Programs First Graduates
Michael Martin accomplished a pair of firsts when he graduated with a bachelor’s degree from University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in May 2022.
Martin was a first-generation college student. He was also one of the first two students to earn the college’s new bachelor’s degree in water science and management, along with classmate Jaya Garcia.
Martin enrolled in the degree program based on a passion for soil and water management stemming from the four years he spent working on an Idaho Falls golf course’s maintenance crew.
“To turn around from being a first-generation college student to being one of the first people to graduate with this major is kind of a cool experience,” Martin said.
The program prepared Martin for a job as assistant manager of residential services for Shore Lodge Whitetail LLC, which is a large resort in McCall. He’s tasked with irrigation management, pesticide application, turf management and other duties for the resort. His new employers were thrilled by the breadth of training he received in pursuit of his bachelor’s in water science and management, covering irrigation, soil physics, mathematics, chemistry, pesticide management and a host of other sciences.
“It was hard and rigorous but it definitely helped me better understand the actual concepts behind soil and water systems,” Martin said of the new program. “All of the courses were necessary for understanding it.”
Garcia hopes to work as a water manager. Growing up in Sonoma California, which has been gripped by drought, taught her the value of good water stewardship.
“I figured there would be a lot of jobs out there. There have been quite a few issues with water throughout the nation,” Garcia said. “Why not do something to help people in the future?”
She’s been intrigued by the conjunctive management agreements water users have forged in the Eastern Snake River Plain, as well as efforts to recharge the aquifer beneath it, and she’d like to help implement similar approaches elsewhere.
As the first students to go through a new bachelor’s degree program, both Garcia and Martin offered important feedback to help their instructors tweak schedules and requirements.
“During those advisor meetings each semester primary advisor Erin Brooks was definitely open to what I had to say. We were communicating well. Does this work? Does this not work? Is this a lot for four years?” Garcia said.
Brooks and his colleagues see potential to grow the program, including through the addition of online courses.
“We showed the degree to the Idaho Department of Water Resources and some other agencies and they said, ‘Boy, we’d hire out of this,’” Brooks said. “At this point I think it’s a well-kept secret and we just haven’t put the effort in to recruit to it.”
The new degree fills a hole in the curriculum of the Department of Soil and Water Systems, which offered water resource programs at the master’s and doctorate levels but previously had nothing in place at the bachelor’s level.
“Definitely you can see a growing need for water managers that are well trained and have a firm grasp of the entire hydrologic cycle,” said the department’s head, Jodi Johnson-Maynard. “We’re experiencing more issues in the west and around the globe with how managing water is becoming more and more important.”
Article by John O’Connell, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Photos by Carly Schoepflin, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in June 2022