The Solution: Interdisciplinary Programming
To identify areas of expertise on which to focus in the coming years, in the spring of 2004 the college formed six interdisciplinary study groups, including groups focusing on plant sciences and natural resources. Final recommendations from both plant sciences and natural resources, as well as other groups, included developing the means to integrate multidisciplinary expertise and opportunities across the college. Recommendations from all six study groups were incorporated into the development of the college’s 2005-2008 strategic plan.
One of the goals of the college’s 2005-2008 strategic plan is to “Increase enrollment and enhance student success” with one strategy for this to “revitalize curricula, starting with study group recommendations.” Five short term study groups were formed in the summer of 2005, including one to address the environmental undergraduate curricula and one to address plant sciences graduate curricula, with a plan to have improvements in place in 2007.
Environmental Undergraduate Curricula: With a goal of developing relevant and vibrant undergraduate environmental-related majors, initiatives focused on the already established Environmental Resource Management (ERM) major. Actions include:
- Identifying the college’s interdisciplinary Environmental and Natural Resources Institute (ENRI) as the administrative home of the ERM major.
- Increasing the ERM advising/recruiting position from part-time to full time for three years.
- Launching an extensive and thorough internal curriculum review, led by a multidisciplinary team, to be followed by an external review.
- Establishing a college-wide Environmental Programs Marketing Team.
- Enhancing interactions between the college and the ERM alumni.
Plant Sciences Graduate Curricula: Doctoral program assessment indicators of excellence include interdisciplinary perspectives and size of programs. Taking these criteria into account, and recognizing the smaller size of some of the college’s graduate programs, the plant sciences group recommended and is implementing three initiatives:
Consistent with its interdisciplinary approach, the college is concentrating marketing efforts on program clusters, and is identifying and closely tracking measures of return on marketing efforts and interdisciplinary initiatives. Recent undergraduate enrollment figures suggest that the ERM Program is growing and regaining its strength.
- Create plant science graduate courses that can satisfy the educational needs of core science topics in multiple disciplines. Courses that have been identified include statistics and experimental design, ethics and professional development, and plant stress physiology/biology.
- Create a plant sciences student colloquium, seminar series, and symposium.
- Coordinate interdepartmental recruitment of graduate students in the plant sciences through a central web portal, recruitment weekends, and lab rotations. The first Plant Sciences recruitment weekend occurs in February 2007. According to Kathleen Brown, Professor, Postharvest Physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, “The departments of Crop & Soil Science, Horticulture, and Plant Pathology are hosting a joint recruiting weekend for prospective graduate students . . . This joint activity should increase cooperation and collaboration among students and faculty in these programs as well as create a more exciting atmosphere during the recruiting weekend.”
For more information about this initiative, visit http://www.cas.psu.edu/docs/StrategicPlanning/ or contact Ann Dodd at ahd2@.psu.edu or 814-865-5410.