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Business, STEM students attend industrial hemp conference

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Posted on Friday, March 6, 2020

NEW WILMINGTON, Pa. – Eight students participating in Westminster College’s Environmental Project Management Academy (EPMA) cluster course attended an industrial hemp conference on Feb. 11 to learn more planting, growing and harvesting industrial hemp.

Presented by Penn State Extension, the conference also included information on basic soil and water testing and budgeting for hemp, which was designated a legal crop through the 2018 Pennsylvania Farm Bill.

The student attendees are a subset of participants in the EPMA program, a novel National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project that brings together business and STEM students to learn environmental science, project management and leadership and then apply those skills as they work on a project in collaboration with a community partner.

“This conference tied in perfectly to our EPMA cluster for Westminster,” said Max Reda, a junior environmental science major from New Brighton. “In these cluster courses in environmental science, leadership and business, we are currently conducting research for a college partner about their emergence in the industrial hemp industry, so exploring real world application is beneficial to growing our knowledge in project management and environmental science.”

This cohort’s collaborator is DON Services, Inc., an organization that is exploring industrial hemp as a possible source of economic development for the region. DON Services is interested in hemp for fiber or grain—not for CBD or medical marijuana—and has recruited a number of regional farmers to grow test plots of hemp.

The students will be doing soil testing of the test plot sites and market research on hemp products for their collaboration with DON Services.

Dr. Helen Boylan, professor of chemistry and director of the Center for the Environment at Westminster, accompanied the students to the conference.

Westminster’s EPMA program—developed by Boylan; Brian Petrus, associate professor of business; and Dr. Alison DuBois, associate professor of education and director of the Graduate Program—is supported by the NSF under Grant No. 1712028, Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Program.