Created in 2007, the agroecology M.S. program at UW–Madison trains students to research and analyze agricultural systems within a broader environmental and socioeconomic context. Key to this endeavor is interdisciplinary expertise, which the agroecology program achieves through working with affiliated faculty members from nearly 20 departments across campus.

A typical cohort consists of 8–12 incoming students with diverse backgrounds and undergraduate majors. Agroecology M.S. students work with faculty on focused projects across a wide range of the traditional departments of the academy. Our core curriculum brings together these students for a multidisciplinary, agroecological, analysis of agricultural systems in a broadened context.

The agroecology program is supported by the interdisciplinary agroecology cluster, which hired three faculty members in 2002: Michael Bell in community and environmental sociology, Claudio Gratton in entomology, and Randall Jackson in agronomy. These faculty, all still active in the program, were the catalyst for what is now a group of more than 50 faculty affiliates who advise agroecology students and participate in program governance.

The cluster concept is an innovation of the University of Wisconsin in which a core group of faculty is hired into an interdisciplinary area, but have tenure homes in traditional departments.

Program Tracks

  • The professional practice track trains facilitators to enable broader discussion and negotiation at the interfaces of agriculture and other sectors of society. The goal of this "action-in-society" track is to train analysts to increase understanding about the roles of agricultural systems in multi-functional landscapes, and the public policy that shapes these roles.
  • The research track addresses the need for continued research and scholarship in order that discussions and negotiations are well informed. Students will have the opportunity to obtain experience in the scholarship of original research, culminating in the writing of a thesis.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master's Degrees

M.S., with available tracks in research, and public practice

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

34 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

23 out of 34 total credits must be completed in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide. Please refer to Agroecology Learning Plans.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, up to 7 credits from UW–Madison numbered 300 or above are allowed to count toward the degree. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirement: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval students are allowed to count no more than 9 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master's degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Agroecology Field Study (Agroecol 720); The Farm as a Socio-environmental Endeavor (Agroecol 701); The Multifunctionality of Agriculture (Agroecol 702); and three semesters of Seminar in Agroecology (Agroecol 710)

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

Students must earn a B or above in all core curriculum coursework.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

Advisor / Committee

All students are required to submit a learning plan, signed by their advisor, by the end of their second semester. Note: there are separate learning plans for public practice and research tracks.

Assessments and Examinations

The research track requires a formal thesis and public defense; the public practice track requires a comprehensive report and public presentation.

Time Constraints

Master's degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Admissions and Frequently Asked Questions

The agroecology program accepts students from a wide range of undergraduate majors, not limited to the social and natural sciences. Because the admissions process is highly competitive, applicants should have a record of strong grades and GRE scores, agroecology-relevant interests and experience, and a commitment to learning in a multidisciplinary program. The deadline for fall semester applications is January 15. Inquiries at other times may be considered.

The initial application process is outlined below. Prospective students should keep in mind, however, that this document-based application is only the first step in the admissions process. Students who are deemed admissible on the merits of these documents must then identify an academic advisor and a plan for funding to be fully admitted. The agroecology program will assist students in this endeavor. More information on the process of seeking out funding and an advisor is available in the program's Student Handbook. Students who are interested in applying should contact the program administrator.

Submit the following to the UW–Madison Graduate School:

  • Online application and application fee.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. International applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the TOEFL or IELTS. All test scores must be submitted electronically by the Educational Testing Service to UW–Madison (ETS code 1846). Copies or faxes cannot be accepted.
  • Three letters of recommendation. When completing the online application, submit the names and email addresses of three people who will provide letters of recommendation. They will receive instructions on how to upload their letters.

Submit the following to the agroecology program administrator:

  • Electronically, a one-page Statement of Purpose. In the statement, students should describe their interests and goals and which UW–Madison faculty members they would like to work with. In addition, students should identify which program track they plan to pursue—Research or Public Practice—and state why they are interested in this option. Knowing students' intentions will help the program better understand their academic and career goals. Finally, students should indicate if they intend to pursue a Ph.D. degree after completing the master's in agroecology. Although funding isn't guaranteed, some fellowships require that students intend to continue at the Ph.D. level.
  • Electronically, a curriculum vitae.
  • Two official copies of  transcripts for all undergraduate work (and graduate, if relevant). Many schools are able to send electronic versions of official transcripts directly to the program administrator. Electronic versions are preferred. Please do not send transcripts to the Graduate School.

Frequently asked questions regarding the graduate program are available on the agroecology website.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Students will analyze tradeoffs of different agricultural systems embedded within the greater complexity of socio-ecological systems.
  • Students will consider and synthesize concepts of systems, ecology, and public process.
  • Students will learn to engage in careful consideration of the social, economic, and environmental outcomes of different industrial and biological processes.
  • Students will understand the potential of inclusive participatory processes in research and analysis of agroecological systems.

Professional Conduct

  • Students will recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct in their coursework, research, and communications in the field of agroecology.

Faculty: Alatout, Albrecht, Arriaga, Barak, Bart, Bell, Bland, Bussan, Casler, Charkowski, Collins, Colquhoun, Cox, Cullen, Davis, Dawson, Dennis, Feinstein, Genskow, Gilbert, Gratton, Groves, Harrington, Hogg, Hueth, Jackson (chair), Kucharik, Luschei, MacGuidwin, Mitchell, Morales,  Norman, Ozdogan, Patterson, Picasso, Reinemann, Renz, Rickenbach, Rissman, Ruark, Silva, Steffan, Stoltenberg, Thompson, Tracy, Treves, Ventura, Wattiaux