Chinese research exchange program marks sixth year at Nebraska

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Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University of China at the University of Nebraska
Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Chinese research exchange program marks sixth year at Nebraska

For the sixth consecutive summer, undergraduate students from Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University (NWAFU) in Yangling, China conducted research under the mentorship of over 90 University of Nebraska-Lincoln faculty. One element of a long term, multi-pronged relationship with the Chinese university, the exchange, or "REU program," has been a successful one, meaningfully engaging over 115 students from the university in the course of the program's tenure and often attracting them to join graduate programs at UNL. In fact, at the August commencement exercises, Chancellor Ronnie Green shook the hand of one of the REU program's inaugural year participants recieving a doctoral degree from UNL.

"Our relationship with NWAFU has become central to our global engagement strategy and it all started with the summer REU program," said Josh Davis, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR).

During the program, NWAFU students spend about 5-6 weeks at UNL, working with carefully chosen faculty mentors who match each student's research interest. The students' experience then culminates in a research presentation at the university-wide REU research poster symposium.

"The students in the program not only are very motivated, but also are willing to go through the rigor of their research despite a short time frame and, at times, challenges in communication," says Dr. Madhavan Soundararajan, who has served as faculty coordinator for the REU program for each of the six years.

"In order for international partnerships to be sustainable over the long term, they must be multidimensional," continued Davis. "Our relationship with NWAFU is just that, with ties to all three of our mission areas within IANR–education, research, and extension–as well as to the state of Nebraska and private industry."

Examples of the breadth of the relationship are many. A faculty-led, ag-focused education abroad trip of UNL students visits NWAFU and surrounding research and cultural sites every summer. A dual degree program through UNL's Department of Food Science & Technology, called the "3+1 Program," offers the opportunity for students to begin their degrees in China and finish them in Nebraska. The program even includes UNL faculty teaching at NWAFU in Yangling for a portion of the year. An exciting recent development, called the Nebraska Yangling Demonstration Farm, is a public-private sector collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the University of Nebraska, Nebraska agricultural manufacturers, Chinese producers, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University, Yangling Agricultural Hi-tech Industries Demonstration Zone, and the Chinese government. The collaboration will pool the expertise of research and extension faculty from the two universities as well as showcase the equipment of Nebraska-based farm machinery manufacturers, expanding even further the economic opportunity for Nebraskan industry to export to the Chinese market.

For more information about the REU program or other Chinese collaborations, please contact Jon Kerrigan at jon.kerrigan@unl.edu.