The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences announced last Wednesday they will make significant changes to the 136-year-old Farm and Industry Short Course program. The program will go from being a 16-week, residential, for-credit course to a non-credit, blended learning program. 

These changes will create more flexibility for the faculty and students in the program, CALS Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach Doug Reinemann said. But, some agriculture students and organizations have said the changes will hurt the FISC students in the long run. 

Wisconsin Farm Bureau President Kevin Krentz spoke out against CALS’ changes in a press release, saying CALS failed to consult with stakeholders when planning the changes.

“We are disturbed about the dismantling of the current structure of the Farm & Industry Short Course,” Krentz said. “We are truly disappointed in the missed opportunities to engage stakeholders prior to these changes being made and expect more from a such a prestigious agricultural university.”

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The primary reason CALS altered the FISC program was because FISC enrollment had been dropping since 2016, Reinemann said. The program’s original 16-week model made it difficult for students and instructors to participate because they were needed on the farms and agribusinesses they work for or own, Reinemann said.

The new model will offer students more flexibility and better reflect the evolving field of agriculture, Reinemann said. 

Former FISC student Billy Zeimet said in an email to The Badger Herald that CALS didn’t try hard enough to involve students in the decision-making process. Zeimet said CALS shouldn’t “essentially shut down” the FISC program because fewer farmers are applying for it.

Zeimet also said living in dorms was an important part of his time as a FISC student.  

“Having the time to interact with your peers and learn how they operate their farms is an invaluable experience that cannot be had when students must commute to campus,” Zeimet said.

Reinemann said the administration is currently looking at options when it comes to maintaining the close-knit community that the old FISC model created.

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“We hear loud and clear that students value [the residential experience], and we do too,” Reinemann said.

CALS understands that some current students and alumni will be saddened to see the old program structure go, Reinemann said. CALS is still exploring some aspects of the new model, such as maintaining a cohort experience, Reinemann said.

Though CALS welcomes feedback on the changes FISC, the school is confident that these changes will be best for the program in the long run, Reinemann said. 

Other stakeholders, such as Zeimet, said they believed otherwise.

“The changes being made to the FISC program will be detrimental and I do not believe the program will continue to have near the same impact on the agriculture industry that it has for the past 136 years,” Zeimet said.