As the global population increases, providing food, fiber and fuel to meet growing demand has become a significant challenge. Texas A&M's Soil and Crop Sciences Department is training future plant breeders to meet this challenge and has expanded its effort through the new Distance Education Program in Plant Breeding.
The Plant Breeding Distance Education Program was launched in January 2013 with a vision to help allay hunger and poverty through genetic improvement of plants.
Wayne Smith, the Associate Department Head of Soil and Crop Sciences, helped pioneer distance education in Plant Breeding at Texas A&M. Smith's specialty is in Plant Breeding and he teaches distance and on-campus courses.
"Right now we offer the full suite of plant breeding graduate degrees on-line; a master's degree with a non-thesis option, a master's degree with the thesis option, and a Ph.D. degree. We are the only Land Grant University in the U.S. that offers the Ph.D. degree on-line," Smith said. "We launched the distance program in January of this year and we expect to have nine students enrolled in the fall semester, and we have high expectations for future enrollment."
Classes will be delivered electronically through voiced-over powerpoints, and distance students are held to the same standard as on-campus students.
One of the program's many goals is international outreach and education. "We hope to not only send our graduates to the poverty-stricken areas of the world to help alleviate hunger but to also train local students in many of these areas to become successful and productive plant breeders through our distance program. This program is a public service road. Our faculty believe that we can expand our contribution to the education of plant breeders world-wide through this program," Smith said.
Distance education graduate degrees are primarily designed for people employed and seeking to advance their training and education. Texas A&M's program is the only distance education Plant Breeding program to offer both an M.S. with a thesis option and a Ph.D option.
The non-thesis option M.S. in Plant Breeding requires 36 hours of coursework, four of which are an internship activity at the student's present company or locale.
The thesis option M.S. in Plant Breeding requires 32 semester credit hours of coursework and a thesis on original research. Student research can be completed at the student's location. An on-site Ph.D scientist, educator or supervisor, who qualifies as an adjunct member of the Texas A&M graduate faculty, must be available to serve as co-chair of the student's graduate advisory committee and be able to direct a thesis research locally.
A Ph.D degree requires 64 semester credit hours past an M.S. degree in plant breeding or a related agriculture field. A dissertation on original research is required.
To learn more about the program please contact Wayne Smith at email@example.com, LeAnn Hague, our Distance Education Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Plant Breeding Distance Education website at http://soilcrop.tamu.edu/
Article by Lauren Thompson, Video by Li Zhang