By Tori Riggs
With 23 undergraduate majors and more than 50 areas of specialization, the University of Florida’s (UF’s) College of Agriculture and Life Science (CALS) offers both traditional and non-traditional tracks, from agricultural education to pre-med.
One of UF’s campuses can be found locally. With just a quick drive to the PSC Milton campus, you will find the UF branch. Here, the courses specialize in areas of science with a key focus on natural resource conservation and plant science. Programs offered at UF are possible through the partnership with Pensacola State College (PSC) as well as other local schools.
“We have what we call a two-plus-two program. Students receive their education from PSC where they earn prerequisite credits. After they graduate from PSC with their AA, they may then apply for courses taken at UF,” said UF Academic Recruiter, Mark Long.
The UF Milton campus gives students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from a university with the convenience of attending a local campus as opposed to relocating to Gainesville.
Because the current number of students is roughly 50 people, students are able to receive their education in a much more intimate and individually-driven setting.
“Our faculty advisor, Dr. Miller, encourages live attention,” Long said. “We also offer students opportunities to advance in desired areas of study. We require an internship during school, but say a student applies themselves in their work and realizes that area is not for them. We will then reevaluate their courses and help steer them in the right direction. We also have the same approach for incoming students. We will review [a] student’s strong areas of study, discuss their course interests, and go from there.”
UF will also work with PSC to find scholarships for students whose degree can range anywhere from an undergrad to a Ph.D.
UF is classified as a land-grant university. Meaning, in addition to educating their students, they also provide education information and assistance to the public.
“Our school has 3 missions: extension, teaching and research. We provide these services to make life better by helping agriculture. Because of research made at our facility in Jay County, for example, we are now working with an airliner that is being fueled by oil extracted from plants,” Long said.
Through extensions provided on campus as well as at 12 research and education centers, UF can partner with the public to create an important link. The program provides information regarding sustainable agriculture, food and nutrition safety, leadership opportunities for youth and much more. Here, the average citizen can learn about aspects of agriculture, the environment or how to simply take care of your lawn and gardening.
Education of plant life come in various forms located in the panhandle. Coldwater Gardens, for example, is an eco-friendly campground and resort found in Milton. The gardens, or farm, as employees refer to it, provides naturally grown food to the Milton and Pensacola communities.
“One fact about the garden portion of this project that may interest [some] is that Coldwater Gardens offers several work-study internships to UF students that count as credits toward their degree,” said Ashley Moore, Coldwater Gardens Agricultural Manager.
Moore is currently a student at UF. Prior to pursuing a degree in plant science from UF, she has worked at Coldwater Gardens on and off for the past six years.
“We usually need seasonal help at the farm, particularly in spring, which includes mulching and weeding, natural pest control, plant and animal care, seed starting, planting and harvesting and market preparation,” Moore said.
“Students in the UF Plant Science program are required to complete a certain amount of work-study credits to graduate. Hands-on experience when learning to grow and manage plants is an absolute necessity, so we have been able to facilitate this while at the same time gaining a seasonal worker who is actively learning the science behind plant cultivation.”
Mother nature surrounds us and can be taught by simply venturing down the road thanks to the communal advances made by UF, PSC, and partnering/local establishments.