Students may receive two bachelor’s degrees from two Nebraska schools all in the span of four years in a new biology and agriculture program.

Wayne State College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced a new dual-degree initiative, the applied science degree program, earlier this month. Students may earn a life sciences degree with a concentration in biology from Wayne and an applied science degree with concentrations in agriculture and natural resources from UNL.

The degree is one of its kind between the two schools and faculty have been working on it since September 2018, said Tammy Evetovich, dean of the Wayne State School of Natural and Social Sciences.

“What I love about this program is that it’s so flexible and innovative,” Evetovich said. “People can take it and do what they want with it.”

Students in the program will spend three years at Wayne State’s School of Natural and Social Sciences and finish their last year at UNL’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) to receive both degrees. Graduates will be prepared for jobs related to farming, ranching, parks and recreation and land management.

Participants may choose to either relocate to the UNL campus in Lincoln for the last year or finish their education online with UNL and in local lab settings at the nearby Haskell Ag Lab in Concord.

The program is part of the Northeast Nebraska Agriculture and Natural Resources Education Compact, an agreement signed in October between seven institutions, according to a previous Daily News article.

The goals of the partnership are to provide education platforms in resilient food, energy, water and societal systems in alignment with career opportunities, as well as prepare teachers and curriculum to respond to the increased need for agricultural science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) educators.

Additional partnership goals are intended to encourage workforce development solutions for the agriculture and natural resources industries in Northeast Nebraska.

“We really needed to think about opportunities for learners in the northeast part of the state,” said Tiffany Heng-Moss, dean of the UNL College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR). “One of the things we were focusing on is how we can leverage the strength of each of our institutions to best suit the needs of our learners. Wayne State is an excellent institution and CASNR and Wayne State share a lot of the same goals. It seemed like a natural partnership.”

Evetovich said one of the main goals of the dual-degree program is to retain young people in Nebraska, especially in agriculture and natural resources.

“Agriculture is very important in Nebraska,” Evetovich said. “We want to keep young, talented people in our community. The last thing I want is people in this region to think they have to leave to get an agriculture degree.”

Freshman Evelina Krie was a major in pre-veterinary medicine at Wayne State College until she learned about the dual-degree program, she said. She will be one of the few students starting the program in January.

“I’m more interested in the biology part, but I also come from an agricultural background, so I like that it suits me better,” Krie said. “I’m still planning on going into vet school, but I wanted to back myself up with more options. I thought it was neat how it gave you two degrees in four years.”

While the program won’t officially be offered until the 2020 fall semester, students are working with professors to begin the program in the 2020 spring semester, Evetovich said. Interested students may visit www.wsc.edu/info/20446/applied_science for more information.

“People are getting really excited about this,” Evetovich said. “(UNL) has been great to work with, and it was truly a collaboration. We are happy to place young professionals in agriculture in Nebraska. It’s something I think is very special.”