2018 Year of Global Momentum for IANR

Thursday, January 10, 2019

2018 Year of Global Momentum for IANR

                As we begin 2019 with earnest anticipation, we look back on an eventful 2018. There was active development of key strategic partnerships and initiatives, increased international exchange of students and faculty research collaboration—including hundreds of faculty engaged in research, extension and educational programming in over 120 countries—and an increase in forward momentum toward a university with internationalization woven into the fabric of its current and future work.

                Our collaborations and initiatives in Africa, specifically Rwanda, have continued at an increasing pace, as the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Undergraduate Scholarship Program (CUSP) welcomed their fourth cohort of students to campus, totaling 155 in the program thus far. This summer brought important milestones for the Rwandan Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA), an innovative English language institution dedicated to preparing the next generation of agricultural leaders of Rwanda, with which IANR serves as an academic partner and technical adviser. Governmental and private sector leadership partners for both the scholarship program and the Rwandan institution convened in Nebraska for a general assembly in May, while in August, IANR leadership, faculty and CASNR students helped mark the official groundbreaking of the RICA site in Rwanda’s Bugesera District. Most recently, former Nebraska Agronomy and Horticulture department head Richard Ferguson was named Vice Chancellor of RICA, and will begin his work in Rwanda this month.

                Following the awarding of joint collaborative research funding to IANR faculty for the second consecutive year in partnership with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP), the faculty members and their graduate students traveled to our partner University of São Paulo ESALQ this year. While faculty gave guest lectures and expanded on their research with collaborators, the graduate students attended classes alongside Brazilian students of the university and had the opportunity to gain professional experience giving seminars on their own projects. Further exchange continued between Nebraska and Brazil, with our campus hosting Fulbright Fellow Fábio Marin, who worked with Agronomy and Horticulture faculty member Dr. Patricio Grassini on the Global Yield Gap Brazil project and USP ESALQ hosting Nebraska extension and entrepreneurship faculty member Andrew Zimbroff, who is currently there teaching, researching and promoting innovative agribusiness entrepreneurship. Later in the year, we collaborated with faculty members Drs. Chris Calkins and Dennis Burson in the Department of Animal Science to host a group of eight Brazilian professionals as part of the USDA Foreign Ag Service’s Cochran Fellowship program, which aims to assist countries to develop the agricultural systems necessary to meet the food and fiber needs of their domestic populations as well as strengthening trade linkages with the U.S.

                In addition to continued partnership with Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University—including the arrival of our first class of 3+1 students from the Chinese institution, wherein students from that university undertake their first three years of study in China and complete their final year of their degree in Nebraska—there has been broad expansion of partners and initiatives across Asia in research, education and economic development.  In a prime example of how international research collaborations can spur innovation, Dr. Ed Cahoon, professor of biochemistry, was part of a team made of up UNL and Huazhong Agricultural University in China researchers that discovered two new fatty acids in vegetable oils. The discovery is believed to be the first of its kind since the 1960s and 1970s.

                Further, engagement with Japanese partners increased significantly this year. In collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, the University and Kewpie Corporation formalized a recently-announced strategic partnership agreement. Kewpie is the Japan-based parent company of Henningsen Foods, global producer of egg, meat, and poultry products with several locations across Nebraska. The agreement will see Kewpie conduct North American market research and development efforts out of UNL’s Nebraska Innovation Campus, in Lincoln.

                Growth continues for the interdisciplinary Yeutter Institute for International Trade, which connects academic disciplines related to law, business and agriculture to prepare students for leadership roles in international trade and finance, support interdisciplinary research and increase public understanding of these issues. The Institute held its inaugural CME Group Foundation Symposium, "Changing Governments, Changing Trade: Impacts from Global to Local” in September and welcomed Ikuo Kabashima, Nebraska alumnus and governor of Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, who gave a keynote lecture on the impact of a changing trade environment on prefectures and states. It was a year of intensive outreach for the Institute, and strong public interest in the Institute’s mission combined with fast-moving policy developments inspired the launch of an International Trade and Finance Calendar on the Yeutter Institute website, a selection of livestream events, hearings, and notices. A timely and relevant mini-course entitled “Trade Policy and Negotiations: Context and Current Issues” is now scheduled for the spring 2019 semester, with more developments for academic and extracurricular involvement for students on the horizon.

                We were pleased to again host a fellow with the USDA Foreign Ag Service’s Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program, Dr. Shinekhuu Jugder, of Mongolia. The program promotes food security and economic growth by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to fellows, usually early to mid-career scientists, from developing and middle-income countries. Jugder worked with her faculty mentor, Dr. Mary-Grace Danao, Research Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology (FST) for a three month training period on the use of infrared spectroscopy technology to improve food safety. Dr. Jugder also worked closely with FST colleagues doing collaborative research in food science and learning more about the work being done here in animal science and other relevant areas. As part of the fellowship in the U.S., Jugder and Danao attended the World Food Prize Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium along with a number of international undergraduate students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Additionally, Dr. Danao and one of her graduate students will visit Mongolia in the summer of 2019 to offer a workshop at the Borlaug Fellow’s home institution, the Mongolian University of Life Sciences. 

                For the second year running, Nebraska was honored to be a university host for the Eisenhower Fellowship Program, which brings stand-out early career professionals from all over the world to network and learn their way across the U.S. to help springboard their initiatives in their home countries. With this year’s fellow, Temitayo Etomi, of Nigeria, the Global Engagement team worked to demonstrate the uniquely Nebraskan approach to entrepreneurship and innovation: connecting her with faculty from economics to extension to agribusiness, as well as to local startups in the increasingly noticed entrepreneurial ecosystem of Lincoln in the “Silicon Prairie.”

                Creating opportunities to prepare Nebraska students for careers in an increasingly interconnected world continues to be a priority. In addition to the existing seven faculty-led education abroad opportunities across agriculture and natural resources, two new programs in Brazil and Rwanda, have been developed for summer 2019 to further allow students to explore their fields from different perspectives. The Global Engagement team also enjoyed the chance to bring some (more) of the world to Nebraska, as we hosted  a group of thirty agriculture-focused students from Reaseheath College in the U.K. this summer. They learned from and engaged with producers in northeast and central Nebraska, as well as gained more understanding of the land-grant model and Nebraska’s top-notch extension network. They connected with domestic and international students currently studying here, and the partnerships developed will benefit students here; both as an additional lens into approaches to agriculture worldwide as well as for future study and research abroad options.

                As the agriculture and natural resources-focused arm of global initiatives at the university, IANR Global Engagement takes pride in working closely with the other global offices at the university. Early in 2018, the Office of Global Strategies secured another year of funding to bring in a cohort of students for a short-term education and professional development program through the Argentine Fulbright Commission. We worked together to match the students with faculty mentors across food science, agronomy and agribusiness for their short-term research projects, as well as facilitating visits to Nebraska companies in the agribusiness sector. Across the university, we continuously work toward the overall collaboration and strategic coordination of the global initiatives, and we hope the appointment of Josh Davis as interim senior international officer will continue to contribute to that aim.

                We are grateful for all of our partners, internal and external, with whom we work to make this progress possible and look forward to a 2019 full of even more momentum.