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Changes in the Academic Structure of the College

by CHUCK GILL

Last November the Board of Trustees approved the college’s plan to restructure its academic departments, reducing their number from twelve to nine. The plan will formally take effect on July 1 of this year. 

The reorganization was the outcome of a two-year planning process, known as the AG Futures initiative, aimed at changing the college’s business model to adjust to economic realities and to identify areas of strategic innovation and growth. 

“The intent was to challenge assumptions about what we do and how we do it and to determine the best application of resources to achieve the college’s vision,” said Bruce McPheron, dean of the college. “Our focus was to strengthen our academic programs while becoming a more agile organization that can respond quickly to emerging issues, trends, and changing dynamics in the global food and fiber system.” 

The AG Futures initiative was influenced by recommendations delivered in early 2011 from the University’s Academic Programs and Administrative Services Core Council, a group charged with analyzing programs, examining available resources, finding efficiencies, and determining how to maintain the University’s excellence in an era of declining state revenue and mounting fiscal challenges. 

Reflecting input from faculty, staff, stakeholders, and the University’s faculty senate, the reorganization will capitalize on disciplinary depth and interdisciplinary synergies by combining and refocusing some units that share similar missions, resulting in the following departments: 

Agricultural and Biological Engineering will include faculty largely from the current department of the same name. 

Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education will draw faculty from the current Departments of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and Agricultural and Extension Education. 

Animal Science will draw faculty from the current Departments of Poultry Science and Dairy and Animal Science. 

Ecosystem Science and Management will draw faculty from the current Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and School of Forest Resources. 

Entomology will include faculty largely from the current department of the same name. 

Food Science will include faculty largely from the current department of the same name. 

Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology will include faculty largely from the current Department of Plant Pathology. 

Plant Science will draw faculty from the current Departments of Horticulture and Crop and Soil Sciences. 

Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences will include faculty largely from the current department of the same name.

The reorganization will ensure that current and prospective students continue to find high-quality programs and outstanding educational opportunities both in and out of the classroom, according to McPheron. He said the college continually looks at its majors, minors, and options to make certain they provide the kind of education that will prepare students to enter today’s careers, address current and future issues, and make contributions as global citizens. 

“A new academic structure almost certainly will result in new undergraduate and graduate degree programs,” he said. “Some low-enrollment programs may be phased out, and others may be merged to provide wider opportunities and more options within those majors.” 

McPheron emphasized that even as academic programs evolve, students currently enrolled in the college’s 19 majors will be able to complete their programs without interruption. 

More information about the restructuring is available online at agsci.psu.edu/ag-futures.