College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

IAA Provides Path to Degrees

IAA Graduates Flourish in Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Heather McHale
Monica Martin, Cameron Smith, and Becky Jones easily went from certificate to degree at UMD

For some IAA students, the educational journey doesn’t end when they receive their Certificate in Applied Agriculture. An increasing number of IAA grads apply to the university as transfer students and go on to earn bachelor’s degrees.

While IAA graduates apply as transfer students, just like graduates of other two-year programs might, they have a major advantage: if they’re admitted to the degree program, they get “resident credit” for the University-approved courses they took during their time at the IAA. (That means the credits are certain to transfer and that their grades count toward the GPA.) For some areas of study in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, almost every single credit earned at the IAA will apply toward the requirements for the major, which makes the path toward the bachelor’s degree a lot smoother. With good planning, a student’s transition from IAA to bachelor’s degree program can be virtually seamless, which minimizes time and credit hours needed to earn both credentials.

The IAA’s advisors can help make that happen, says Becky Jones, a 2018 graduate of the IAA’s Agricultural Business Management program. Jones, who is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural and Resource Economics, had a distinguished career at the IAA. She was deemed AGNR’s Outstanding Student from the two-year program, and she balanced her academic pursuits with a long list of extracurricular activities, from founding the UMD chapter of the Collegiate Farm Bureau to serving as the President of the AGNR Student Council.

She encourages other transfer students to make use of their resources at the IAA. “Utilize your advisor,” Jones says. “They’ll know exactly what you need to take….They’ll make it so you can get it done as fast as possible.” Advisors at the IAA maintain a good working knowledge of the requirements of AGNR’s bachelor’s degree programs so that they can guide their students toward courses that will fulfill general education and specific major requirements.

Jones considers the IAA “a nice transition from high school to a huge institution,” saying that her only big class her freshman year was Principles of Animal Science—the rest of her courses, she recalls, were all small and hands-on, which helped her get acclimated to the large university. She credits the IAA’s small, supportive classes with helping her find her footing at UMD, saying, “They gave me the confidence to say ‘I can do this.’”

Another of the IAA’s Sustainable Agriculture graduates, Cameron Smith, is working on a degree in Environmental Science and Technology with a concentration in Ecosystem Health. The IAA’s fundamental science courses make an excellent foundation for careers in environmental science; Smith is building on the skills she acquired while working on her certificate. Many of Smith’s current courses focus on ecosystem health, which includes studying the effects of agriculture on the environment. “We focus on the environmental effects of agriculture,” she explains, “so I’ve seen it from two different viewpoints. I’m able to take what I learned in my sustainable agriculture classes with Meredith and my soils class and put it into these classes, so it’s definitely helped me.”

Smith recommends that IAA students use their time in the certificate program to explore different options and learn more about a variety of subjects. “At first, I went in sort of narrow-minded,” she admits, “like I was just interested in environmental science, but then taking classes here definitely opened me up.” She recalls that during her first year at the IAA, she “became so interested in everything” that she considered a variety of different options before settling on ENST. “I think it’s fine to explore different ideas,” she says. “Find your passion.”

Jones and Smith aren’t the only IAA graduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees in other AGNR programs. Forty percent of our 2017 graduates planned to continue their education after completing their certificates—an enormous jump from 2012, when zero percent of certificate graduates opted to continue their education. For students who also want a bachelor’s degree, getting the IAA certificate first can be a great path. The IAA’s focus—hands-on, experiential learning—provides a solid foundation for careers in agronomy, agribusiness, animal science, environmental horticulture, ecosystem health, urban forestry, and more.


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