Penn State students learn about international agriculture during trip to DC

July 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — More than a dozen Penn State students had a unique opportunity during a visit to Washington, D.C., this past spring to learn about current issues in international agriculture from those working in the sector.

The adventure was part of the capstone class for the international agriculture minor, known as INTAG, an interdisciplinary program in the College of Agricultural Sciences that helps students understand and appreciate international development and the agricultural systems of various cultures throughout the world.

The course INTAG 490: Senior Seminar in International Agriculture provides a range of experiential learning techniques focusing on four study areas: socioeconomic and communication systems; animal and plant sciences; natural resources and the environment; and food, health and nutrition, according to Noel Habashy, instructor and program adviser in the Office of International Programs.

The annual three-day class excursion allows students to interact with professionals and alumni who are working in international agriculture, underscoring the importance of linking classroom lessons with real-life experiences, Habashy said.

“This trip provides students with a meaningful look into the inner workings of some of the leading organizations involved in agricultural development around the globe,” he said. “These meetings are powerful learning opportunities with high-level leaders who share about their work and are eager to encourage students as they provide insights into possible career paths. I continue to be impressed with our students as they ask thought-provoking questions about opportunities and challenges of the work being done.”

INTAG at World Bank

The World Bank was one of the organizations that students in INTAG 490 visited during their three-day trip to Washington, D.C. 

IMAGE: Penn State

Accompanied by Habashy and Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs, the students toured several organizations involved in international agriculture and development, including Oxfam, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service, the U.S. Agency for International Development, DAI Global, and the World Bank, which, at the time of their visit, was hosting a meeting of ministers and finance officials from governments all over the world.

“As an INTAG student, we learn a lot about how to feed the world’s growing population, and a big part of that is understanding the organizations, volunteers, and politics and policies that go into how that will be accomplished,” said Abigail Seeley, who is majoring in both veterinary and biomedical sciences and wildlife and fisheries science. “On this trip, we got to learn about these aspects, and it was rewarding to see it in person and get to talk to people doing that work.”

The presentation that resonated with her the most took place at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, a nonprofit that works with businesses, foundations, governments and communities to build local and global partnerships that meet the world's growing demand for food. Seeley said she was impressed with the organization’s wide range of projects across the globe.

“My focus is definitely in animal-sourced foods and international agriculture, so hearing about the organization’s work across multiple facets of agriculture was captivating,” said Seeley, whose future goal is to be a veterinarian focusing on dairy herd health and “One Health,” which is a field of study that explores health outcomes and the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment, she explained.

While in Washington, the group interacted with several INTAG alumni, including Ben Bianco, who shared his own academic and personal journey. Bianco's overseas volunteerism, international development internships, and service with the Peace Corps led him to where he is today, working as a senior new business associate with DAI Global, an international development company with offices in Washington, D.C.

Bianco advised the students to take advantage of the many opportunities that Penn State provides for international study and internships; he also gave them tips for careers in the international realm.

In addition to the scheduled visits, the students enjoyed a few downtime activities, such as visiting the National Cherry Blossom Festival, touring historic sites, and eating at restaurants that served international cuisine.

The trip was funded by the college’s Office of International Programs and the Office for Undergraduate Education. Behring said in the future, she is hoping to find additional funding to offset travel expenses for the students. More information on the INTAG minor is available online at

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Last Updated July 03, 2019