Penn State graduate students to attend international ag forum

May 25, 2012

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Three students from Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have been selected for participation in the Future Leaders Forum, to be held as part of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development annual meeting on June 3 in Washington, D.C.

Esha Zaveri and Shonel Sen, doctoral students in Agricultural, Environmental and Regional Economics, and Ariel Rivers, a first year dual-degree doctoral student in Entomology and International Agriculture and Development, were chosen to represent Penn State at the forum.

Out of 100 applicants, 12 students nationwide were chosen to participate in the event. Their academic merit and preparation, international experience, goals and interests were considerations in the selection process.

The Future Leaders Forum began in 1997 and is a collaborative effort among universities, the U.S. Agency for International Development, private sector companies and member organizations of AIARD.

During the forum, students will attend the AIARD annual meeting in Washington, D.C., and then stay in the city for two or three extra days to visit the World Bank, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development. They also will be able to network with professionals in the field.

Deanna Behring, director of international programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences, said understanding agriculture in a global context is essential.

"Despite wealth, knowledge and resources, here we are in 2012 and we still have a billion people going to bed hungry," she said. "Is that something we're comfortable with from a moral standpoint, is it smart from an environmental standpoint, is it something that keeps us safe from a security standpoint? When people are going hungry, it can be breeding grounds for instability."

As an example of rising interest in such global issues, Behring cited growth in the Penn State undergraduate minor in International Agriculture, which tripled enrollment in the last academic year.

The Penn State participants at the Future Leaders Forum hope to apply their agriculture degrees for international work.

Rivers' focus is on implementing low-cost agricultural practices that will support beneficial insects on an international scale. She also is interested in agricultural extension and rural youth development.

She said she will be able to further explore her interests in small-scale agriculture, extension and nutrition in low-income communities at the forum.

"The Future Leaders Forum should provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about these themes while interacting with other students and professionals, and will help to expand my network in the development community," said Rivers.

Zaveri hopes to engage in a career in international development -- working for research organizations, international agencies or academic institutions -- and said the forum will help in her endeavors.

"Meeting with experts at international organizations is an important step for me to see how research is conducted and how policy can actually be put into practice," Zaveri said.

Sen would like to focus on how development, agriculture and environment interact to influence developing, resource-based economies. She is interested in research that explores how environmental pressures affect sustainable development.

"The AIARD scholarship program involves visiting different agencies and institutions that work in international agriculture and rural development, and I would eventually like to work as a professional in this field," Sen said. "So this will be beneficial because it will allow me to get a firsthand perspective on how such organizations operate."

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 29, 2012