Fall 2023

In Vivo

Dean Glenda Gillapsy standing in front of brick buildings on Henry Mall.
Photo by Michael P. King


We have some changes in the works here at CALS. For example, in recent months, we’ve made two significant academic and administrative moves to enhance how we serve students, conduct research, and deliver outreach and extension programs. And it’s all with an eye toward helping solve society’s grand challenges — either directly through the college’s work or by sending well-prepared students out into the world to do great things.

On the student preparation front, this fall, CALS added a new major to the UW undergraduate course guide. The animal and veterinary biosciences major is for students who care about the health and well-being of animals — from the smallest companion kittens to the largest livestock — as well as the relationships these animals have with humans and the environment. It will replace our animal science major, which will be phased out after all current students have graduated.

This new major offers much more flexibility for students. It has a wide array of courses, so students can tailor their studies to prepare for veterinary medical school or other animal-related careers — all of which have higher-than-average projected job growth. The new major’s flexibility also makes it easier for students to add a certificate or a study abroad semester to their academic plan. And it can help them graduate in less time.

Many pathways are available in the major, such as animal welfare, genetics, nutrition, or meat and animal biologics. And one of the best parts: Students don’t need to walk these paths alone. New this year, all sophomores in the department will be paired with faculty mentors to help them find the academic and career directions that are right for them. The major is already proving popular. As of August 2023, 82 students had enrolled, a 55% increase over the prior year for the animal science major.

That’s one new and improved effort on the academic side, but we’re also streamlining our departmental structures. This summer, following an extensive planning process, our former agronomy and horticulture departments merged to create a new Department of Plant and Agroecosystem Sciences. While several of our peer land-grant universities have combined their plant science departments, our merger is unique because it incorporates agroecosystem science, the study of ecosystems supporting food production at all scales — one of our core strengths at CALS. I am excited about the new department’s plans to offer cutting-edge programs of study that engage students in this critical area.

These changes will help us expand and improve the ways we confront the grand challenges I mentioned above. The undertaking will include research, education, and extension and outreach programs that range from investigating the inner workings of plants to assessing their relationships with landscapes and climate.

This is just the beginning of our efforts to reimagine and restructure how we can achieve our mission to advance and share knowledge; discover solutions; and promote opportunities in food, agriculture, bioenergy, health, the environment, and human well-being. Look for more to come.

I enjoyed hearing from those of you who reached out after my last column, and I encourage readers to share thoughts with me at

This article was posted in Changing Climate, Fall 2023, Food Systems, Healthy Ecosystems, In Vivo and tagged , , , .