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Cal Poly English and Agriculture Professors Win USDA Grant

Yiwen Chiu, a professor in Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department, and Cal Poly English Professor Jason Peters have been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Chiu and Peters will receive approximately $140,000 over three years to pilot an undergraduate curriculum that combines environmental science and rhetoric. One goal of the new curriculum is to teach students how to best communicate about sustainable agriculture.

Jason Peters
Jason Peters,
English Department professor




“Creating sustainable agriculture requires scientific skills like quantitative analysis, sure, but it also requires students to learn to talk to a range of stakeholders in all sorts of situations to get people working together in innovative ways based on what the science is telling us,” said Peters. “And that’s where environmental rhetoric and communication comes in. With the program Yiwen and I are designing, students will learn how to get legislators, farmers, environmental scientists, citizens, and consumers all on the same page and collaborating to make the science of sustainability work.”

The curriculum will consist of required courses in environmental life-cycle analysis combined with courses in public rhetoric and environmental communication. The project is a partnership between professors and researchers in the two academic departments and the University Writing and Rhetoric Center at Cal Poly.

The grants are funded through NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge (HEC) Grants Program, which aims to help higher education institutions teach the next generation of food and agricultural science professionals. HEC also seeks to improve local economies by supporting the development of degree programs that respond to emerging employment opportunities.

Chiu and Peters will design and implement the pilot curriculum over the next three years. They plan to publish the results of the collaboration.

“We’ve learned so much from other scholars and teachers working across traditional disciplinary lines on these issues all around the world, and we hope to be able to contribute what we learn from doing this work at Cal Poly,” said Peters.

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