Transition period will give Short Course time to review its curriculum and delivery

The UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course has seen a lot of change in its 121-year history, and it will likely see some more after longtime FISC director Rick Daluge steps down in October. There may be some new types of courses and some new ways of delivering them.

“We will continue to meet the needs of our traditional short course clientele, but we also want to make sure that we’re positioned to meet the ever-changing needs of the industries we serve,” says Robert Ray, associate dean for undergraduate programs and services for the university’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS).

“For the 2007 2008 school year we will be hiring an interim director,” Ray explains. “This will allow us ample time for a thoughtful review of the program and to make sure we find a permanent director with the right talents and vision.”

Ray also intends to hire a full-time program manager to help administer the Farm and Industry Short Course.

During the upcoming academic year, the college will create a working group to review the short course and other CALS programs aimed toward nontraditional, non-degree learners. With the recommendations of that group in hand, Ray will proceed with the search for a new permanent director to be hired prior to the 2008-2009 academic year.

Ray wants the reviewers to explore ways to expand the short course curriculum to accommodate both emerging and existing agricultural and natural resource industries. The program has made several such changes in recent years, adding curricula geared toward Wisconsin’s green industry and grass-based livestock producers.

“We also want to explore ways to use distance education technologies to deliver our programs to students who aren’t able to come to campus,” Ray says.

The short course got its feet wet in distance education during the past school year through its partnership with the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers, Ray points out.

Sixteen students took the Grass-Based Dairy and Livestock Seminar at distance education classrooms at the UW-Marathon campus in Wausau and MATC in Reedsburg. According to WSBDF director Dick Cates, the students who used the distance-learning option would not have been able to participate if the class were only offered on campus. This year the class will be offered at four off-campus sites.

Any changes made will have to be made in a way that complements adult education programs offered by UW-Extension and Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges, Ray adds..

“We don’t want to compete, and we want to avoid duplication,” he says.

The short course is Wisconsin’s longest continuously running agricultural education program. It held its first classes in 1886, three years before the establishment of what is now the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Its faculty roster has included many well-known names, including W.A. Henry, the first dean of the College of Agriculture, F.H. King, considered by many to be the inventor of the upright silo, and wildlife ecologist Aldo Leopold. Daluge has guided the program for 24 years — longer than any of his 11 predecessors.