Texas A&M to offer plant breeding doctorate degree through distance education

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Wayne Smith, 979-845-3450, cwsmith@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION – Students desiring a master’s or doctorate degree from Texas A&M University in plant breeding will no longer have to make the move to College Station, according to university officials.

“We know there is a worldwide shortage and demand for plant breeders at the Ph.D. level,” said Dr. Wayne Smith, associate department head for the soil and crop sciences department within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

As the global population increases, so does the demand for food, fiber and fuel, Smith said. Texas A&M, one of the top-tier U.S. universities training future plant breeders, has developed a plan to help meet the challenge and demand with a new distance education program in plant breeding.

“There are many people with a bachelor’s or master’s degree working with major companies who could help fill those positions,” he said. “This distance degree will give them the opportunity to remain employed wherever they are and still earn their next degree.”

Smith said the traditional plant breeding degrees within the college, whether in the soil and crop sciences or horticultural departments, require one semester of residency for a master’s and two semesters of full-time enrollment with on-campus residency for a doctorate. The distance degree waves that residency requirement.

“While our entire faculty believes personal interaction with students is optimum, we understand there are clientele or potential students out there with a job and personal situations that are not allowing that to happen,” he said.

Texas A&M will begin offering distance education for a master of science in plant breeding, non-thesis option and thesis option, and a doctorate in plant breeding in the spring of 2013.

“We will be the first research degree – master’s or doctorate – offered at a distance in these fields in the U.S.,” Smith said. “We are able to do this because it is an extension of the model we have with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M University.

“A person can be in Amarillo or the Philippines, and with the proper paperwork, they can now earn their degree,” he said.

Everything else in the degree program remains the same, it is just delivered via the Internet, Smith said. Students are enrolled in the same classes and taught by the same professors as students on campus. Their course content, homework and examinations also are the same.

The student still must have a faculty advisory committee with a co-chair at their location who is a member of the graduate faculty at Texas A&M.

“We think there is an opportunity and a need, and we have the technology to meet it.”

Individuals interested in the graduate degrees in plant breeding distance program should contact Smith at cwsmith@tamu.edu or 979-845-3450; Dr. David Byrne, associate department head for horticultural sciences, dbyrne@tamu.edu or 979-862-3072; or LeAnn Hague, distance education coordinator in the soil and crop sciences department, leann.hague@tamu.edu or 979-845-6148.

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