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Campus Bulletin

July 13, 2006

Diploma in Ag Communications Launched

The University of Guelph today officially established North America’s first distance learning agricultural communications diploma program. The initial cohort of students will begin studies in September.

The program, sponsored by the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and delivered through the Office of Open Learning, combines technical skills and theory in journalism, communications and public relations with a focus on issues specific to the agri-food and environmental sectors. An international panel of instructors and coaches will lead students through a series of courses designed to enhance knowledge and applied skills in communications theory and practice.

“We are confident that this will become an internationally recognized program in agricultural communications,” says OAC dean Craig Pearson. Development of the 16-month program was overseen by an advisory committee chaired by Prof. Mary Buhr, OAC associate dean (academic), with representatives from media, the agri-food sector and the academic community.

Much of the program will be delivered on-line, and the distance learning components will be augmented by three on-campus sessions. It also includes a project-based internship, where students will apply their skills within the context of an agricultural workplace.

“The internship component will provide new opportunities for nourishing connections between students, professionals, employers and the university,” says Owen Roberts, U of G’s director of research communications, who will serve as the program’s academic co-ordinator. Roberts also created Guelph’s highly successful SPARK (Students Promoting Awareness of Research Knowledge) communications program.

Support for the program has been provided by a number of industry partners, including Ontario Pork, Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, GROWMARK Inc., and the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

“Our industry is growing increasingly complex, accelerating the need to develop effective communicators who can make complicated issues such as the various perspectives on biotechnology or nutrient management more understandable to the Canadian public,” says Art Stirling, government and industry affairs manager for Pioneer. For more information, visit the program website:

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