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The University of Florida offers education and hands-on experience in Milton

The University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) West Florida Research and Education Center (WFREC) has two joint operations. First is the teaching component centered in Milton for 27 years, while the Jay Research Center has been in operation for over 50 years. WFREC offers their own bachelor’s degrees from UF to juniors and seniors who have transferred from other schools, including community colleges. Those degrees are Natural Resource Conservation and Plant Science. However, classes are pulled from many different departments.

Dr. Debbie Miller has worked with UF/IFAS in Milton for all of the program’s 27 years as part of the Wildlife Ecology and Conservation department. She is also research faculty. Other departments include Forestry, Entomology and Soil and Crop. “We are very interdisciplinary,” Miller said.

There are about 40 students at UF/IFAS currently. “We graduate about 10-15 a year,” Miller said. “We have so many natural resources here,” which Miller cited as one of the advantages to having the program in Santa Rosa County. “I think the main reason they put us out here is because of the programs that we have.”
WFREC may be smaller than what one might expect from the University of Florida, but there are advantages. For one, Miller stated that the program fits well with working individuals – distance learning courses and night courses are offered to meet their needs.

Perhaps the most important advantage of WFREC is the hands-on, outdoor work the students do. “It’s really important, we think, to have that outdoor component. If you’re going to be in natural resources, you need to get dirty,” Miller concluded.

April 1-3, UF/IFAS and PSC will be hosting the Spring Festival of Flowers on their campus, Friday 9-5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 9-4 p.m. There will be a variety of vendors, and UF/IFAS will be selling plants. The proceeds from those plants will go to funding scholarships for students.

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