A beautifully sunny weekend in May was both setting and scenery for the UMass Amherst graduation ceremonies. The Stockbridge School of Agriculture bestowed bachelor degrees upon 64 newly minted Stockbridge scholars, as well as 26 associate degrees awarded by Chancellor Subbaswamy in a special ceremony steeped in the history of our School.
Compared to one year ago, these numbers represent a nearly 10% increase in the numbers of graduates from both the BS and AS programs at Stockbridge.
The Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Food & Farming, our largest major, as well as the nation's largest fully online bachelor degree in sustainable agriculture, was earned by 24 graduates.
19 students from Plant and Soil Sciences, 15 students from Horticultural Science, and 6 from Turfgrass Science & Management, now enter the job market with newly earned bachelor degrees, and excellent prospects for employment.
Internships, or "earn-and-learn" experiences, qualify students to work in their field well before their graduation date -- part of why Stockbridge graduates are highly sought by employers.
The Stockbridge Class of 2023 proudly includes Plant & Soil Sciences graduate Julia Mascitelli '23, recently recognized by the University with a 2023 Rising Researcher Award. Mascitelli's work looks at how plant resistance to fungal pathogens differs across varieties of wild grapes grown at the University's research vinyard and orchard. Mascitelli worked independently under the supervision of her faculty advisor Dr. Elsa Petit, also recognized by the University as a Public Engagement Faculty Fellow.
One-one-one advising from top researchers in the field is one of the benefits of attending Stockbridge, a small school within the setting of a larger University.
Reflecting on the Stockbridge-UMass experience, Mascitelli feels ready to meet the future:
"I feel more confident that I have something I can contribute, and a stronger sense of belonging in the STEM field. I've developed a lot of technical skills from tools, processes, equipment, and software that was new to me. My project reinforced what lab skills I had gained from my classes."
A special graduation ceremony also awarded associate degrees to 26 additional students who completed a two-year course of study designed to get them quickly skilled in an employable trade. More than 75% of these graduates completed a two-year degree program in either Arboriculture and Community Forest Management, or Landscape Contracting, majors that provide a nearly 100% employment rate.
Diplomas and medallions were also awarded to several students who completed an associate degree in Sustainable Horticulture, or Turfgrass Management.
"As a Stockie graduate, you now join the ranks of our highly successful alumni, found all around the world," said Stockbridge Director and Professor Baoshan Xing.
"And the world needs you," Xing continued. "The challenges posed by climate change will require everyone’s efforts, but you are in a special position to contribute your own knowledge, training, and skills to the survival of the planet, and all of its people."
"Your Stockbridge degree... sets you apart as an expert. With time and experience, your own work... will establish your roles, as stewards of the land around you," said Xing.
Stockbridge School of Agriculture was founded in the 1860's as a two-year program, and is the only part of UMass to still offer both two-year and four-year degrees.