Graduate Students

Merger of 2 Food-Science Programs Crosses State Lines

August 21, 2008

Since 1948, students at Washington State University have enjoyed ice-cream and soda-fountain treats at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe, a campus establishment with a plentiful supply of fresh milk: It is located right at the university’s teaching and research creamery.

The Pullman, Wash., creamery has had traffic from the University of Idaho, too, just seven miles away in Moscow. And, since 1996, Idaho and Washington State students have been able to take food-sciences courses at each other’s campuses.

Now the exchange will formalize in an unusual way: The food-sciences programs at Moscow and Pullman are combining into a single Bi-State School of Food Science, with one director. While it is not particularly unusual for programs from different institutions to combine, this partnership is rare in that it involves programs at two major, land-grant institutions, says Barry G. Swanson, a professor who has been overseeing the switch for Washington State.

The merger does not stem from a shortage of students: Idaho’s 35 undergraduates and Washington State’s 40 are enough to run separate programs. Rather, says Mr. Swanson, “Doubling our faculty size will allow us to increase the expertise and specificity of our course offerings” in such specialties as food microbiology.

With increased collaboration, researchers in the merged school are likely to win more research-grant money and provide better support to the two states’ farmers through extension services, Mr. Swanson says. —Peter Monaghan