Catching Up with CALS — Feb. 6, 2019
Dean's Message — Maintaining Quality
The recent announcement by U of I concerning a deficit in the general education budget concerns all of us who value the university and CALS.
The college’s share of the campus-wide challenge to address that shortfall will impact the college going forward, especially in the area of hiring faculty and staff to support our undergraduate and graduate teaching programs. However, the impact in CALS is relatively small compared to what other colleges on campus are facing, in part because CALS has fewer general education dollars than most other colleges.
Several factors will serve to reduce the immediate impact of the cut to the general education budget in CALS. Keep in mind that CALS has three main funding sources: General education, Federal formula funds to support the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station and UI Extension, and the Agricultural Research and Extension Services (ARES). General education is by far the smallest part of our budget. Support for the experiment station and extension are under the purview of CALS, and these come to the college via the Hatch Act of 1887 and the Smith Lever Act of 1914 with matching dollars from the state.
Most faculty in CALS have appointments in the agricultural experiment station, Extension or in both, with formal classroom teaching requiring a smaller share of their time. To continue providing a high quality education to our students, we have to re-double our efforts to use our available general education dollars more efficiently. We are well positioned to do that since we’ve been hiring many top-notch early career faculty in recent years, who are excellent researchers and can translate their experience into an even better education for our students.
The best news for CALS is that its major source of funding, ARES dollars, has strong support from the governor and legislators and they are currently considering an increase to our overall ARES budget.
The university’s biggest challenge, and the one that is at the heart of the shortfall in the general education budget, is flat undergraduate enrollment. The university and CALS are actively engaged in activities to grow enrollment. CALS’ sustained efforts to recruit students are paying off. This fall, our enrollment total for new first-time students rose 16 percent and early indications show the number of applicants expected to enroll this fall is strong again.
The college’s continuing commitment to recruiting and advising students, and retaining those who enroll, continues to serve us well. CALS’ retention rate is over 80 percent.
This year’s class of CALS Ambassadors is the largest ever and most diverse — reflecting the breadth and excellence of the college’s programs. The ambassadors are a key factor in our overall recruiting effort.
So while budget cuts are unwelcome and the general education cuts in CALS’ are not trivial, we remain confident that we will be able to continue to serve new and current students while maintaining our historic land grant mission of research and extension.
To those who believe in CALS, and want to help, the message is simple: Please send us more students interested in a great education with bright career prospects ahead. As the major agricultural college in the state of Idaho, CALS represents a wonderful choice for students.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
490 acres was the average size of Idaho’s 24,300 farms and ranches that collectively spanned 11,900,000 acres, according to 2017 statistics reported by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
Our Stories — Students Explore Another University, Ireland
Both seniors approaching graduation, they excelled at their education in the University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
The Irish educational system gave them access to some of the country’s best minds in the agricultural industry, businesspeople who excelled at taking scientific advances and applying them to practice.
“Almost all of our professors have industry jobs, and they sort of teach on the side,” Molly said.
That focus on application meant that sometimes classes became secondary when an important meeting or a problem took precedence over class.
The American university’s focus on students’ sequential approach to learning differed from the Irish approach. The Sparrows spent fall semester in Ireland as part of an academic exchange program pioneered by CALS International Programs Director Bob Haggerty.
“It’s different,” Molly said. “We’ve really enjoyed it here but the education system is really different so like trying to figure out how to learn differently from the last 20 years is hard.”
In Dublin in late November, John’s focus was on preparing for the one exam of the semester.
“It’s 100 percent on the final so if you fail the final, you’re done,” he said. “The grading is opposite, too. At home you start at 100 percent and points are deducted. Here, you start at a zero and build your way up so 40 percent is a pass and a 70 is an A.”
“The lack of continuous assessment is a little bit hard because you don’t know what to do with yourself. You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said.
The exam would require him to show that he had mastered key concepts in his classes through multiple-page essays spread over several weeks. And rather than expecting a grade within a week or two, he would learn whether he passed or failed in a month or more.
The challenges were enlightening, they said. “It’s really worth it though, because we got to learn about how we learn as individuals. You study a lot more because it’s not as guided,” she said.
In addition to studying at one of the world’s top agricultural institutions, they were expanding their experiences in ways that drew them to the chance to spend a semester aboard.
They flew to Norway for a weekend to learn more about John’s family origins. The flight was cheap and a scenic train ride from Oslo to Bergen and back gave them a sense of the geography.
Ireland was an adventure in itself. Compact, its attractions are easily accessible.
One of their highpoints was a fox hunt through the western countryside. The party included Italian riders who brought their own butler. The butler would pass out sandwiches and wine in wine glasses to the riders when they emerged onto roads.
The hunt itself, which allowed the fox its freedom at the end, included as many as 65 riders on a cross-country course of high walls and hedges and villages turning out to see the riders pass through.
“It’s just like a herd of people. There are only 2 feet between your horse and the horse ahead and behind when you’re jumping,” she said. “We got the full Irish experience on that one.”
“We’d like to continue to travel internationally; I don’t know if we’d ever live internationally,” he said. “We appreciate home so much more now,” she said.
The experience did encourage them to continue exploring the world. They planned to go on a horseback safari in South Africa and to visit Egypt before they headed home to U of I for spring semester, and to dream of other trips.
“In 2020, we want to go to Mongolia and ride across Mongolia on horses,” she said. The 20-day trek would take them through the home of the Przewalski’s horse, a species of truly wild horses that remain untamed.
“The reason we want to go is because that is one of the last real horse cultures left in the world,” he said.
Enroll in Ag Ed 407 and See the World
The trips are organized as part of the Agricultural Education 407 class by CALS International Programs Director Bob Haggerty. The course meets throughout spring semester, and its four sections each are limited to eight students and each are focused on one country.
The weeklong field trips offer students visits to commercial operations from aquaculture farms to vineyards and to research facilities.
The students also learn about the cultures that shaped the countries and their agricultural and life sciences industries.
“These are not just spring break trips. The courses require lots of pre-departure research and post-trip reflection and communication,” Haggerty said. “There is serious academic rigor in Ag Ed 407 in addition to the course providing terrific agricultural and educational tourism experiences.”
The Taiwan trip is the longest running and operates with the strong support of National Chiayi University. The newest, is an inaugural trip to northern Spain in partnership with the Public University of Navarra.
The trip to Mexico’s State of Jalisco is the next eldest and is operated with support from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara. The trip to Ireland operates in partnership with the University College Dublin.
If efforts succeed, Haggerty hopes to add a fifth spring break trip to the options next year with a visit to China in collaboration with Shangdong Agricultural University.
The students learn about other countries, and they also learn about Idaho’s connections to those countries, Haggerty said. This year one student will travel on her third spring break trip, each focused on a different country, and two students will take second trips to new destinations.
The trips’ sustainability relies on building long term relationships between faculty and staff from CALS and each country’s partner university.
Haggerty tries to mix veteran trip leaders with new faculty and staff members to expand research and education ties. This year’s leaders include Mireille Chahine and Kendall Kahl to Mexico, Bob Tripepi and Pedram Rezamand to Taiwan, Amin Ahmadzadeh and Lorie Higgins to Ireland and Haggerty and Paul McDaniel to Spain.
Beyond the weeklong spring break trips, Haggerty also established a partnership with University College Dublin to offer CALS students the chance to spend a semester at the Dublin school. In turn, Irish students have spent summers in the Treasure Valley and Moscow with the support of Jim Toomey, director of the Agribusiness Incubator at the Caldwell Research and Extension Center.
Faces and Places
CALS food science student Lydia Waterman recently met Ronald McDonald during a trip to Chicago for the 2019 Agriculture Future of America Food Institute there in January. While at the event, she toured several major food companies, including those that help McDonald’s process beef patties.
- Feb. 6-7 — Spokane Ag Expo
- Feb. 8 — Marek Borowiec, CALS Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, Biological Sciences Seminar: “Ant bytes: studying diversity and evolution of ants with the help of modern computing,” Life Sciences South 277, 3:30 p.m.
- Feb. 18 — Dean’s Advisory Board meeting, Boise
- Feb. 19 — Larry Branen Ag Summit
- Feb. 5-7 — Spokane Ag Expo
- March 1-2 — Cultivating The Harvest: 20th Anniversary Inland Northwest Small Acreage Farming Conference, Bruce M. Pitman Center, University of Idaho.
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