Washington State University's research station in Prosser could see an influx of graduate students thanks to a new online agriculture master's degree program.
The university's College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources Science announced the new degree program Wednesday. It will focus on plant health management, with students taking courses in plant sciences and protection but also business management.
Participating graduate students will be able to interact with faculty and conduct research projects at WSU research stations near where they live. They won't have to travel to the Pullman campus to attend classes.
"This is a particularly good program for someone who is place bound," Gary Grove, director of Prosser's Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center, told the Herald.
The 30-credit graduate program, which begins next fall and is taking applications, will have courses taught by WSU professors in numerous disciplines. It's modeled on a similar online master's program in food science and management and is aimed at the same demographic: working students and those unable to relocate to Pullman for their studies.
"The success of the food science and management program is evidence that online learning is what the market wants," said Kim Kidwell, executive associate dean of the college.
Unlike the college's other online program, the plant health management degree allows a student to conduct a research project rather than write a thesis. Those projects may be done independently but also in coordination with research station faculty.
The program is expected to go far in developing a more highly trained workforce for agricultural producers throughout the state, faculty and university administrators said. Grove was in pest management before taking the helm of the Prosser station and that field is constantly evolving, requiring regular training and education, he said.
The Prosser campus is already a little crammed, with between 25 to 50 graduate students working with researchers and faculty at any given time. There are also two large construction projects underway to add necessary space, but Grove welcomes any additional students the new online degree sends his way, he said.
"It will add somewhat but we all view it as an opportunity," he said.
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