This fall WSU will launch a new online master of science in agriculture degree program that focuses on food science and management. The degree (http://msag.wsu.edu/food-science/) will be the first in the nation to combine food science with business management courses, giving graduates an edge in the industry and helping to meet growing demand.
Jeff Culbertson, director of the new online program, said every year there are 30-40 percent more food science jobs than qualified candidates in the U.S.
"The industry is growing at a phenomenal rate,” he said. "In 1990, the average number of products on grocery store shelves was 5,000. Today, that number is 25,000. The number of products has just skyrocketed, and behind every product is a group of trained people who developed each one.”
The unique degree offers plenty of core science classes but also executive management courses designed to prepare students for project management, budget development, human resource management and other challenges they likely will encounter on the job.
"The degree opens the door to enhancing earning potential — it could triple or even quadruple with a master’s degree,” Culbertson said. "Students employed in the food industry with a B.S. in one of the sciences often plateau in their careers fairly quickly, say in three to five years. A master’s opens the door to career advancement.”
The degree also opens doors for those who are not employed in the food industry. Several courses in the program focus on environmental sustainability and environmental toxicology. The food and beverage industry also recognizes opportunities for turning waste into useable materials - to generate steam, electricity or heat.
For example, Budweiser brewing produces a lot of spent grain that, in the past, was sold as cattle feed. Now the company ferments the waste grain to produce fuel that is in turn used to generate energy. In fact, one plant in Columbus, Ohio is 90 percent self-sufficient in producing its energy, according to Culbertson.
Culbertson and his colleagues have a proven track record for teaching effective online courses. He has been developing and teaching online courses for more than 18 years, which has given him plenty of experience in what works well.
"The program is bound to be a good experience because we know what we’re doing,” Culbertson said.
His colleague, Greg Möller, a University of Idaho professor of environmental chemistry and toxicology, teaches several of the online classes. He is nationally recognized for his film-based course on global sustainability (http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/sustainability/), part of the food science and management curriculum. Culbertson and Möller are both award-winning educators.
The master’s in agriculture: food science and management option is offered jointly by WSU and the UI School of Food Science.
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