, faculty must be encouraged and rewarded for reviewing and upgrading their courses. Lecture notes and laboratory exercises must be continually updated and should present state-of-theart information.

Concurrent with the development of curricula in secondary education to prepare high school graduates better for success in college is the need to review college curricula to assure adequate preparation of college graduates for employment in the newly emerging fields of biotechnology and "high-tech." Many curricula in agriculture have been modified to require more basic science courses, and at a higher level. It is interesting to note that some of this modification has led to increased specialization at a time when we are told that students need to be more broadly educated and trained.

Seven Curricula Needs

In modifying curricula for the future, the writer believes the following seven needs should be taken into consideration:

I. There is a continuing need for computer literacy by both faculty and students. Once they are introduced to the ease of operation of the computer, they readily see its application. More software packages need to be developed, for use in all areas of agriculture, which are compatible with the many computer systems now on the market.

2. There is need to continue improving communication skills of our students (both verbal and written). Many institutions are making use of the program "Writing Across the Curriculum" to improve writing skills. In our School of Agriculture, a new course. "Communications and Public Relations in Agriculture." has been developed and is required of all majors.

3. Curricular adjustments will need to be made for those students who do not have practical agricultural experience prior to college. A special course may be needed on terminology and machinery commonly used on the farm. This course could be readily adapted as a self-tutorial course since the materials serve this purpose well. In addition, there is a need to offer and even require course offerings which include work experience in our university farms and greenhouses to provide students with hands-on training in operating equipment, working with various specialty corps, managing animals, etc. Internships and co-op programs also provide invaluable experience to the upperclass student.

4. There is a need to interact with other departments and colleges outside of agriculture on our campuses to integrate agricultural science in the form of examples and case studies to enrich the education of students in majors outside of agriculture. A professor in our College of Arts and Sciences is offering a new Honors Course "Issues in Science and Technology" with the first section on "Agriculture in Transition."

5. There is a need for better understanding of international agriculture and other cultures. …