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It’s Official!

Posted by kevinwolz on May 3, 2010

My proposal for a Custom Degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering has officially been approved! This plan has been rolling around in my mind for the better part of a year now, and I have been battling through the details for at least six months. Deciding exactly what you want to do for the next three years is a very tough (probably impossible) task. The idea behind a Custom Degree Program is to make a fairly large and directed (i.e you must have a solid reason and goal) alteration to a traditional engineering degree. Minor class substitutions are done all the time, but this is only the second Custom Degree ever approved as far as anyone can tell. I’m still part of the CEE department and will obtain the same accredited degree, but I have adjusted some of the specific coursework to better fit my interests and goals. I submitted by final proposal for approval about a month ago, and now it’s all legit. So check out my CEE Custom Degree Proposal for everything from my overarching theme/goal to the exact classes I will be taking for the next three years.

This is definitely a huge milestone and a big weight off my shoulders. However, this isn’t the end of my academic planning escapades. In fact, this was the easy part. Now comes the long wait for approval of my second degree in Integrative Biology. I turned in this paperwork over a month ago and hope to receive a positive response sometime over the summer. Once I receive an okay from that end, everything will then be more or less set in stone for the next three years, which is a very satisfying yet scary thought.

For my fellow engineers: The Custom Degree Program has been allowed by the College of Engineering for many years, but no one ever takes advantage of it. With the help of iFoundry and open-minded administration, the path as now been cleared, and many more students will hopefully take advantage of this option in the future. Don’t be afraid to do this yourself! You need not be constrained by our out-dated, closed-minded engineering curriculum! Throw off the chains! Take your education into your own hands! Follow your dream! Speak with your dean today.


3 Responses to “It’s Official!”

  1. Dave Hanley said


    It’s interesting to see how you shaped you’re custom degree. It definitely provides an insight into how you see the sustainable agriculture field. One question: why consulting as a post-undergraduate plan? I don’t quite understand that. Who would you consult? Individual farmers? Big companies like ConAgra? It seems like you’re focusing on the “technology” behind sustainable agriculture in your curriculum, but I would have thought in consulting there would be more a business focus. Just curious as I think the answer would allow me to better see how you see the issue at hand. Glad your hard work paid off.

  2. kwolz said

    To be quite honest, “consulting” was just an easy, colloquial term that I could throw on the proposal to keep it simple. In reality, I have no idea exactly what my role will be in creating the change I seek. This is why I’m trying to keep my education as broad and inclusive as possible. If I can get all of the biological and technical theory under my belt, then I should be able to tackle the issue from a variety of angles. Hopefully the optimal approach will reveal itself at some point down the road. One goal for this summer to to just dive in and see what comes out of that. On one hand, there definitely does need to be more technical research conducted related to the fine details of making these systems work. However, on the other hand, as we discussed before, the largest obstacle is undoubtedly spreading the word and knowledge to the farmers that will actually be doing this. With that in mind, I guess that’s where more of the consulting thing comes into play. As far as the level where this would occur, I think both are completely necessary…This has so far been a grassroots, localized movement, and individual farmers need to be convinced before anyone else. Nevertheless, massive change will be very hard without the support of the big companies as well. This companies are currently the perpetuators of our current agricultural system, and they will have to be convinced of the alternative.

    The other option, always at the back of my mind, is the political end. Politics sucks. Agricultural laws suck. As much as I would hate having to deal with politics for a living, the news is a constant reminder of how much needs to happen in this arena as well. Which comes first: the laws or the change? Can we create enough momentum to bring government with us and force change on the stragglers, or do we need to use government to force this change in the first place?

    The one thing I know for sure is that I must lead my example. I can’t preach these theories if I’m not following them myself. I need my own land where I can try and experiment with these systems myself. So the only certainty is that I’ll be growing a lot of food in the future.

    • Dave Hanley said

      Haha. I thought you were just throwing it out there to cover your bases. But in the case that you weren’t then I wanted to know. I must disagree on your opinion of politics. I find it fascinating. As far as law vs. change, I think you’ll probably find you have to do both simultaneously. I think it’ll be a feedback loop (lobby government for small law enables small change which enables bigger law which enables bigger change, etc.). It’s an interesting point you make though that you’ll have to address all facets of agriculture (individual farmers and big companies). Though it’s potentially problematic, because the motives of the two are going to be different (big companies will probably focus on product differentiation and individual farmers will focus on cost cutting). So it’ll be a tough sell. Education is difficult too because you have to balance profit and information access. Man reform is hard. Leading by example though is probably a good place to start. Good luck this summer.

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