By MICHELE F. MIHALJEVICH
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The growth in college agriculture programs across the country has come from women, according to Bill Richardson, project manager of the USDA’s Food, Agriculture and Education Information System.
He said the major growth in female enrollment has come from two disciplines: food science and animal sciences. From 2005-09, the number of women in food science has increased 33 percent, and the number in animal sciences has risen 25 percent.
The numbers are based on information from 71 institutions with female enrollment in colleges of agriculture. At the same time, the major increases for men in agriculture come from food science and ag engineering, he said.
The University of Tennessee’s agriculture program has slightly more than 50 percent women, said Caula Beyl, the first female College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources dean at UT.
“Women are pretty much everywhere in our programs except for turf science,” she explained. “Our veterinary school has 80 percent women. In 1995, that number was 26 percent. We would like to see more continue in the pipeline, though.”
For fall 2010, Iowa State University’s agriculture program had 1,763 men and 1,535 women.
“From 1987 to 2000, the increase we saw was primarily from women,” said Tom Polito, director of student services for the university’s agriculture college. “They’re involved across the board. There’s not one particular area they’re in. The opportunities for women are equal to the opportunities for men.”
At Purdue University, 1,354 women and 1,321 men were enrolled in agriculture programs for fall term 2010. The biggest concentrations of women were in animal science, wildlife and food science.
The Ohio State University values its enrollment balance, said Linda Martin, associate dean and director of academic affairs. For fall 2010, the agriculture program had 56 percent men and 44 percent women. The construction systems management program is the most heavily male, while animal sciences is most heavily female, she said.
Name, program changes
Agriculture colleges have changed their names and curriculum over the years to help demonstrate the variety of programs they offer, officials said. ISU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences accurately reflects what the college offers as many of the majors are life science-based, Polito noted.
“We changed the name three to five years ago to keep up with what we do,” he said. “We’ve added majors, such as a global resource systems major. We anticipate where demands for students will be in the future and we try to emphasize what we think students will need. We work with our stakeholders and partners, and listen to what they say our students will need.”
OSU’s agriculture program went from the College of Agriculture and Home Economics to the College of Agriculture in the early 1980s, and then to the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences about 15 years ago, Martin explained.
While those within the college always understood programs such as food and natural resources were a part of the college, those outside may have not, she added.
“We searched for a name that more accurately captured what was happening in the college. We wanted a name that described what we did,” she said. “We’ve always embraced environmental responsibility and stewardship.
“We had input from our stakeholders and the community, and we came out the other end with something people are happy with.”
Purdue’s ag program is constantly evolving, and officials tweak and change the curriculum yearly to match what’s happening in society, according to John G. Graveel, interim associate dean and director of the Office of Academic Programs. One thing that hasn’t changed is the name of the college.
“We still call it the College of Agriculture because of tradition,” he noted. “Employers in Indiana respond to that name. They identify with Purdue University and the college. Why change it, when 77 percent of our students being employed in the state come from the state of Indiana?”