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Food Science and Technology major suspended from UWRF

February 17, 2011

The Food Science and Technology major, or FDSC, was suspended from the UW- River Falls’ College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences due to low enrollment and staffing issues, at the Faculty Senate meeting Feb. 2.

The suspension was upheld by a senate vote of 15-4 with one abstention.

According to a program suspension document released by the Department of Animal and Food Science, “suspension of the Food Science major is driven by two primary factors; diminishing staffing levels within FDSC and enrollment challenges. Enrollment of students with majors in FDSC has ranged from 20-40 over the past five years.”

Students currently enrolled in the FDSC major, and students who have been accepted to the program and have not started classes yet won’t have to change their major or transfer schools because of the suspension, said Animal and Food Science Department Chair Gary Onan.
“No one will have to change their major. The program will continue to run until all currently enrolled and admitted students have completed their degrees,” he said.

There are 31 students currently pursuing the Food Science and Technology major, with an average of six graduates each year over the past seven years, said Onan.  There are six students who have been admitted to the Food Science and Technology major for next year.

According to the suspension document, “The college has spent many years in determining the future of the FDSC major.”

The document states that in 2005 the FDSC program was separated from Department of Animal and Food Science, and in 2008 a CAFES committee was formed to review the decision to suspend the program. The findings of the committee upheld the decision to suspend the FDSC major.

Although the FDSC major is now in the process of being removed from the UW-River Falls’ offerings, the CAFES would still like to offer Food Science in some respect.

According to the program suspension document, they aim to do so by retaining the Food Science minor, continuing to offer the FDSC 110 and 113 courses as general education requirement options and incorporating food science education into the Animal Science and Dairy Science majors, perhaps by the addition of a Food Science option.

Animal and Food Science professor Bonnie Walters said she is frustrated with the loss of the program, especially with changes in the industry such as the recent passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to hire more food-safety inspectors.

She said students who graduate from UWRF with a degree in Food Science would be eligible to get a job with the FDA as a food inspector.

“That field has actually had a shift over like the last 15 years,” said Walters. “It used to be that if you had an Animal Science degree you could go be a meat inspector and go around and inspect the different meat plants, there’s really been a shift away from that, to wanting students who have a food science background, at least with a minor if not a major.”

Another point Walters expressed was the fact that the Food Science program has a high job placement rate, and that the Food Science graduates are among the highest paid of UWRF college graduates.

“In the past few years we have had some of the highest salaries for graduates from this campus. A few years ago we had one student go out starting at $60,000,” she said.

Sara Kolb, president of the UWRF Food Science club, said she believes the food science program at UWRF is better than ones offered at other schools in the area.

“Comparing it to the bigger schools like Madison, the U of M or Iowa we get more hands on experience here.” Kolb said.

She also said the Food Science club has been trying to build awareness about the suspension of the program in the community and the school.

“They don’t really understand how much of an impact we actually are,” Kolb said.

Kolb explained that no one has approached her, or any Food Science students she knows of, for their input on the suspension of the FDSC program.

“We were all kind of confused why, because we’re actually a major right now that’s getting jobs, we’re getting the highest paying jobs with only a four-year degree,” said Kolb. “We’re all just kind of frustrated that its leaving,” she said.