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The University of Wisconsin–Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) has named Jennifer Blazek as the new director of the college’s Farm and Industry Short Course (FISC), a 16-week educational program that prepares students for careers in agriculture and related fields.

Blazek comes to CALS from UW-Extension Cooperative Extension, where she has worked as an agricultural educator since 2011, first in Polk County and then in Dane County. In her educator role, she provided expertise and support to dairy and livestock farmers on a vast number of production and farm business management topics. She also established educational programming for farm owners, managers and supervisors.

This past year, she taught in the FISC program. Through this work, she has developed hands-on knowledge of the challenges Wisconsin’s agriculture industry faces, as well as the opportunities for future generations of farmers. 

For the past 20 years, Blazek has also been involved in the management of her family’s farming operations, including serving as farm manager of a small dairy herd and co-manager of a small grass-fed beef herd. She earned bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and English from UW–La Crosse. She also holds two master’s degrees from UW–Madison, one in Latin American Studies and the other in Agroecology, which involved working with Michel Wattiaux in the Department of Dairy Science.

“I am very excited to continue supporting Wisconsin agriculture through the Farm and Industry Short Course program,” says Blazek. “I feel strongly about expanding FISC programming to meet the needs of both current and future farmers. I am looking forward to continuing the success of the program by building partnerships within the industry and working to engage farmers from all over the state.”

FISC offers over 30 courses in subjects including crops, dairy, meat animals, soils, agricultural engineering, farm business management, human relations and communications. Last year, approximately 100 students were enrolled in the program. The FISC director is responsible for the oversight of all aspects of the program, ranging from marketing, recruitment and admissions, to academic policies, budgeting and strategic planning.

In recent years, the FISC curriculum was updated and new certificates were introduced. A recruitment committee was also established to help grow student numbers from among rural and urban populations.

“We are excited to have Jennifer at the helm,” says Richard Straub, CALS senior associate dean. “Her agricultural background and experience in educational programming put her in a great position to help the college evolve and develop the FISC program to stay current with the changing needs of our industry partners.”

Blazek’s FISC position starts on June 11, 2018. She takes over for Cindy Fendrick, who has been serving as interim director of FISC since December 2017, when Jessie Potterton resigned from the director position.

FISC was established in 1885. It is the oldest program of its kind in the nation.

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