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University of Idaho, BYU-Idaho ag colleges to work closer together

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

MOSCOW, Idaho – Leaders and faculty at the University of Idaho and Brigham Young University-Idaho ag colleges have agreed to foster closer collaboration between the two colleges.

This could benefit the state’s agriculture industry by ensuring more BYU-Idaho students become involved in the industry in Idaho, Michael Parrella, dean of UI’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, told Idaho Barley Commission members during their recent board meeting.

“The big picture is you will have better trained students who are going to serve the agriculture industry in Idaho. That’s the ultimate goal,” he said.

“University of Idaho is trying to improve and increase its graduate program and we already have these wonderful (BYU-Idaho) students in the state who want to go on to graduate school,” Parrella added.

BYU-Idaho, located in Rexburg in eastern Idaho, has almost 1,200 students enrolled in its animal science, plant science and food science programs but the university is not a research institution and doesn’t have graduate programs in those areas.

UI, which is located in Moscow in northern Idaho, has graduate programs in an array of ag-related fields and nine research and extension centers throughout the state where BYU-Idaho students could gain valuable research experience.  

Working closer with UI “is a way of helping our students be successful and providing them some things that we as a four-year, non-research institution can’t provide,” said John Zenger, dean of BYU-Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “We’re really trying to give our students as much real-world experience as possible.”

Following recent reciprocal visits to each other’s campuses, leaders and faculty from both ag colleges have agreed to work closer together. That could mean more internship type opportunities for BYU-Idaho ag college students to work with UI researchers.

This has occurred in a limited way in the past but both ag colleges agreed to pursue those types of relationships to a greater degree and make BYU-Idaho students aware of the opportunities, Parrella said.

Many BYU-Idaho ag college students want to go on to graduate school but UI isn’t even on the radar of many of those students, Parrella said.

“There is still no visibility for our programs on the BYU-Idaho campus,” Parrella said. “We want to make their students aware that these opportunities are available.”

“We feel it’s a good fit for our students to go there and we’re excited to learn more about what programs are available at the University of Idaho,” Zenger said.

It could also mean the colleges working together to offer BYU-Idaho students degrees in various agriculture fields. For example, Zenger said, a student could attend BYU-Idaho for three years and UI for one year to obtain a bachelor’s degree or a specific degree that BYU-Idaho doesn’t offer.

Or a student could attend BYU-Idaho for three years and UI for two years and receive a bachelor’s degree from BYU-Idaho and a master’s degree from UI.

“If they could feed their best and brightest students into our program, that’s a win-win, for us, for them and for Idaho’s agriculture industry,” Parrella said.

Leaders and faculty from BYU-Idaho visited UI’s Moscow campus in November and UI leaders and faculty visited BYU-Idaho’s Rexburg campus in April.

“I think it’s unprecedented and very exciting,” Parrella said of the visits and agreement to collaborate. “There was this mutual understanding that there could be benefits on both sides. I think we had a very fruitful meeting.”

“We learned a great deal when we went up there and they learned a great deal when they came here,” Zenger said. “I feel very positive about the relationship.”

Parrella said the colleges agreed to foster more collaboration from an administrative perspective, “but we’re not forgetting that it’s got to be the professors, one on one, who really make things happen.”

Zenger agreed, saying that most of the ways to work closer together will be “established at the department level and approved, if needed, at the university level.”

He said the most productive part of the campus visits was when “their ag economists and our ag economists went off and talked about things and our soil scientists and their soil scientists went off and talked about things.”