When it comes to global education, dual degrees are better than one

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students -- each from different backgrounds and primary areas of study -- graduated this spring with something in common. Both gained valuable international experience and earned dual degrees that make them stand out as they embark on their professional careers.

Jonathan Dumas and Kristal Jones were enrolled in the International Agriculture and Development dual-title degree program, known as INTAD, which provides students with international perspectives and expertise to strengthen their primary graduate degree.

Dumas, an Agricultural and Extension Education and INTAD master's degree graduate, became interested in the program after hearing about it during one of his graduate courses. For the Miami, Florida, native and first-generation American whose family emigrated from Haiti, the program was a natural fit.

"My cohort's international project took place in the Dominican Republic, sister country to Haiti," he said. "Upon visiting a border city, I got to see firsthand the environment in which my people lived and the conditions they faced."

The experience was inspiring for Dumas and helped him to develop both personally and professionally. He applied his INTAD experience to his thesis research on factors that influence blacks and Latinos in high school to pursue careers in agriculture.

Dumas also participated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Pathways program. USDA Pathways provides students enrolled in a variety of educational institutions with opportunities to explore USDA careers while still in school. Dumas' participation in both programs helped him to secure a position with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service upon graduation.

"Definitely, my experience abroad and Penn State education played big roles in obtaining employment after graduation," he said. "I think graduates who have global experience are what employers increasingly will look for into the next century."

Kristal Jones, who earned her doctorate in Rural Sociology and INTAD, also was awarded the Alumni Association Dissertation Award. The award is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment.

In her research, Jones looked at formal and informal crop seed systems in West Africa. She assessed both market and social factors to determine how seeds move through the systems. "The INTAD program made it possible for me to travel to West Africa and work with plant scientists to learn about agricultural systems and practices," she explained.

Jones, whose hometown is Bozeman, Mont., was on the graduate-student committee that helped develop the INTAD program when it was being established in the college's Office of International Programs.

"INTAD got me interested in courses outside of my primary area of study and was very instrumental in helping me understand how agricultural research works," she said. "Meeting with researchers in West Africa before developing my thesis on the dimensions of agriculture decisions was invaluable."

Jones will continue her involvement in the Office of International Programs, as she recently accepted a position as a postdoctoral scholar in the program.

There is a rising demand for graduates with international experience and credentials, confirmed Deanna Behring, director of international programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences. "INTAD is part of Penn State's initiative to internationalize its land-grant mission and prepare students to work on interdisciplinary teams to address global challenges."

According to Melanie Miller-Foster, INTAD adviser, the goal of the program is to bring the social and biophysical sciences together to research solutions to complex international and development issues. Students enrolled in any of six participating graduate programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences can apply.

The program has enrolled 28 students in its three-year existence and has conducted study tours in 19 countries -- including Russia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago -- as part of the capstone course. Students pursue additional international course work, and their graduate research project must have an international component.

The Soil Science graduate program recently was added to INTAD, and more programs are expected to join in the near future.

To learn more about the INTAD dual-title graduate degree, visit the program website or contact Miller-Foster by phone at 814-867-3831 or by email.

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Last Updated June 17, 2014