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UFV approves the creation of a new school of science

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The UFV Senate recently approved the formation of a School of Agriculture, Geography, and the Environment (SAGE) in the science department. The plan is to establish the new school by Sept. 1, 2019.

The agriculture department has not yet fully joined the new school of science, though they are associate members. According to Lucy Lee, dean of science, this is because the shift from a department to a school can be a slow process. Since the physical location of the agriculture department is in Chilliwack, more time will be needed to organize the logistics of the transition to a school of science.

To create the new school, the smaller units within the science department, agriculture, and possibly food sciences, will merge into a larger group which includes geography and environmental studies, so that they can work together. According to Lee, smaller units don’t have the same resource and staffing advantages as a larger group under the supervision of a director who has more time to oversee the entire unit.

“The individual departments will be managing just the teaching,” Lee said. “But looking at five years from now, we want to have a unit which is teaching very good, but also providing the students with more research opportunities. The university also wants to be more interdisciplinary so having geography and agriculture as a unit will allow them to cross-collaborate.”

In the process of deciding to create the new school of science, UFV also approved a new science degree, the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES).

According to Lee, the BES will be offered in two concentrations: the Bachelor of Environmental Studies and the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Natural Sciences). The Bachelor of Environmental Studies has coursework that will centre more around human interaction with the land, whereas the BES of natural science will focus more on the environment, thereby providing more lab-intensive course work. The environmental studies program is set to begin next September and the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (Natural Sciences) will be available Winter 2020.

Another change will occur in the geography department. Geography will be moved over completely to the science department, whereas in the past it was offered in both the arts and the sciences. This change will allow the geography students to develop more of their research skills. In a vote regarding the future of the new school of science, both the human and physical geographers voted unanimously that they wanted to be part of the school of science.

One reason for deciding to merge these science departments together is because it was found that there were lab resources and materials being used by the geographers that were not available to the students in the agriculture program due to the lack of coordination between the Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses.

“We have strengths in the agriculture and geography departments but there wasn’t a connection between these areas before,” Lee said.

There will be more faculty hired in the process of forming the new school. Currently there is an interim director, but a new director will be hired to oversee the new school of science. According to Lee, there will likely be two more positions opening within the agriculture and geography departments as well.

Although approval of the school with the name SAGE was passed through Senate, Lee said there is still debate around the name. Another acronym that has been suggested is LEAF, standing for Land, Environment, Agriculture, and Food Sciences.

Image: UFV Flickr

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