In Spring 2001 the College of Natural Resources at Utah State University voted on a plan for reorganization of departments and curricula that is intended to better reflect future natural resource science and management needs. To prepare for curriculum redesign we evaluated the career objectives and educational needs of undergraduate students in natural resources and related fields by means of a three-part study of relevant groups: current students, public agency professionals, and prospective students who chose nonnatural resources majors. Students typically seek traditional jobs with public agencies, but a large proportion also expect to attend graduate school. Comparison of seniors and underclassmen found that the latter were less pragmatic in their expressed career goals, and also showed greater appreciation for the human dimension of natural resources management. Agency professionals identified "people skills" as critical to success in public land management, and expressed a wish that they'd had more of those kinds of courses in college. About half reported that their jobs were quite different from what they'd anticipated as students. Focus groups with nonnatural resources majors found that these students had strikingly similar career goals but felt majors in natural resources are too narrow, to scientific, and/or too unscientific to help them achieve those goals. Implications for the college as it undertakes reorganization is that curricula should continue to balance natural science and statistics course with classes that provide understanding of people. Improved advisement could help students gain more realistic expectations about their futures. In addition the college may want to consider efforts to better market itself within the university.
Anderson, Claudia L. and Brunson, Mark W.
"Looking before we leap: A three-part study to prepare for college reorganization,"
Natural Resources and Environmental Issues:
Vol. 9, Article 56.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nrei/vol9/iss1/56