Agriculture master’s grows to online

For the first time, an online Master of Science in agriculture program is being offered through the Hutson School of Agriculture.

Dwayne Driskill, assistant dean of the Hutson School of Agriculture and graduate coordinator, said he is excited for the new program.

“When you think of agriculture you think hands-on and when you think online it seems like it would never fit, but we think we can provide the knowledge that’s needed in an online format,” he said.

The online Master of Science in agriculture program has five different emphases to pick from:

  • Agricultural science
  • Agribusiness economics
  • Agricultural education
  • Sustainable agriculture

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Students can earn a master’s degree in two years by taking two courses each semester, but they can choose courses at their own pace.

Driskill said the online master’s program is geared toward students who would otherwise be unable to get their master’s degree because of family, distance or their job.

“We take pride in meeting the needs of our students to the best of our ability,” he said.

Driskill said he was inspired to initiate the online agriculture program after receiving requests from alumni and graduate students.

Bob Pervine, vice president of Academic Affairs, said the number of master’s programs  at Murray State will increase because they offer students greater flexibility.

“We are always wondering what new degree programs we should offer based on the needs of our students and the region,” he said.

Most students on campus considering a master’s degree want to take the traditional route, but this would be a good opportunity for commuting students, according to Driskill.

Tina Larkin, sophomore from Clarksville, Tenn., makes an hour and a half commute on a daily basis.

“It would help if I could take some classes online to save on gas money,” she said.

Larkin said she was leery about getting a master’s degree online because she didn’t think employers took them as seriously.

Twenty-one percent of employers thought it didn’t make a difference if you had an online degree or a traditional degree in a study released by Public Agenda in September 2013.

However, 56 percent preferred applicants with degrees achieved completely on campus.

Olivia Bert, senior from Oak Ridge, Mo., said in some cases you need immediate teacher assistance and she does not think online classes will be able to satisfy that need.

“(The program) could be a good idea, but the majority of agriculture is hands-on and nothing with a lab would work,” she said.

In addition to the new online Master’s of Science in agriculture program, Murray State is waiting for approval from the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education to announce a new online program.

There are more than eight online master’s degree programs already offered at Murray State, ranging from library media to public administration.

Pervine said there are also graduate nursing programs offered, such as the Master’s of Science in nursing and the doctorate of nursing practice program.

“We have a quality traditional master degree program and we want online to be just as high quality,” Driskill said.

Story by Mari-Alice Jasper, Staff writer