Most of our classmates have spread all over the world and are interested in working with different aspects of the agrifood systems and beyond. These systems require learners to be self-reflective, adaptive and think holistically in order to address the complex and messy problems that our planet and our society is facing. We have to be life-long learners and stay out of obsolete to cope with a rapidly changing world from a personal and global perspective. Yet not all problems are the same, and neither are the actors within these problems. Everything is contextual, and the assessment of this context makes all the difference there is. This program focuses on this reality, and instead of delivering you strictly disciplinary content, or “know-that”, it emphasizes the need for a framework, or “know-how”, so that your skill sets will not be confined to a specific point in time and place or discipline, and you will be ready to enter processes, suggest improvements and move on to your next challenge. Hopefully you will feel the moral purpose to learning, which must be to promote change and challenge the current power relationships and inequalities centered around agrifood systems, rather than memorize facts and regurgitate them during an exam.
In order to do that, your approach to problem-solving itself is one of the most important factors in determining whether the outcome will contribute towards a better future state. As part of the agroecology program, you will experience a commitment to focus on the process of inquiry as well as the content that you will get from various sources. Shifting towards “how we come to know what we know” from “what is known” may seem challenging, because it is simply how we have been trained to think most of our lives. The dynamic nature and the social dimension of the systems that we deal with require the release of old habits, and help to stay current and out of the obsolete.
Linking theory to practice is necessary to take informed action, for the betterment of the lives of the communities we are working and the systems we are dealing with. Facilitating a transition toward sustainable agrifood systems cannot be accomplished through blind action, it has to be through knowing what is supposed to be better and what should be avoided. However this content is not delivered in a series of lectures or in a textbook as it would traditionally. You will co-create knowledge beyond the classroom and the university, with non-academic actors like your stakeholders.
Validating the content you get – making sure you “have it right” – can feel uncomfortable at times, especially when we want to change the world. For some of us, the uncertainty about the completeness of what we have learned was unsettling. Like other master’s degree programs, the Agroecology program aims to train researchers that have attained the competencies to validate their own learning. Not necessarily researchers in academia, but researchers who can think critically to support informed action that will improve the systems we are intervening.