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   from the issue of August 25, 2005

Panel recommends keeping CASNR name

It appears no name change is in the offing for the UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

That's the recommendation of a faculty committee that completed a survey about the college's image. Steve Waller, dean of the college, said he will provide the survey information to faculty, students and stakeholders to review and assess before acting on the recommendation.

Consideration of a name change began last fall as college faculty and administrators discussed how to reverse several years of enrollment declines. Some speculated that the college's name didn't adequately capture the range of opportunities available to students, particularly as populations have shifted from rural to urban Nebraska.

A survey of Nebraska high school students, stakeholders and UNL faculty, students and alumni, conducted in the spring, sought some answers about the college's image, awareness of its programs and whether its name is a deterrent to recruitment.

It found that the college's name was not well understood by most high school students. In fact, few of them have any impression, either positive or negative, of the college, known as CASNR.

High school seniors have "little or no knowledge ... very little exposure to our programs and our majors," said Dann Husmann, an associate professor in the college who led the committee conducting the survey.

The subcommittee concluded that the survey provided insights on marketing strategies that should be pursued before a decision was made on changing the college's name, he said.

"Agriculture is a positive word for those considering CASNR and it largely had no influence on those not considering CASNR," the survey found. Apparently, the same can be said for those interested in natural resources.

"Therefore, it seems there are opportunities to enhance the image of agriculture and natural resources that could improve student interest in the college's academic programs. Continued focus on careers and majors was validated by the survey," Husmann said.

Waller agrees. Earlier this year, when he announced the college was exploring a name change, he noted that many people when they hear the word "agriculture" think only of farming and ranching and not the breadth of opportunities the college encompasses, ranging from food science and economics to value-added products and health and environmental issues. Equally misunderstood is the other half of the college's name - natural resources.

The university and the college have ongoing recruitment activities focused on metropolitan high school students and their parents. However, it appears additional emphasis needs to be given to increasing awareness that CASNR majors offer students the opportunity to explore the science of life, Waller said.

"Our recent CASNR graduates have such jobs as commodity trader, nutritionist, public relations specialist, quality assurance chemists, food technologist, zookeeper," he said. "We've also got horticulturists, landscape designers, medical school students, water scientists, environmental consultants and wildlife biologists."

Historically, CASNR has relied on its ties to agriculture education high school teachers in rural and small-town Nebraska to help it make connections with high schoolers. In the future, it must build better ties to science teachers, Husmann said.

"I look at it as an opportunity," he added.

Husmann and Waller said the college likely will conduct a similar image and awareness survey in three to five years, after focusing on better marketing its programs.



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