Professional Development in Sustainable Food and Farming

STOCKSCH 382 (3 credits)


Satisfies the UMass Junior Writing requirement for Sustainable Food and Farming Bachelor of Sciences students

Instructor: Renee Ciulla

Prerequisite: ENGLWRIT 112  but please contact Renee to override this and register!


Course Overview and Objectives: Students in STOCKSCH 382 will explore a range of professional opportunities available to graduates of the Sustainable Food and Farming major while practicing and improving their writing and communication skills related to real-world interests and projects. Writing will include in-class unstructured writing, individual writing assignments (which will be reviewed by other students), and formal writing reviewed by the instructor. The course includes professional goal articulation, writing cover letters and resumes, preparing for an interview and creating effective presentations, understanding how to write an academic research paper and grant writing, researching/finding appropriate job and creation of a work portfolio. Emphasis is made on opportunities to practice writing and communicating in formats appropriate to work in sustainable food and farming. This class not only satisfies the University’s Junior Year Writing requirement for Sustainable Food and Farming majors, but will also generate evidence of writing abilities. Students will be prepared to present themselves as a qualified professional as they explore work opportunities in sustainable farming and marketing, education, non-profit management, community organizing, or political advocacy.


  • Participation/Discussion responses (includes responding to at least 1 peer’s post each week): 40%
  • Weekly Homework Assignments: 40%
  • Final Research Paper: 20%

No Required Textbook

Expressing successful farming techniques in an effective presentation

Due Date policy: If a homework assignment is submitted late, there are 5 points deducted per day late. No credit is awarded for late Discussion posts since the conversations have moved on to the current week.

Outline of Content

Week One 

  • Values, interests, personality tests and possible career & personal paths
  • Goal Articulation
  • Developing Effective Listening Techniques

Week Two  

  • Resumes (students share with one another)
  • Cover Letters (students read their peers’)
  • Interviewing styles and techniques

Week Three

  • Preparing a PowerPoint and precise timing
  • Grant writing
  • Who gives/gets grants
  • Investigate a granting agency
  • Statement of Need
  • Project Objectives/Activities
  • USDA grants and submission details

Week Four

  • Writing a Research Paper
    • How/where to research academic sources
    • Planning/Drafting (outlines, stating a thesis, academic style)
    • MLA/APA/Chicago citation styles
    • Peer reviewed, scientific articles vs other forms of references
  • Communication/Writing Skills
    • Various short writing assignments
    • Letter to the Editor
    • Press Release
    • Punctuation!

Week Five

  • Explore resources that post job openings, graduate programs, networking opportunities and relevant
  • Research professional affiliations & support networks for potential career options
  • Review characteristics of certain career options in Sustainable Food/Farming:

-Policy work and affiliations such as Farm Bureau and New England Farmers Union
-Environmental consultant and examples
-Farmer—vegetable, animal, fruit, etc. and organizations such as Beginning Farmers network and Greenhorns
 –Non-profit organizations and land trusts
-Scientists/researchers and options for pursuing a Masters degree and/or PhD
 –Teachers and professional affiliations such as Farm-based Education Association & Sustainable Ag Education Association

Week Six

  • Applying for a job (each student will actively search) and if appropriate, apply for at least one position
  • Begin researching, interviewing for and writing final paper

Final Project

Please choose a topic of interest related to Sustainable Food and Farming and complete an 6-8 page research paper (double-spaced, font-size 12 point) with at least 10 sources (not all web-based but also at least 4 academic, peer-reviewed articles). ​All topics must be approved in advance by instructor.


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