International Agriculture Minor Expands Students’ Cultural Awareness

Declaring an international minor has many benefits beyond just adding another line to your resume. Dr. Jay Bell, the coordinator for the international agriculture minor described two key advantages that come from pursuing this minor. It will help students in a professional sense because agriculture is becoming increasingly global and having international experiences in college will set students apart in the workplace. However, Dr. Bell said that the benefits of experiences gleaned from an international minor are much greater than this. “The most important aspect is learning how to work within a culture that’s different than your own and learning how to deal with difference,” Dr. Bell explained.  

The international agriculture minor currently has approximately a dozen enrolled students. Their majors range from a mix of many different College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) majors including animal science, plant science, and agricultural education. The international minor program is a good example of experiential learning, which means that it involves preparation beforehand, the experience itself, and reflection after the experience is over.

A globe set in the forefront of the image on a desk in an academic settingRequirements of this minor are based on a series of experiences rather than simply a set of classes. The international agriculture minor can be broken down into several distinct pieces that begin with taking a course that provides a general overview of international agriculture. There are several courses you could choose from to fulfill this requirement, such as World Food Problems: Agronomics, Economics and Hunger. The second piece involves some type of cultural study. Oftentimes, this might help students to prepare for their experience abroad. For example, if a student plans to study abroad next semester, they might take a language course this semester to prepare for that experience.

The next component of the program is an actual study abroad experience, which could range from a three-week trip to an entire year abroad, depending on the flexibility of the program. No matter the length of the study abroad, it will be a valuable experience for students, according to Dr. Bell. Additional coursework that relates to international studies makes up the fourth component of this minor, and students can choose from a long list of electives. The final piece of the minor is an independent study, which can be the reflection of an international experience or further exploration of either a certain aspect of international agriculture or an international experience.

For students interested in an international minor, Dr. Bell recommends they set up a time to meet with him. If students are unclear or undecided, Dr. Bell encourages them to discuss the minor and learn more about what value the experience will provide based on their specific future plans. Dr. Bell saw the benefits of an international experience first hand when he spent a sabbatical in Australia. Since then, he has visited and worked in several different countries.“Giving yourself an international experience is incredibly important. Being able to add an international dimension to the work you do makes it so much richer,” Dr. Bell said. Visit https://www.cfans.umn.edu/academics/majors-minors/international-ag-minor to learn more!