University of Wisconsin–Madison

Core Curriculum

Our core curriculum consists of two three-credit courses, a one-credit seminar that all students take three times, and an intensive one-credit weeklong field study course that precedes the fall semester. We describe those courses below.   All Agroecology students must also satisfy independent study and breadth coursework requirements, as detailed in the Program Tracks page.

Agroecology 724: Agroecosystems and Global Change (fall)

In this course, Dr. Chris Kucharik uses a “systems” perspective in teaching, emphasizing how individual systems interact with one other, often leading to unpredictable and unintended consequences.  He uses real-life examples to allow students to actively engage in discussion with each other about examining problems, or to simply decide what is the question that needs to be answered. He highlights “case-studies” of particular geographic regions that are experiencing some type of problem related to human pressure on natural resources. Students in this course are exposed to rigorous quantitative analysis but will learn to appreciate how qualitative assessments can be the building blocks to charting a course towards solving a problem.

Example Syllabus

Agroecology 702: The Multifunctionality of Agriculture (spring)

Agroecological systems provide a variety of social, economic, and ecological functions to society, which can conflict or complement each other in varying degrees and ways. This course takes the perspective of the world looking in on the farm as students explore methods of evaluating these diverse functions and perspectives, with a special focus on participatory methods.  Students play an active role in selecting topics, readings, and inviting guest speakers.

Visit the 702 web site

Agroecology 710: Seminar in Agroecology (fall and spring)

Offered both fall and spring semester, this course brings a small group of students together around a specific topic that changes each offering.  Past examples include eutrophication, current policy issues, biodiversity, organic production, and public-private partnerships.  All students must take three semesters of the 710 seminar.

Agroecology 720: Agroecology Field Study (before fall semester, typically* in the first year)

This course provides a graduate-level, field-based introduction to the agroecology of farming systems in Wisconsin, including both diversified and industrialized approaches. The bulk of the class time is a week-long sequence of field trips to farms, mostly as day trips out of Madison but also including one overnight stay.

Example syllabus

* Note: this class takes place the last week of August but students enroll as part of the fall semester.  We strongly recommend that students take 720 before their first semester, as it is a crucial opportunity to form bonds with the incoming cohort and to build an understanding of the diverse spectrum of farms and food systems in Wisconsin.