Beginning this fall, students enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s equine science and management undergraduate degree program will have the ability to better customize their college experience to match their interests and career aspirations.
Since its launch in 2007 and official implementation in 2009, the four-year, science-based degree program’s curriculum has featured two main tracks for students—science and management. Under the new curriculum structure, which was approved by the university in May, students will be able to choose among four emphasis areas to better tailor their education to their interests and career goals. Those emphasis areas are equine science, business, community leadership and development and forages/pasture management.
According to Bob Coleman, director of undergraduate studies in equine science and management, the change has been two years in the making.
“As we hit the five-year mark of the program, we re-examined the curriculum to see if it was best meeting our students’ needs,” he said. “Are they on track? Are we preparing them for life after college?”
The result was a shift in how students could map out their courses during their undergraduate years.
“Students are now able to design a curriculum that best fits their interests and will enhance their prospects within the horse industry’s diverse career opportunities,” Coleman said. “They will get to align their passions and interests with their education, which we expect will ultimately enhance their skill set and knowledge base.”
Incoming freshman and transfer students will automatically follow the new plan this fall. Current students will be given the option to switch to the new curriculum or stay on their current path after they weigh the benefits and their options.
The update results in students taking one less biology course, and choosing emphasis courses instead of completing 21 credit hours from a set list. They can also select multiple emphasis areas to highlight, which may be important to them as they pursue careers after graduation. To obtain recognition for completing an emphasis area, students must take nine credit hours in that area, in addition to 12 additional credits from other emphasis areas.
“There are a lot of details in any curriculum, but the essential element, to me, is its location at a state land-grant university in the Horse Capital of the World,” said Dr. Nancy Cox, dean of UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “Our industry partners have embraced this program and have contributed invaluably to our students’ real-world education.”
The equine science option will provide students with a strong background in basic sciences, preparing them for graduate school or careers that include laboratory research assistants, breeding technicians, pharmaceutical sales representatives or technical representatives for the feed industry.
The business option will help students learn skills related to marketing, operations and management of equine businesses, preparing them for careers as farm managers, as well as business managers for equine enterprises, breed associations and sales associates. This area also introduces them to the diversity of the equine industry through courses in equine law, sales, careers, event planning, marketing and human resources.
Community leadership and development is an area for students who are interested in leadership roles in business, breed associations or nonprofit equine organizations and Cooperative Extension. Courses in this emphasis area will enhance their communication skills and bolster their awareness about community dynamics, leadership development and agriculture communication.
Finally, in the forages/pasture management option, students will obtain knowledge in agronomic practices. This area will prepare students for careers related to general horse farm management or graduate school. These students will take courses in soil composition and fertility, forages, weed identification and control and pest management.
“The equine industry is more than just working on a breeding or training farm. Thus, we have designed a curriculum that will allow students to be employed in many of the diverse areas of the horse industry,” said Ed Squires, executive director of the UK Gluck Equine Research Foundation, past UK Ag Equine Programs director and former chair of the equine curriculum committee, which was instrumental in navigating the approval process for the new curriculum. “We have added numerous new equine courses that broaden students’ experiences. This new curriculum is sure to attract students that have a broad interest in the horse industry.”
UK currently has 265 students enrolled in this undergraduate degree program, and expects the number of new students this fall to be in line with previous years, meaning there could be upward of 350 students in the program after the fall semester’s numbers are tabulated. Currently, approximately 65% of the program’s students come from outside Kentucky. Almost 80% of the students are women. The program has had 121 graduates since 2009.