Students inspect kale in an agricultural class

Green and growing

New rankings show UMass as agricultural and sustainability leader 

October 29, 2019

After achieving a Top 25 ranking nationwide among public universities, UMass Amherst has once again distinguished itself among universities nationally and globally in specialized rankings reports set out this fall by US News & World Report and Princeton Review. 

Princeton Review Top 50 Green Colleges 

For the fifth year in a row, the University of Massachusetts Amherst has been named to the Princeton Review’s list of Top 50 Green Colleges, recognizing schools that have “superb sustainability practices, a strong foundation in sustainability education, and a healthy quality of life for students on campus.” The list is included in the new 2019 edition of “The Princeton Review Guide to 413 Green Colleges.” Ranked No. 30 this year out of the 413 schools profiled, UMass Amherst was also among the Top 50 in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.  

The Princeton Review tallied this ranking list based on data from its institutional survey of administrators at the colleges for its Green Rating and its surveys of students attending the colleges. Ten data points from the institutional survey were factored into the assessment. Data from the student survey included student ratings of three factors: the influence of sustainability issues on their education and life on campus; administration and student support for environmental awareness and conservation efforts; and the visibility and impact of student environmental groups.  

The rating, on a scale of 60–99, is meant to provide a comprehensive measure of a school’s performance as an environmentally aware and prepared institution. UMass Amherst was rated 98.  

Students at a Food Science demonstration hold beets and zucchini

US News & World Report Best Global Universities: Subject Areas 

The 2020 Best Global Universities guide published by U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Massachusetts Amherst No. 4in the comprehensive subject area of Agricultural SciencesThe rankings consider the top 1,500 universities across 81 countries. The publication states, “These are the world's best universities for agricultural sciences, based on their reputation and research in the field.” 

The field of agricultural sciences as reviewed for this survey encompasses a wide range of subjects related to how humans use and develop natural resources for their benefit, including horticulture, food science and nutrition, dairy science and agronomy. At UMass Amherst, several departments and programs contribute to this global reputation, including theStockbridge School of Agriculture,veterinary and animal sciences,food science, and environmental conservation in the College of Natural Sciences, as well as the department of nutritionin the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. 

“We are pleased, of course, to see this recognition of the important work in agricultural sciences happening across the College,” said Tricia Serio, dean of the College of Natural Sciences. “It’s gratifying to see the reputation of our programs continue to grow worldwide. We’re proud of the research excellence demonstrated by our faculty and the opportunities they provide to students to participate in cutting edge research as undergraduate and graduate students. UMass is truly a destination of choice for students who want to become change-makers and problem-solvers for the world’s agricultural challenges.”   

The methodology for the subject-specific rankings – which are not of academic majors, departments or specific schools at universities, such as business or medical schools – is based on academic research performance in those subjects. U.S. News has used “various bibliometric measures, including publications and citations, as well as indicators for global and regional reputation in each specific subject” to arrive at its rankings. 

Three of UMass Amherst's most highly cited researchers are in departments that fall under the agricultural sciences area: Eric Decker and Julian McClements of food science and Baoshan Xing of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Their impact is an important factor in the global ranking, as is the strong international reputation of the food science department, as well as the research contributions of the nutrition department. From improving agricultural productivity and minimizing the effects of pests on crops and animals to studying animal breeding, genetics and nutrition, publications within this category deal with the tools, methods and technology that relate to agricultural needs.Given how research results are weighted in the methodology, it’s notable that this ranking reflects the combined strengths of a number of programs and is not attributable to a single school, department, or individual at the university. 

“UMass has been amazingly successful by conducting multidisciplinary research from the farm to the consumer,” said Eric Decker, chair of food science. “We have multiple world class researchers who are highly successful due to their creative approaches to solving complex agricultural challenges that positively impact society.” 

Wes Autio, director of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture, agrees, “It is rewarding to be recognized for the excellence of the variety of agricultural science conducted at UMass Amherst.” 

“Food systems and security are critical to achieving global sustainability goals,” noted Curt Griffin, chair of the department of environmental conservation and co-director of the School of Earth & Sustainability. “As the world experiences increasing climate disruption, hunger and under-nutrition, we are especially proud of our interdisciplinary research, training and extension programs at UMass focused on finding sustainable solutions to achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” he said. 

Rafael Fissore, head of the veterinary and animal sciences department, also expressed pleasure at the recognition. “We are excited to contribute to the reputation of UMass as a leading institution in the Agricultural Sciences. We greatly appreciate the investments in our talented faculty, state-of-the-art core facilities and field resources which underpin the sustained funding, publishing success and scientific contributions of our faculty,” he said. 

Lisa Sullivan-Werner, Director of the UMass Extension Nutrition Education Program (NEP) added her agreement, stating that “This ranking recognizes the multi-disciplinary nature of the field of agricultural sciences and the impact that such research-based programs can make to global health and well-being. We are proud to be part of such an important and successful program.”  

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