AmericanFarm.com

Ag Forward program produces first grads

By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
Senior Editor

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (May 16, 2016) — In 2011, Glori D. Hyman, after two decades on the teaching staff of the University of Maryland Institute of Applied Agriculture and four of those years as assistant director, was advanced to director of the two-year ag education institution.
She had been concerned for some time by the fact that many Maryland young men and women, seeking a degree in one of many agricultural disciplines, were going out of state.
She was determined, if she could, to persuade them to stay home.
So in 2014 she created a program that she called Ag Forward.
Here’s how it works:
Students begin by studying for one year toward a Certificate in Applied Agriculture at the institute.
After successfully completing 30 credits at the IAA that freshman year, with a GPA of at least 3.0, students become eligible to apply for transfer into a bachelor’s degree program at the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Thus, those students have the opportunity to earn both a Certificate in Applied Agriculture and a bachelor’s degree in agriculture within four years.
The first Agriculture Forward students will be graduating from the university this Saturday, May 20.
Ruby Fishbein and Joanna Bell entered the IAA in the fall 2014, and by the fall of 2015 they transitioned into their degree options within the university’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Fishbein and Bell were among the first students to take advantage of Ag Forward. Since the fall of 2014, 23 students have enrolled in the Ag Forward option, and 19 of them have successfully transitioned from the IAA into their degree programs.
“Students can choose their own pace,” said director Hyman “and some students prefer to earn one credential at a time rather than pursue the accelerated Ag Forward path. These students complete their certificates first before transferring into their degree programs.”
Of the annual enrollment of about 60 students, about 30 percent of IAA students are now deciding to continue their education.
“So many talented kids (who want a career in agriculture) go out of state,” Hyman said. ”This is a tremendous opportunity for them to stay at home.”
At the IAA, students major in areas such as landscape management; ornamental horticulture; and golf course, sports turf and turfgrass management.
Agricultural Business Management and Agricultural Leadership and Communication areas of study have recently been added to the available curriculum.
At the college of agriculture, bachelor degrees are available in six departments: Animal and Avian Sciences, Agricultural and Resource Economics, Environmental Science and Policy, Environmental Science and Technology, Nutrition and Food Science, and Plant Science and Landscape Architecture.