Today I found myself thinking a lot about what i’d do differently if I’d gotten the chance to redo my entire master – a reflection I presume many of us go through when we approach the end of something – and here are my thoughts:
When I embarked on the agroecology program I was fresh off the boat, having studied horticulture for three years, still knowing relatively little about agriculture and sustainability in general. But I was adamant that food was a central topic not receiving enough attention today – a huge sector/area/industry in need of drastic change to be more sustainable. I guess my hopes with entering the agroecology program was to find solutions for these problems, along with a job that not only pays the bills (and loans) – but one that could also offer me an opportunity to make a difference. Many friends of mine took jobs in areas where they’d be guaranteed a job once they were done studying – areas within engineering and programming, for example. Nothing against them – they’ll do wonders for the world. But food was my niche, it’s what I’d become pashionate about – an area that really needs change but where sustainability jobs didn’t seem as easy to come by. Despite this, I deludedly I pushed myself with the notion that “if the world needs it, there will be jobs, and I will find something – soon enough.”
I still think that’s true. But I now recognize that I should’ve spent more time thinking about how and where. The answer to where is harder, as I discussed in a relatively recent post on where we can hope to find jobs when we’re done studying. But the how is something we can work with right now, before one jumps into the agroecology program, during its run, or even afterwards – and I think it revolves a lot around our practical skills.
Sadly, there’s not time to learn everything, and in the process of designing a whole new university program, some things are omitted. When this happens, it’s up to us to consider what might be missing in the program and to learn things that are not in the actual curriculum. If I’d do it all over again, I would have spent a lot more time studying agriculture and ecology in more detail and learning more about agriculture in practice. But I would’ve also taken the opportunity to learn some of the software offered for free to students at SLU or elsewhere sooner, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistics and modelling programs, AutoCAD, InDesign.. and even programming software – something I’ve had to do now instead.
These programs are useful for many reasons – giving aspiring agroecologists real tools to analyze, visualize, understand and help others understand fundamental problems in agriculture – and what can be done to solve them! But they can potentially also increase your hirability once you’re done. We live in the age of big data – and making use of all that data is a real problem, albeit a problem with huge potential to create solutions. Consider all agricultural research conducted all over the world in the past 100 years. How much of it has been systematically analyzed? What knowlege could we tie together? What could we know, if the boundaries between our currently very divided disciplines could be dispelled?
Thought provoking and insanely interesting. But we won’t get there without systems thinkers and agroecologists learning what methods exist to do this today – and what better time to learn it than during your agroecology master?
Have a great week!