Global Gallery gives snapshot of faculty, graduate research in world agriculture

March 19, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Faculty and graduate students in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences illustrated how their research touches every corner of the world during the inaugural Global Gallery, a symposium hosted by the International Agriculture and Development dual-title graduate program (INTAD) and its student association.

The late February event, organized by the INTAD Student Association under the guidance of Melanie Miller-Foster, assistant teaching professor of international agriculture, drew more than 50 participants.

"This was an opportunity to bring together the Penn State community working with international projects with the goal of fostering collaboration, showcasing and advocating for Penn State's international initiatives," said Genna Tesdall, student association president, who is pursuing her master's degree in plant pathology and in international agriculture and development.

Realizing rapid growth since admitting its first student in 2011, the INTAD dual-title degree is a unique course of study that provides students with international perspectives and expertise, to strengthen their primary graduate degree. Students in the program learn and develop skills — all with a global focus — through interdisciplinary core coursework and a variety of electives.

Graduate programs participating include Rural Sociology, Agricultural and Extension Education, Plant Pathology, Soil Science, Entomology, Horticulture, Agronomy, Food Science and Forest Resources.

Among those speaking at the symposium was Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs, who pointed out that INTAD alumni enjoy professional careers with international organizations, universities and research institutes, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

"Our students want to make the world a better place and are willing to ask the broader questions and dedicate their studies to finding solutions to global issues such as food insecurity, gender inequality, sociocultural differences and much more," Behring said. "They strive to make the people of our world safe, secure and fed."

In addition to networking opportunities throughout the program, as well as a forum on career perspectives in international agriculture presented by Alejandra Huerta, a postdoctoral research fellow at Colorado State University and U.S. Borlaug Fellow in Global Food Security, attendees had the chance to learn what their peers are researching by way of five-minute lightning talks.

Research on coffee wilt disease in Africa; social interaction and food security in rural southern Kyrgyzstan; the internationalization of Penn State Extension food safety programs; the study of fine flavor Theobroma cacao cultivars in Honduras; and integrating agroforestry practices into small-scale aquaculture systems in Zambia were a handful of the projects highlighted.

INTAD dual-degree students Julie Baniszewski, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in entomology, and Merielle Stamm, a master's degree student studying agricultural and extension education, were impressed with the diversity of the research showcased and plan to incorporate some of the concepts shared in their own studies.

"It was interesting to see the breadth and scope of research being conducted by our peers and to have the chance to interact with them on a personal level," Stamm added.

Other speakers at the Global Gallery were Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology, and Maya Nehme, project director for the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative in Lebanon, both of whom served on the exploratory committee and provided reflections on the development of INTAD. In addition, program alumni Ariel Rivers, Anna Testen and Freddy Magdama discussed their career experiences.

Gary Thompson, the college's associate dean for research and graduate education, in his closing remarks praised the program's participants and shared his own global experiences, including his time as a visiting professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

He emphasized the need for students to make their experiences count so they can move beyond scientific tourism — traveling to international conferences and such — and devote themselves to fully understanding the cultures they are studying, which he defined as "intercultural competency."

Thompson also said that solving the complex problems of the world requires high levels of "intercultural competency" as well as "global competency," which is defined as the acquisition of in-depth knowledge and understanding of international issues.

"These competencies are central to international education and research and, perhaps more importantly, to solving the world's problems," he said. "Our INTAD program provides a solid foundation in both."

In addition to INTAD, Global Gallery sponsors included the Office for Research and Graduate Education and the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

More information is available at the INTAD webpage.

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    Christian Kelly Scott, a doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, gives a lightning talk about his project on social interaction and food security in Kyrgyzstan. He is wearing a kalpak, the national hat of Kyrgyzstan, which represents mountain peaks and valleys in its shape.

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    IMAGE: Amy Duke

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 28, 2018