Science and agricultural journalism alumni hope program will be saved

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COLUMBIA - After learning Monday their program would be phased out, alumni of the MU Science and Agricultural Journalism Program are working to save it.

Marc Linit, the interim dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, sent an email to alumni Monday saying the program would be phased out due to budget challenges.

In the time since the announcement, nearly 100 alumni have signed a draft letter to UM System President Mun Choi, asking him to consider saving the program. By Monday, the alumni will send the letter to Choi and members of the UM Board of Curators. 

"We have unified as a team in just seven days to compile our concerns in seeing this program on the chopping block and we are fully advocating for its return to CAFNR," the draft letter posted to an alumni Facebook page said.

Marilyn Cummins, who signed the draft letter, graduated from the science and agriculture program in 1980 and coordinated the program for four years in the early 2000s. She now works in the field as an editor at a custom publishing company.

For those who want to be communicating about this industry of agriculture, "this is the ideal way of studying it," Cummins said.

She said the partnership between the MU School of Journalism and CAFNR prepares students for their careers.

Mark Tucker, who also signed the letter, graduated from the program in 1985 and is now a professor of agricultural communication at Purdue University. He said he understands the budget challenges the administration faces, but found a sense of loss after the announcement. 

"I found myself grieving over it just because of the importance of agricultural journalism to the industry," Tucker said. 

Tucker said he hopes the administrators have all of the facts and understand the "unique niche this program fills."

Breanne Brammer, who graduated in 2014, said she was one of the first people to sign the letter. Her first reaction was sadness.

"This degree has impacted my life in such a positive way," Brammer said. However, she said she was not surprised by the decision because of budget cuts. 

Brammer said the alumni community is strong and she hopes administrators will find a way to save it. 

"We understand we're in a time of budget crisis. We understand that, and we do understand that we are a smaller program. The numbers don't lie. However, we have quality within our program," Brammer said. 

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a misspelling.)