USDA has given IowaStateUniversity a Higher Education Challenge Grant to create an interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate program in biobased products combining technology and entrepreneurship education.

Bob Jolly, Iowa State economics professor, was the lead author of the proposal which involved faculty from the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business and Engineering. He also directs the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The goal of the $139,000-grant is to prepare students entering the biobased product industry to discover new business opportunities and ultimately create businesses to meet future needs.

“Strengthening and expanding entrepreneurship education is the primary objective of the college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative,” Jolly notes. “...the certificate also is designed to recruit students to agriculture, business and engineering.”

A biobased fundamentals course will be offered on campus and on-line starting in the fall of 2008, with the certificate program finalized and available by fall 2010. An additional course on entrepreneurship will be developed for the program with a focus on discovering and responding to opportunities in the biobased product industry. 

The 20-credit undergraduate certificate will provide a way for students to receive formal recognition of focused study in a specialized area that is less comprehensive than an undergraduate major and more comprehensive than a minor. It will be awarded in addition to degrees after students complete a core set of courses and select approved electives. 

Tom Brumm, agricultural and biosystems engineering associate professor, says the new certificate will complement biorenewable programs currently underway at Iowa State, especially the Biorenewable Resources and Technology graduate degree program. 

“This undergraduate certificate will be a nice parallel to the BRT program,” Brumm says. “Prior to this, there was nothing formal at the undergraduate level for students interested in biofuels and biorenewables.”

IowaState also is planning a biorenewables option in a new biological systems engineering degree, distinct from the new certificate. Additionally, a program funded by a Cargill gift is providing undergraduate engineering student training and experience in biorenewables. 

Source: Iowa State University