No other 4-year undergraduate degree program in the world combines rigorous coursework in chemistry and biology with research and hands on instrumental analysis built into the curriculum to prepare its graduates for a career in the cannabis industry. The additional focus on entrepreneurship and laboratory accreditation standards means that our graduates will not only be qualified to perform the instrumental analysis in a laboratory, but will also be empowered to build their own testing laboratory, dispensary, and growing operation from the ground up.
Northern Michigan University launched a degree in cannabis, Officially titled, Medicinal Plant Chemistry, it’s interdisciplinary too. It combines chemistry, biology, botany, horticulture, marketing and finance.
“We’ve had an overwhelming response from growing operations, dispensaries and other businesses who want to take on our students as interns,” said Canfield, adding that a stereotypical stoner need not apply.
That’s the part that caught my attention: employability. Gardeners and concentrate makers can earn in the six figures and job listings aplenty are listed for the cannabis industry. These graduates will be in demand.
In my last role at an east coast Ivy League career services center, several MBA students were interested in the cannabis industry. It’s not hard to see why with a projected market growth of $21.6 billion by 2021. Yet career services wouldn’t touch it. They weren’t open to building relationships with cannabis employers, despite the thriving industry that was alive and well out West (as the Pacific Northwest transplant, I advised students on opportunities). Innovation was cool as long as it fit within what was considered status quo.
While I wrote this post to share this new intersection of cannabis and higher education, there’s a bigger takeaway: Innovation doesn’t necessarily come from the top schools. There’s a tendency in higher education circles to look towards the Ivies and Stanfords as exemplars of innovation. But that’s misguided because they’re well-funded, resource-rich institutions. Sometimes they’re actually risk-adverse. I’d like to see that mentality change in higher education. Innovation can be found across all types of institutions, not just the Ivy leagues. Take a look at Vanderbuilt’s work on digital pedagogy. Or the partnership between 11 universities to improve retention rates among low income students. Then there’s the future-oriented career services training at Hazard Community College. Lansing Community college is using open resources and free online texts instead of textbooks to make college more affordable. In the online education space, an area traditionally thought of as US dominated, there are fascinating ideas happening outside the US.
No doubt NMU is blowing up because cannabis is sexy hot right now. I’d love to see higher education circles promote more creative, forward-thinking degree programs from lesser known schools.
Update: I just searched cannabis jobs on LinkedIn and 420 results were displayed. Well played LinkedIn, well played.