DEPARTMENT OF HORTICULTURE
GRADUATE ACADEMIC PROGRAM REVIEW TEAM REPORT
B. Starr McMullen, Professor, College of Liberal Arts/ College of Agricultural Sciences,
Oregon State University
Graduate Review Team Chair
Susan Galatowitsch, Professor, Department of Horticultural Science, University of
Rebecca Grumet, Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Horticulture,
Michigan State University;
Dan Rockey, Associate Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State
Bill Warnes, Associate Professor, College of Engineering. Oregon State University
The OSU Graduate Council began the decennial review of the graduate program in
Horticulture in conjunction with the undergraduate program review and the CREES
review on April 10-13, 2006. This consisted of a series of interviews and meetings
with faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Horticulture, the Department
Head, and meetings of the entire review team.
The combined undergraduate and graduate review team assembled by the OSU Office
of Academic Assessment (OAA) and the Curriculum Council (CC) consisted of five
members of the OSU faculty, and four external reviewers from peer-departments at
other universities. The OSU review team members were: Burke Hales (Associate
Professor, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences; CC member and
undergraduate review team chair); B. Starr McMullen (Professor, Department of
Economics, College of Liberal Arts; Graduate Council member and graduate review
team chair); Donna Champeau (Associate Professor, College of Health and Human
Sciences; undergraduate review team member); Dan Rockey (Associate Professor,
College of Veterinary Medicine); and Bill Warnes (Associate Professor, College of
Engineering; graduate review team member). External review team members were:
Susan Galatowitsch (Professor, Department of Horticultural Science, University of
Minnesota; member of graduate and CSREES review teams); Rebecca Grumet
(Professor and Associate Department Head, Department of Horticulture, Michigan
State University; member of graduate and CSREES review teams); Marvin Pritts
(Professor and Chair, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University; member of
undergraduate and CSREES review teams) and Curt Rom (Professor, Department of
Horticulture, University of Arkansas; member of undergraduate and CSREES review
teams). Also present were Susie Leslie (OAA) and Mina McDaniel (Director, OAA).
While the graduate review was initiated during the April on-site visit, graduate review
team members did not receive the self study materials prior to the visit and thus were
unable to complete an assessment of the graduate program at that time.
Subsequently, the Department was asked to complete the self study and submit it for
review by the Graduate review team by November 1, 2006. The self study report
was submitted to the committee in early December 2006.
The review committee members read the revised self study report and communicated
via email. A conference call was conducted on January 27, 2007 to provide a forum
for discussion of materials and information acquired after the on site visit.
Participants in the conference call included all members of the Graduate Review
Team, the Department Head, the Department’s Graduate Program Coordinator, and
the Dean of the Graduate School.
This report is based on the site visit, the conference call, and careful evaluation of the
materials presented in the self-study report.
The self study report asked the review panel to address a number of questions (listed
on p. 27 of the self study.) Some of these questions are beyond the scope of this
review (e.g., faculty positions); the panel will make observations regarding the depth
and breadth of the graduate programs in horticulture, recruiting students,
communication among the graduate faculty, and the discussions regarding the Plant
Breeding and Genetics program as these are directly relevant to the graduate program
The Graduate Council Review team is charged with addressing the “quality, vitality,
and direction of the program and the extent to which the program is achieving its
stated mission and goals.” It is also expected that this report will “analyze and
evaluate inputs, productivity, and outcomes by assessing specific indicators.”
II. PROGRAM INPUTS
A. Mission, Goals and Strategic Plan
The graduate program in Horticulture has three main areas of emphasis: Horticulture
Systems, Plant Breeding and Genetics, and Plant Biotechnology. These seem to fit
well within the departmental mission to “improve environmental, economic and
social sustainability of integrated farm and food systems, and ecological landscapes
by discovering new knowledge, delivering compelling education, and developing
useful methods, applications , and understanding. “(p.5) In addition, these appear to
be in alignment with areas indicated in the OSU strategic plan.
Over the period 1997-2006, 47 new students enrolled in graduate programs in
Horticulture at OSU; 37 were accepted but did not choose to come to OSU, and 140
were rejected. This is an admission rate of approximately 37.5%. Students who were
admitted but chose not to come to OSU had slightly higher GPAs and GRE scores
than those who decided to attend. It was not possible to tell whether there was a
difference between Masters and Ph.D. students as this information was not provided.
It is possible, for instance that the students who selected to come to OSU were more
Masters students rather than Ph.D. and that the difference in GPA and GREs could be
due to the Masters/ Ph.D. mix.
The Department seemed to think that the very top students may have chosen other
schools because graduate student stipends at OSU have been lower than those at peer
institutions. After the initial program review last April, the graduate faculty
apparently discussed this problem and in August 2006 they voted to increase graduate
student stipends by 4%. This resulted in making OSU GRA stipends higher than
those offered by Florida, Michigan State, North Carolina State and Texas A&M
(although still lower than Cornell). This should help the department attract and keep
the best students if the difference in stipends was the reason for students electing not
to attend OSU.
While it was clear that the Department did have various types of Graduate Research
Assistantships (GRAs) and Fellowships available as shown in the lists of student
provided, it was difficult to tell how many of the students enrolled were on stipends
and how many were self funded. Subsequent conversations with the department
Head and Graduate Program Coordinator indicated that almost all students received
some sort of GRA appointment.
For the five years for which demographic data were provided (2001-2005) students
were split almost equally by gender and also between domestic and international
students. Most years white students made up about half the student enrollment with
the other half being mostly Asian/Pacific Island and “unknown.” While there was
only one Hispanic student in one year (2001), there were one or two Black students
There are 41 members of the graduate faculty in Horticulture which seems to be a
sufficient quantity to deal with the approximately 26 students who are in the program
at any one time. At another point in the self study (p.9), it refers to there being only
29 members of the Horticulture faculty that are members of the graduate faculty and
only 24 members who have the approval to advise Ph.D. students. Even with
ambiguity regarding the exact number of graduate faculty members, and with no
information on the number of Masters versus Ph.D. students in the program, this
seems like a reasonable “critical mass” to get the job done.
The Department appears to be very concerned with a number of impending faculty
retirements, but it is not clear why since there do not seem to be predictions of any
drastic reduction in the number of faculty. It is important that replacements of
retiring faculty be in key academic areas to keep the Department scientifically vibrant
and move into future areas of growth and opportunity.
The eight new position description statements seem to indicate that the Department
has thought about this and will be able to hire to replace retirements. This is a great
opportunity for the Department to really shape the program in a way that will most
contribute to the twenty-first century. While faculty are obviously critical to a strong
graduate program, it is also important that the faculty strengthen structural aspects of
the graduate program such as development of recruiting strategies, curriculum reform,
and professional development.
Although we were not provided with detailed information on diversity, the
undergraduate review team determined that:
“Diversity of the DoH faculty is low. Of the 23 on-campus professorial faculty, five
are female and only three appear to have non-European ethnic backgrounds. No
traditionally-disadvantaged ethnicities were recognized in the on-campus Department
of Horticulture faculty. This does not appear to be unique within the College of
Agriculture, and may reflect little other than the demographics of the faculty-
D. Graduate Curriculum and Degree Requirements
The graduate program in Horticulture offers degrees in three areas: Horticultural
Systems, Plant Breeding and Genetics, and Plant Biotechnology.
The departmental decision to emphasize these three main areas appears to fit well
with department expertise and projected future directions. It may be worthwhile to
re-evaluate core curriculum within this context and determine if there are key courses
that would be of value to all Horticulture graduate students.
Degrees offered are Ph.D., Master of Science, and Master of Agriculture. The self-
study is not clear on the difference between the MS and MAg and does not provide
any data (e.g., support, placement) on the MAg students.
Committee discussions with the Department Head and Graduate Program Coordinator
indicated that the MAg degree is thought of as a more applied and terminal degree
that requires a project rather than a thesis. It was suggested that the MAg degree
would be more likely to accommodate non-traditional students; however they could
only remember one student (out of about 100) actually using this degree option. The
future use of this degree may be something the Department may wish to revisit after
the scheduled review of the overall MAg degree (the Dean of the graduate School
indicated that the MAg degree is scheduled for review in the near future.).
All students in Horticulture are only required to take three courses: HORT 507 (one
credit), 511 (two credits), and 512 (one credit). However, each track of the
curriculum has a reasonably well-developed structure (i.e., “pick-lists”) which
provides students and their committees guidance. The common core doesn’t seem
particularly strong or innovative; the faculty may want to consider whether there
should be increased emphasis on skills such as competitive grant writing and
It was noted that the PhD program only differs from the MS by adding a few courses
from some of the track “pick lists”. Increasingly, many PhD programs nationwide
include curriculum components for collegiate teaching and competitive grant-writing.
Until this past year, many of the courses used in the curriculum have been 4/500
courses that may not have been providing student with the technical research skills
they will need. This self-study indicates the faculty is currently working to separate
undergraduate and graduate offerings.
Certainly low enrollment in graduate courses can be a disincentive to offering them
regularly. It is not clear, though, if there are other barriers to developing a more
complete graduate curriculum. Many of the suggested courses are from other
departments, with a large dependence on courses from Botany and Plant Pathology.
This is particularly problematical since many of the courses listed from Botany and
Plant Pathology have either been dropped or are being offered on a 2 year cycle.
The Department Head indicated that there are continuing discussions on the OSU
campus regarding the formation of an interdisciplinary Plant Science “umbrella”
program. Faculty from across campus have been having meetings to begin
conversations on how such a program might be structured, with emphasis on the
graduate programs. Horticulture faculty are involved in these discussions.
We quote the undergraduate review team report:
“The governance structure of the Department of Horticulture fairly flat, with a
Department Head to whom several groups report directly. These include the on-
campus faculty and clerical staff, Experimental station faculty, County extension
faculty, Research Farm personnel, and a network administrator.”
F. Facilities, Equipment, and Other Infrastructure
Faculty and students seem to be satisfied with the facilities, equipment, and other
infrastructure that supports the graduate programs in Horticulture. Indeed, the quality
of the labs, office facilities, and the ready accessibility of greenhouses for research
were perceived as having a positive impact on student recruitment.
III. PROGRAM PRODUCTIVITY AND OUTCOMES
A. Curriculum and Mentoring
The graduate program in Horticulture offers degrees in three areas: Horticultural
Systems, Plant Breeding and Genetics, and Plant Biotechnology.
All students in Horticulture are only required to take three courses: HORT 507, 511,
and 512. While there is a list of suggested courses, the remainder of the courses in a
student’s program are determined by the student and the program committee. The
fact that there is little centralized advice/guidance in the department for graduate
students means that they rely almost exclusively on their major professor.
While students seem overall happy with the mentoring by their major professor, there
seems to be a gap in mentoring regarding career choices and the transition from being
a student to the work force. There was also some sentiment expressed regarding the
fact that the quality of advice and mentoring was very much tied to the choice of
major professor---and some were better than others.
Of the 42 faculty listed in Table 14, 12 did not serve as a major or co-major professor.
Six of the faculty (Azarenko, Fuchigami, Mehlenbacher, David Mok, Strik, and Reed)
all were major professor for 8 or more students. Thus, there appears to be a
somewhat uneven distribution of students across the faculty. Discussions with faculty
indicated that this is largely due to funding opportunities.
B. Student Success and Perspective
Again, the Review Team did not have specific information on student completion
rates, retention rates, or dropout rates for the department’s graduate programs. This
information should be readily available to assist in program reviews for both the
Ph.D. and Masters student populations. Further, time-to-degree estimates provided in
the self-study seemed to be based on general perception, rather than a true
calculation. The Department needs to formalize a procedure to generate and record
these program statistics on a regular basis to serve as one benchmark of program
Students who complete degrees seem to be successful in obtaining employment in
their field within six months of graduation. About a third reported employment in a
faculty position and about half of those had a tenure track job.
Both the current student survey and the graduate school survey seemed to reiterate the
problems associated with the curriculum. There was some dissatisfaction with the
selection of courses offered (none strongly agreed with the statement that there was
an adequate selection of courses offered in a timely manner). There was also
concern that the graduate courses offered in the department were not of sufficient
rigor or taught at the graduate level. Interestingly, the survey results show more
satisfaction with the availability of courses taught by other departments.
Current students responding to the survey seemed very satisfied with interactions
with their major professor (9 of 11 responses strongly agreed that they had adequate
access and 8 of 11 were very satisfied) despite the curricular concerns mentioned
Students completing the program seem to publish papers frequently and obtain jobs in
C. Student and Faculty Scholarly Productivity
Horticulture graduate students publish articles with faculty in high quality peer
reviewed or refereed journals with 46 articles listed as being published since 2000. In
addition, students have published 20 extension and other publications with
Horticulture faculty in that period.
There have been 78 graduate student/faculty presentations and posters presented at
meetings since 2000.
Thus, students seem to be actively and successfully involved with faculty in
producing scholarly output.
Students seem to get campus wide scholarships but do not seem to have received any
national recognition or awards.
Twelve of the faculty members have received various types of external awards and
recognition ranging from being an invited or keynote speaker, receiving an NSF
CAREER Award (Nongaki), to winning a paper of the year award. However, this
level of recognition does not seem to be adequate given the size of the Department.
It would be informative to know how many of the faculty serve on editorial boards
journals, NSF panels, etc. Such information would help better evaluate the
productivity of the faculty and how the faculty is regarded outside the university.
Faculty seem to be bringing in grant money to support students but without more
information, it is difficult to access this source of productivity.
D. Student Financial Support, Graduation, Retention Rates, Employability
The standard GRA appointment is .49 FTE with a recently approved raise in
assistantships to $18,516 for MS students. Most of these GRA appointments come
directly from project leaders who manage their own budgets. There was no indication
of how many of the students receive these GRA appointments. Thus, we cannot
assess whether funding is adequate.
The Department also has a variety of supplemental scholarships such as the ARCO-
Swallow Fellowships that provide a $3000 supplement to a GRA appointment. These
are usually used to recruit students.
No data were provided on retention or graduation rates, rather a list of completions
was provided. Once again, it would also make a difference as far as the assessment of
the program is concerned to know whether people leaving did so to pursue studies
elsewhere (indicating that the program here may not be perceived as rigorous enough)
or whether they flunk out (indicating that the program may be very rigorous).
Although employers were not surveyed, the graduate student survey indicated that
most students find jobs in their field within six months. However, student comments
indicated that often they felt they were not well prepared for the transition from
academics to a “real world” job.
VI. SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Following the Graduate Review Team request to resubmit the self study, the
Department of Horticulture faculty made a concerted effort to engage in discussions
regarding where they want to go and how to get there in a broad sense of general
areas of concentration. Further, the Department seems to be actively engaging in
discussion of possible future integration with other departments and interdepartmental
It appears that the Department is somewhat in flux with several retirements imminent
and also several replacement hiring opportunities. This is the time for the department
to sit down and really decide where it wants to go over the next twenty years.
While it is commendable that the department did meet to discuss the graduate
program in August 2006 (after the initial April 2006 review), there are still many
unanswered questions. Probably the most important thing for the department to do is
to continue to meet on a regular basis and develop a long term plan for the graduate
program that is possible given the resources available.
1. Establish a schedule of regular meetings of the graduate faculty to make decisions
especially over the next couple of years as the faculty is in transition. Graduate
faculty meetings are particularly important to spur recruiting (e.g., “Welcome
Weekends”) and to consider curriculum revisions.
2. Establish departmental procedures for regularly updating records and maintaining
a centralized location for graduate program information on completion rates,
retention, funding, demographics, etc. This could be a charge of the departmental
3. Continue to engage in conversations both within the department and between
departments regarding interdepartmental programs, especially the “umbrella” concept
in Plant Science to include Genetics, Botany, and Plant Pathology. It is important to
be innovative while insuring that the programs are sustainable and will serve the
needs of the Horticulture Graduate program.
4. Have a discussion regarding the CORE classes that are required of every student.
Think about professional and disciplinary courses that might add novelty and
professional academic development to the graduate programs. An excellent
curriculum could help recruit excellent students.
5. Consider options regarding academic professional development. As part of their
common core courses, the department provides graduate students opportunities to
develop skills for scientific presentations. Doctoral students can benefit from
structured opportunities to develop skills in collegiate teaching and competitive
grant-writing. Courses in both that are focused on plant science applications may
be worth exploring.
Addenda to Horticulture Review
In reviewing the Graduate Review Committee document for corrections of error, we were
advised the following:
“The term "Graduate Program Director" should be changed to "Graduate Program
Coordinator" throughout the document. The first title is for someone with administrative
responsibility for the program. The second title is for a faculty member who volunteers
to provide service to the department and its graduate program. “
The Review Committee has no problem with the exact title (Graduate Director or
Coordinator) but was concerned that the responsibilities of the position were not clearly
defined or being fulfilled.
Thus, the committee would like to make an additional recommendation for this review:
6. The Department needs to clearly define the responsibilities of the Graduate Director
(or Coordinator). This could be done within the context of the faculty member’s job
description. The purpose is to assure that the Graduate Program Director/Coordinator
fulfills the academic/programmatic responsibilities of the job. If the program is large and
complex enough, it may be necessary for the Department to designate support staff to
assist in the recordkeeping aspects of the graduate program.