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Food science students fight to save program

April 28, 2011

Food science majors at UW-River Falls are using tactics of education and persuasion to try to save their degree program at the University, said Sara Kolb, president of the Food Science Club.

The Food Science and Technology major was suspended at the Feb. 2 Faculty Senate meeting. The grounds for suspension, as defined in a Food Science program suspension document, were “diminishing staffing levels” and “enrollment challenges.”

Students and alumni of the Food Science program have not stood idly by while their program has been discontinued at UWRF. On March 28, an open forum was held to allow an opportunity for their voices to be heard. The goal of the forum was to educate faculty and staff about why UWRF should keep the major, Kolb said.

The students and alumni have also been voicing their opinions by writing and calling Chancellor Van Galen, Kolb added.

Kolb said she feels there are many reasons that the Food Science major should not be suspended; such as a 16 percent increase in projected job outlook between 2008 and 2018, a median average salary of more than $43,000, and high quality of Food Science professors at UWRF.

She added that there is a wide array of areas to go into within the field after graduation, and that UWRF has a 100 percent job placement rate for Food Science graduates.

On a more personal level, Kolb said she feels UWRF was the best fit for her as opposed to the larger schools in the area that offer the same program.

“I am from a smaller town.  I had no interest in going to UW-Madison or the U of M (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities). I felt like I would not fit in there.  After working in the dairy pilot plant and meeting the professors that taught these interesting classes, I knew I made the right decision,” Kolb said.

Kolb added that if the food science major is gone, students who come from small towns would not have the same opportunity to attend a small college and pursue their dreams.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences started reviewing the Food Science program in 2005. The findings of the review warranted the suspension of the Food Science program.

“The heart of the issue to suspend the Food Science major is a question of ‘fit’ for the UW-River Falls campus,” wrote Department Chair Gary Onan, author of the program suspension document.

“Finally, it must be re-emphasized that the decision to suspend the program is primarily due to resource issues and low enrollment within the major,” Onan added.

The program suspension document also stated that the department has plans to maintain the food science minor, and to continue to offer food science courses for students wishing to pursue a food science emphasis. 

With the recent political climate in the world seeming to promote social reform through protesting and uprising, Kolb said those methods of getting a message across to the powers that be are not being considered by those affected by the suspension of the major.

“I myself am not for protests,” Kolb said, “I feel that they do not work.  We want to educate people by not screaming, yelling, or stomping around certain areas.  We want to be professional about the matter.”