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New name for major appeals to students, faculty

The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice has changed the name of the agriculture and society undergraduate major to agricultural and rural policy studies, effective fall semester 2022.

The new name stems from comments from current and former students who indicated that the previous major name was too broad and not representative of their interests and future career plans.

“A broad survey of students and alumni found that they valued a policy focus, with almost 90 percent of students having some interest in a future career in agricultural or rural policy,” said Leana Bouffard, chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. “The new name is a better description of what students and alumni are already interested in, and what they are doing for internships and careers. It’s also a better fit for what our faculty are teaching and researching.”

Bouffard believes the new major name will help prospective students quickly find a program that suits them.

“Hopefully, students will have an easier time finding their home with us with a major name that specifically identifies what they are interested in,” she said.

David Peters, professor of rural sociology, says the major is broad in scope.

“Agriculture is more than just farming. It’s about food, energy and conservation. Rural is more than just small towns. It’s about the linkages between cities, urban consumers and the global economy. Students will learn about the policy dimensions of agriculture, and about strategies to promote rural vitality. The goal is to give students the tools to help rural people and places thrive in the 21st century. In short, our major is the people and policy side of agriculture.”

Aside from the name, nothing else about the major will change. The major will still be housed within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and administered by the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. No faculty changes are expected.