Big Changes For Farm & Industry Short Course

Beginning in 2023, the Farm and Industry Short Course program at UW–Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) will switch from a for-credit, on-campus residential experience lasting 16 weeks, to a more flexible, non-credit format better able to meet the constantly changing needs of Wisconsin’s agribusiness community. The residential program will end this spring when the current class of Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC) students receive their certificates.

“The current two-term, residential student format no longer meets the needs of many farmers and other agribusiness owners who can’t spare workers for four months in a year and who no longer see winter as a ‘down-time’ for their businesses,” says CALS Dean Kate VandenBosch. “In the future, FISC participants will have the flexibility to take the courses they want, as they have time.”

Pam Jahnke spoke with FISC Director, Jennifer Blazek, about the changes – student reaction – and plans for the future.

Going forward, course offerings will include both in-person and virtual formats, as well as synchronous and asynchronous delivery of content. The timing of courses will also diversify – with some programs offered at night and on weekends – to better accommodate student schedules, especially those of working professionals and those who want to make a career change into agriculture. Some new programs will take place during the growing season, when in-the-field instruction would be beneficial.

Stephanie Hoff speaks with current FISC students Hannah Hensel of Pittsville and Leo Ehlen of Elkhorn after a student information session held Tuesday evening.

Some of these changes reflect the increased comfort of both learners and instructors with virtual formats and self-paced learning, due in large part to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education delivery. While embracing these new approaches, the core goal of the FISC program remains the same.

“We envision transforming courses currently offered by FISC into more flexible non-credit offerings, coordinating these with other existing CALS outreach offerings, and adding to the portfolio of educational experiences that bring the research conducted in CALS into practice and develop the agricultural work force,” says Doug Reinemann, CALS associate dean for extension and outreach, who will oversee the new program offerings. “We are soliciting input from stakeholders and CALS faculty and staff to identify training needs in agriculture, food systems, natural resource management, and other economic development topics.”

For more information and program updates, visit