Washington State University has consolidated some of its’ former agriculture department-based undergraduate programs and restructured them into multi-departmental interdisciplinary degree programs. One such degree program is called Agricultural and Food Systems (AFS, afs.wsu.edu). This successful degree program currently has 200 students enrolled. At the end of their degree program, AFS students take AFS 401 “Advanced Systems Analysis and Design in Agricultural and Food Systems”, a senior-level, culminating capstone course. Semester-long student team projects with an industry partner (e.g., co-op or private company) were designed to provide transformative learning experiences, address emerging issues or problems and provide research-based recommendations. Students met regularly with industry partner mentors to develop a project management plan, establish research priorities, and collect research data. At the end of the semester, teams provided both a comprehensive written report and an oral presentation with recommendations both to their peers and to industry partners. Through survey and focus group activities, students indicated this course provided a transformative learning experience that extremely or moderately evolved their ability to solve problems and work as a team. Following industry partner de-brief conversations, partners indicated that student team research added value to their enterprise. Several partners indicated student’s professionalism, teamwork skills and receptivity to feedback exceeded their expectations. Most indicated that if they had an open position, they would hire one or several student team members.

Keywords: transformative learning, industry partnership, professional skills