The fundamentals of applied econometrics, data science, and data management tools within an economic framework are incorporated into the newly formed online master’s program in agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech.

This new master’s program allows working professionals to not only advance their careers but also to address important societal questions.

“Today’s professional environment calls for problem solvers who have both technical know-how when it comes to data management and visualization, but also the ability to frame industry and government problems using economic analysis,” said Donna Faltin, program director.

Students in the program will learn how to use modern data science and programming tools to address challenges surrounding areas that include food security, agricultural waste, and risk management, as well as how to detect market opportunities as they arise.

While the 24-month program is geared toward industry and government professionals across the food, agriculture, and energy supply chains, it is designed to prepare graduates for opportunities in a variety of industries, including banking and finance, commodity trading, economic forecasting, international trade, and many more.

“What we aim to do is teach people how to meld modern agribusiness management concepts and data science tools in a way that will empower them as practicing applied economists,” said Matt Holt, head of Virginia Tech's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, which is launching the new program. “Their skills will be valued in a variety of fields and areas, including supply chain management and more.”

The program will be delivered 100 percent online to provide flexibility for working professionals who may have other responsibilities. Course materials will be available online for students to access as their schedule allows without the added pressure of needing to log on for live lessons.

Although students can progress through course content at their own pace, the program is cohort-based, which gives students additional support, perspective, and opportunities for collaboration. Throughout the program’s final term, students will participate in a capstone course in which they will work with program peers and receive mentoring from faculty, as well as industry or government contacts, to address real-world challenges facing the food, agricultural, and environmental sectors. A capstone project culminates the program, solidifying skills gained throughout the program, while also expanding students’ networks as they develop further professional relationships with their peers and mentors.

“We are pleased to offer this new program as a way to expand our educational services throughout the commonwealth and beyond,” said Alan Grant, dean of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The human resource market for applied economists, data analysis, and strategic consultants, among others, is hungry for individuals with these types of skills, and our faculty are passionate about educating future leaders to confront challenges facing food and agriculture and natural resource management.”

In addition to providing built-in support via the cohort structure, the program’s leadership is committed to offering personalized advising to students through a partnership with Virginia Tech’s Career and Professional Development, as well as encouraging an open-door policy among program instructors and advisors.

“Our desire is to extend the same benefits to students in this online program as our traditional master’s students receive, including access to university resources from online databases and software to personalized instruction and mentoring,” said Normand Adams, the program’s graduate coordinator. “Our students - even the remote ones - are more than a number to us. They are just as much a part of our Hokie Nation as traditional students who complete their programs on campus. We are thrilled to offer distance learners the opportunity to learn and grow as professionals with us.”

Applications for the inaugural cohort are currently being accepted. For more information about the program, visit the program website or contact Program Director Donna Faltin.

    - Written by Jillian Broadwell