Agroecology

Overviewexpand_more

Agroecology is an innovative approach to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable. It considers agricultural systems as a whole to improve the health and well-being of people. Agroecologists study plants, animals, microbes, soils, and people. They examine the role of ecology, sociology, economics, and politics in agriculture, and work to support solutions to global challenges like climate change, food security, biodiversity, and social justice.

What will I study in agroecology?

  • First-Year Seminar: Make a strong start through a CALS First-Year seminar. These seminars allow students to explore different areas of study, learn how to access campus resources, and make friends and connections. 
  • Foundation Courses: Build a strong, basic understanding of the biological and social sciences. 
  • Core Courses: AGROECOL 103, the introductory core course in agroecology, introduces all students to the field and provides the opportunity to establish academic and social networks. Students continue to learn agroecological theory and apply it to the improvement of agricultural systems in AGROECOL 303
  •  Major Depth and Breadth Electives: Pursue personal and career interests in the field of agroecology through flexible course options. Study animals and plants, microscopic life, ecosystems, natural resources, agricultural practices, health and nutrition, and communities. 
  • Hands-On-Learning: Get involved in greenhouses, fieldwork, or research in labs with faculty and staff in CALS.

The knowledge and skills developed through the agroecology major prepare students for a wide variety of careers. Some of the areas students may work in include: conservation and environmental organizations, the agricultural industry, state and federal agencies, consulting, land/ farm management, or agricultural policy, research, and education. Students may also continue their education in graduate programs focused on agriculture, conservation, ecology, public policy, sociology, and the environment. 

While the major is housed in the Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences, faculty & staff from other departments in CALS are involved in the program. The major reflects the diversity of the field and the varied research and teaching interests of program instructors,

How to Get Inexpand_more

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Information box.

Requirementsexpand_more

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education

    • Breadth-Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
    • Breadth-Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
    • Breadth-Social Studies: 3 credits
    • Communication Part A & Part B*
    • Ethnic Studies*
    • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B*
    • * The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.

Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW-Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.

First Year Seminar: 1
International Studies: 3
Physical Science Fundamentals: 4-5
CHEM 103: General Chemistry I
or CHEM 108: Chemistry in Our World
or CHEM 109: Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science: 5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural): 3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social): 3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements of each CALS major (see “Major Requirements”)

Summary of Major Requirements

Foundation: 31-37 credits
Major Core: 6 credits
Major Breadth: 12 credits
Major Depth: 12 Credits
Capstone in Major: 2-3 credits
Total Credits: 64-70 credits

Agroecology Major Requirements

Mathematics
Complete one of the following (or may be satisfied by placement exam): 3-5 credits
MATH 112: Algebra & MATH 113: Trigonometry
MATH 114: Algebra and Trigonometry

Statistics
Complete one of the following: 3-4 credits
STAT 301: Introduction to Statistical Methods
STAT 371: Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
C&E SOC/SOC 360: Statistics for Sociologists I

Chemistry
Complete one of the following: 5-9 credits
CHEM 103 & CHEM 104: General Chemistry I and General Chemistry II
CHEM 109: Advanced General Chemistry

Biology
Complete one of the following: 10 credits
BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 151 & BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 152: Introductory Biology
BIOLOGY/ZOOLOGY 101: Animal Biology, BIOLOGY/ZOOLOGY 102: Animal Biology Laboratory, & BOTANY/BIOLOGY 130: General Botany

Social Science
Complete the following courses: 8 credits
C&E SOC/SOC 140: Introduction to Community & Environmental Sociology
AAE 101: Introduction to Agricultural & Applied Economics

Major Core
Complete the following courses: 6 credits
AGROECOL/AGRONOMY/C&E SOC/ENTOM/ENVIR ST 103: Agroecology: An Introduction to the Ecology of Food and Agriculture
AGROECOL 303: Agroecological Systems: Working Towards Sustainability

Major Breadth
Complete one course from each of the four thematic areas (organisms, land, ecosystems, people) for a total of at least 12 credits. Courses cannot double count within the major.

Major Depth
Complete 12 credits in one of the four thematic areas (organisms, land, ecosystems, people). See list below. Courses cannot double count within the major.

Capstone in Major
Complete the following: 3 credits
AGROECOL 503: Agroecology Capstone

Total Credits: 64-70 credits

Students considering post-graduate study should consult with their advisor and review the admissions requirements for graduate programs of interest. Post-graduate study may require preparatory coursework beyond the agroecology major requirements.

Total Degree
To receive a bachelor’s degree from UW-Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.

Residency
Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW-Madison. “In residence” means on the UW-Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW-Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW-Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.

Quality of Work
Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, for academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomesexpand_more

  1. Apply foundational knowledge about the form and function of living and non-living components of agroecosystems to describe their role within agricultural systems and predict their responses to management
  2. Identify stocks and flows of energy and matter within and between organizational levels of agroecosystems from the cellular to the global level and consider their impact on ecological resilience, social justice, equity, and health
  3. Analyze approaches to improving plant and animal traits including breeding and management and how they affect pests and diseases, soils, water, nutrients, and the atmosphere
  4. Compare and contrast agroecosystems in a variety of social, economic, political, geographic, and historical contexts
  5. Devise agroecological solutions using effective written and oral communication for multiple audiences

Four-Year Planexpand_more

This sample four-year plan is a tool to assist students and their advisors.  Students should use their DARS report, the degree planner, Guide requirements, and the course search & enroll tools to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests.

Note: Math course selection is based on placement scores. Agroecology majors must complete MATH 112 & MATH 113 or MATH 114.

Four-Year Plan – Agroecology – Biology Requirement First Yearexpand_more

First Year

Fall
CALS First-Year Seminar: 1 credit
MATH 112: 3 credits
COMM A: 3 credits
BOTANY/BIOLOGY 130: 5 credits
AGRONOMY/AGROECOL/C&E SOC/ENTOM/ENVIR ST 103: 3 credits
Total Credits: 15

Spring
ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 101 & ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 102: 5 credits
Ethnic Studies: 3 credits
MATH 113: 3 credits
C&E SOC/SOC 140: 4 credits
Total Credits: 15

Second Year

Fall
CHEM 103: 4 credits
AAE 101: 4 credits
AGROECOL 303: 3 credits
General Education: 3 credits
Total Credits: 14

Spring
CHEM 104: 5 credits
Communication B: 3 credits
CALS International Studies Requirement: 3 credits
General Education: 3 credits
Total Credits: 14

Third Year

Fall
Statistics Course: 3 credits
Major Breadth Courses: 6 credits
Electives1: 6 credits
Total Credits: 15

Spring
Major Breadth Courses: 6 credits
Major Depth Courses: 3 credits
Electives1: 6 credits
Total Credits: 15

Fourth Year

Fall
Electives1: 10 credits
Major Depth Courses: 6 credits
Total Credits: 16

Spring
AGROECOL 503: 3 credits
Electives1: 10 credits
Major Depth Course: 3 credits
Total Credits: 16

Total Credits: 120

1 Electives will include additional coursework for veterinary school preparation, certificate, or double major course work.

Four-Year Plan – Agroecology – Chemistry Requirement First Yearexpand_more

First Year

Fall
CALS First-Year Seminar: 1 credit
MATH 114: 3 credits
COMM A: 3 credits
CHEM 103: 4 credits
AGRONOMY/AGROECOL/C&E SOC/ENTOM/ENVIR ST 103: 3 credits
Total Credits: 16

Spring

Ethnic Studies: 3 credits
CHEM 104: 5 credits
C&E SOC/SOC 140: 4 credits
General Education: 3 credits
Total Credits: 15

Second Year

Fall
AAE 101: 4 credits
BOTANY/BIOLOGY 303: 5 credits
AGROECOL 303: 3 credits
General Education: 3 credits
Total Credits: 15

Spring
Communication B: 3 credits
ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 101 & ZOOLOGY/BIOLOGY 102: 5 credits
CALS International Studies Requirement: 3 credits
Elective1: 3 credits
Total Credits: 14

Third Year

Fall
Statistics Course: 3 credits
Major Breadth Courses: 6 credits
Electives1: 6 credits
Total Credits: 15

Spring
Major Breadth Courses: 6 credits
Major Depth Courses: 3 credits
Electives1: 6 credits
Total Credits: 15

Fourth Year

Fall
Electives1: 9 credits
Major Depth Courses: 6 credits
Total Credits: 15

Spring
AGROECOL 503: 3 credits
Electives1: 9 credits
Major Depth Course: 3 credits
Total Credits: 15

Total Credits: 120

1 Electives can include additional coursework for graduate or professional school preparation, certificate, or double major course work.

Advising and Careersexpand_more

Advising

Each student receives one-on-one guidance from their professional advisor. Academic advisors will help students build an individualized, four-year plan. Many Agroecology majors complete certificates or double majors.

Career Opportunities

The knowledge and skills developed through the agroecology major prepare students for a wide variety of careers. The program is designed to allow students to pursue their interests and career goals. Some of the areas students may work in include: conservation and environmental organizations, the agricultural industry, state and federal agencies, consulting, land/ farm management, or agricultural policy, research, and education. Students may also continue their education in graduate programs in areas focused on agriculture, conservation, ecology, and the environment. 

Career Advising

Students are encouraged to begin the career exploration process early in their UW-Madison journey by working with advisors, faculty, and CALS Career Services. These resources can help students reflect on their values, identify career goals, and outline strategies to achieve them. CALS Career Services advisors can help students one-on-one with their career goals, resume and cover letter help, interview prep, and more.

Peopleexpand_more

Professors and Instructors

  • Bill Tracy, Professor, Department of Plant and Agroecosystems (Program Chair)
  • Mike Bell, Professor, Department of Community and Environmental Sociology
  • Randy Jackson, Professor, Department of Plant and Agroecosystems
  • Tom Bryan, Teaching Faculty, Department of Plant and Agroecosystems
  • Xia Zhu-Barker, Assistant Professor, Department of Soil and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

  • Kathryn Jones, Academic Advising Manager, Department of Plant and Agroecosystems

Wisconsin Experienceexpand_more

Internships

Agroecology students have many opportunities for hands-on experience through internships. On campus, students can get experience by working at one of the green spaces on campus. Some examples are Allen Centennial Garden, D.C. Smith Greenhouse, the UW Student Organic Farm, and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve. Students can also intern off-campus. Some examples are working at an agricultural business, a farm, a non-governmental organization, or one of the Agricultural Research Stations, etc. Students can connect with their advisor or CALS Career Services to learn more about internships.

Research Experience

Students are encouraged to get involved with agroecology research on campus. Students primarily find research opportunities by directly contacting faculty or searching on the Student Job Center.

Student Organizations

Connect with other agroecology students and those interested in food and agriculture by joining a student organization. Organizations of particular interest to agroecology students include People’s Farm: Students for Sustainable Agriculture, Slow Food UW, WUD Cuisine Committee, Food Recovery Network – Madison Chapter, UW Campus Food Shed, and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS).  A full list of organizations is available on the Wisconsin Involvement Network website.

Global Engagement

Agroecology students can study or intern abroad through one of UW-Madison’s 260+ programs. Visit our Major Advising Page to learn more about studying abroad as an Agroecology major. 

Resources and Scholarshipsexpand_more

Agroecology students have access to hands-on experiences on and off campus at UW-Madison facilities such as:

  • Agricultural Research Stations – there are over 10 research stations across the state of Wisconsin that are used by faculty, staff, and students to conduct research
  • Allen Centennial Garden – a free, public garden that is located right down the street from the Department of Plant and Agroecosystems. The garden hosts events, classes, festivals, workshops, and more.
  • CALS Greenhouses – located right on campus, a variety of Wisconsin agricultural crops are studied here.
  • D.C. Smith Greenhouse – an instructional greenhouse that grows plants for departments and programs of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Many classes are also taught in the greenhouse.
  • Lakeshore Nature Preserve – a 300-acre natural area right next to Lake Mendota. The preserve is used for teaching & research, and is also a great place for students to explore nature on campus.
  • UW Arboretum – located off campus on Seminole Hwy, the UW Arboretum’s mission is to “Conserve and restore Arboretum lands, advance restoration ecology, and foster the land ethic.”

Scholarships

College of Agricultural and Life students receive more than $1.25 million annually in scholarship awards. Agroecology majors can apply for these scholarships through a single application in the Wisconsin Scholarship Hub (WiSH). To learn more about college scholarships please visit the CALS scholarship website.

Contact Information

Kathryn Jones, Undergraduate Advisor

kjones26@wisc.edu
(608) 807-7391
386 Horticulture
1575 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706

Department of Plant and Agroecosystems

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
608-263-3308
https://pasdept.wisc.edu/

CALS Office of Academic Affairs

academicaffairs@cals.wisc.edu
608-262-3003
116 Agricultural Hall
1450 Linden Drive
Madison, WI 53706