The Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture is a gem hidden among the larger schools at the University of Connecticut. It offers both an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree and two-year certification in a wide variety of disciplines within the plant and animal science majors, each designed to give the student a well-balanced education with an emphasis on the technical aspects of each major. Experiential learning has been and continues to be a hallmark of the Ratcliffe Hicks education.
Graduates acquire skills necessary to work in a variety of careers including floristry, landscape and grounds maintenance, greenhouse and garden center operation, nursery and fruit production, turf management, park and land maintenance, animal health, production agriculture, breeding and genetics, nutrition, meat and food science, and food handling and production.
Students may choose to continue their education. Those completing the Ratcliffe Hicks program with a cumulative grade point average of 2.7 or above may apply to transfer into the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources or other baccalaureate degree programs. Some graduates have gone on to complete MS, PhD, and/or DVM degrees.
Ratcliffe Hicks offers educational opportunities for a number of individuals at different stages in their lives. Traditional students generally include those who desire a more practical education or those deciding relatively late that a college education would be an option to pursue. The Ratcliffe Hicks program also serves the adult student seeking a career change or those individuals who wish to pursue a personal interest in plant science or animal science after retiring from a first career. Nontraditional students are welcome at the Ratcliffe Hicks School.
Today, students attending the Ratcliffe Hicks School of Agriculture at the University of Connecticut pay the same tuition, fees, and room and board costs as those charged to four-year students. They benefit from all the resources available to other students and are eligible to participate in all co-curricular activities except NCAA team sports.
The facilities available to students include laboratories and field facilities. Plant Science students use the 90-acre teaching and research facility that includes six greenhouses, a floral design studio, numerous field plantings, the five-acre Ratcliffe Hicks/C.R. Burr Teaching Nursery and a landscape design laboratory. And, the plants on the Storrs campus constitute an arboretum, which is used in teaching.
The facilities provide many learning opportunities. For example, at the Plant Tissue Culture Facility, students multiply lilac shoots in tissue culture and then root lilac microcuttings. In the greenhouse, students gain experience in plant propagation by grafting plants, rooting cuttings, air layering plants, and treating seeds to overcome dormancy.
At the turfgrass facilities, students establish their own turf plots from seed, planting a number of different grass species, and study grass identification from previous years’ plots. They study insect and weed identification and learn integrated pest management practices. Students learn how to install turfgrass irrigation systems and perform maintenance operations in the field. They work with the latest equipment used by turfgrass managers.
The animal science program boasts teaching facilities for horses, dairy, livestock, and poultry; a food sensory laboratory and food processing area; and several arenas including a lighted outdoor riding arena, an outdoor training area, and a heated indoor arena. The college maintains approximately 85 horses and specializes in the breeding
Students gain hands-on experience in areas such as nutrition, health, grooming, showing, milking, and equipment use. Students working in the meats laboratory learn the basics of food science. At the UConn creamery, students participate in the making of ice cream, yogurt, and cheese.
Students can be involved in research projects where, for instance, they might study growth rates and feed efficiency or identify a particular pathogen affecting animal heath.
Opportunities abound in all areas of study. Students may choose an independent study in one particular area of interest. They may gain work experience through University or off-campus internships or off-campus employment at a variety of businesses, organizations, and state
or federal agencies.