Student Stories: Alumna puts ag degrees to use promoting food security

Innovation is key when dealing with issues such as poverty, food security and conservation, according to Dana James, a recent graduate of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

In May 2013, she graduated with dual degrees in environmental resource management and in community, environment and development. She also minored in international agriculture, and in watersheds and water resources.

Because her interests lie in international agriculture and development, she worked with a program called innovATE – Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education – and got involved with a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project last summer.

The goal of innovATE is to help build capacity in low- and middle-income countries by further developing their agricultural training and education systems, the Lewisburg, Pa., native explained.

"These changes promote rural innovation needed to achieve sustainable food security, reduce poverty and conserve natural resources," she said. "The goal of the project really resonated with me and let me put the skills I learned from my majors and minors into practice."

She traveled to Cambodia for a 10-day visit with College of Agricultural Sciences faculty to improve that country's agricultural education and training programs. As a research associate, James' primary job was to conduct background research on Cambodia because the country showed interest in the innovATE program.

"I conducted a literature review on Cambodia's existing agricultural training and education system and created a report based on what I found," James said.

While they were there, they visited agricultural stakeholders to establish new contacts and relationships, conducted a needs assessment and validated what they learned from the literature.

James' experience with innovATE is complete for now, but she has taken the knowledge she gained with her to the United Kingdom, where she is currently a Fulbright scholar. Her research at Newcastle University involves food sovereignty and food justice movements, specifically in the Andes.

Learn about the environmental resource management major; learn more about the community, environment and development major.

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Last Updated May 19, 2014