SAFNR enrollment grows as program enters third year
Now in its third year since being implemented as a degree program, the Master of Science in Sustainable Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (SAFNR) program is producing graduates and gaining interest among the student population.
Professor of Horticulture Mari Marutani, who runs the program as vice chair along with Professor of Agricultural Economics Bob Barber as program chair, said there are 14 students enrolled, and the interest level is increasing.
Graduating last May was the program’s first graduate, Mario Martinez. This December, four more students are expected to earn degrees from the program and enter the workforce.
“Many students are already working as part-time and full-time employees of local businesses and under UOG grants that work closely with local companies, including environmental consulting companies and landscaping companies,” Marutani said. “They are also doing food and nutrition assessments of the community through grants. I expect that graduates will continue to participate and contribute to the local community in various ways.”
The program was launched in 2017 after a student survey showed an interest for more food, nutrition, and applied science programs. The graduate program was able to proceed with the Distance Education Grant and Agriculture and Food Science Facilities and Equipment Program grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
"This is the only graduate program like this in our region, so it is significant," Marutani said.
SAFNR students study local, regional, and international issues in their respective tracks of either food and nutrition or agriculture and natural resources. Their thesis projects involve research on tropical agriculture in general — such as the effect of biochar on carbon sequestration and crop growth — and also on issues specific to Guam, such as the reproduction process of native forest trees and the nutrient density of fruits and vegetables grown in Guam.
“I had a good experience in this program because many of the courses were relevant to my work and future career,” said Martinez, who, with his bachelor’s in tropical agriculture from the University of Guam, previously worked for Grow Guam and then worked with the university’s Guam Plant Extinction Prevention Program while obtaining his master’s. “This program is the most relevant to my field of work as it combines aspects of biology and environmental science and keeps the main focus on agriculture and plant-related science.”
Martinez would eventually like to pursue a doctorate in conservation ecology.
Marutani projects interest and enrollment in the SAFNR program will continue to grow as the faculty work to develop the program.