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CAFES Faculty Share Their Knowledge Abroad

By Kendra Knutson
UWRF University Communications

JAN. 29, 2007--In addition to sharing their expertise at home with students, community leaders, industry professionals and agricultural concerns, faculty from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES) at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) have spent some time traveling abroad sharing their expertise this past summer, fall semester and January term.   

Dean Olsen and Jerry Nechville, both professors in the agricultural engineering department, traveled to Managua, Nicaragua this past summer. The pair worked with the agricultural engineering faculty at National Agrarian University (UNA) to design and incorporate more hands-on lab activities that would allow students to actually practice the skills they study.  

"Currently, their program is mostly theoretical, with virtually no skills to apply the theory in the real world," said Olsen. "Students know how to design an irrigation system on paper, but have no idea how to implement these designs in the field."

The pair has been working with UNA to incorporate low-cost, hands-on class exercises in order to fully develop their engineering curriculum. Their visit coincided with a time when students started a riot against the mass transit system, which consists of old school buses. The students were upset because bus fare was to increase by 50 centavos (3 cents), which is a large amount to students whose semester tuition is only $25, said Olsen, who noted that the riot turned somewhat violent as students burned a bus, and police fired rubber bullets into the crowd.

"At no time did I feel in danger as the protesters were very polite, even moving their roadblock so we could go home," said Olsen.  

Professor Kelly Cain, of the plant and earth science department, spent most of fall semester on sabbatical in China assisting Wong How Man, president of the China Exploration & Research Society (CERS) in their efforts to protect the culture and biodiversity at their project sites.

One mission of the CERS is to identify, design, and implement important conservation projects in remote areas of China. Cain's project is focused on the small 64-family village of Gongbing, which is adjacent to the Napahai Wetland Reserve, one of the last two remaining wintering grounds for the endangered black-necked crane.

"We are trying to help some Tibetan and Lisu villages benefit from the economic revenues being generated in the southern Tibetan Plateau region," said Cain, "while also drawing a line in the sand about their conscious limits of acceptable change in cultural tradition and environmental integrity."  

Cain will also be heading off to Nicaragua next semester to work with UNA in Managua, seeking to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would enable UNA to use the UWRF Wildlife Recreation & Nature Tourism Graduate (WRNT) Certificate Program as a model for developing its own Spanish version.

Ranee May, a faculty associate in the department of animal and food science, visited China for the third time to continue her work with local Tibetans who are producing yak milk cheese in their factory. At this visit May worked with three Harvard University graduates on helping the plant with marketing plans and has helped them initiate the development of a second type of cheese to sell, which recently debuted at the Beijing Cheese Festival. May said she might return when and if the factory needs more assistance.

Two types of cheese are now available at the plant: Halloumi, a white cheese with distinctive layered texture similar to mozzarella, which is made without using a bacterial starter culture; and Asiago, which is made using a bacterial starter culture and can be have different textures, from smooth when fresh to a crumbly texture if aged. The flavor is reminiscent of sharp Cheddar and Parmesan, says May.

Along with Chancellor Don Betz and a group of UWRF faculty and staff including CAFES Associate Dean Bob Baker traveled early last summer on a multi-country visit to foster new exchange programs and reaffirm existing ones with Pacific Rim educational institutions. In addition CAFES Dean Dale Galenberg traveled with Betz and other UWRF administrators to India this fall to explore new exchange programs with colleges and universities in that country.

Anthony Jilek, a professor in the animal and food science department, traveled to Brazil in August to attend the 8 th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production held in Belo Horizonte. More than 1,000 geneticists from around the world assembled to discuss the latest in genetics research findings. The congress convenes every four years in a different location, with the 2010 congress to be held in Germany.   Jilek said he also hopes to return to Brazil in the future.     

Gregg Hadley, a professor of agricultural economics, received a grant about a year ago from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has partnered UWRF with ITA-25, an agricultural university in Mexico, to help rural Mexican colleges to further develop their faculty's knowledge in subjects that will help improve their rural economies. Two faculty members from ITA-25 finished a semester exchange at UWRF earlier this fall and others will be coming in January to spend spring semester on campus. Hadley leaves for Mexico in January, taking a few students with him.

For the past six years, David Trechter, a professor of agricultural economics, has been invited by the Deutsche Landwirtschafts Gesellschaft (DLG) to present a two-day workshop in Germany. The DLG is a German farm organization that offers a year-long agribusiness trainee program, which includes several workshops and three internships with agribusinesses at different levels of the agricultural supply chain.

At the conference, Trechter spoke about global supply and demand conditions in agriculture, supply chain management issues, U.S. agricultural policy, and entrepreneurship. Trechter said he was invited "both for the substance of the workshops and because they want their trainees to have to work and think in English." He plans to return to Germany in May.  

Dennis Cooper, a professor in animal and food science department, spent fall semester in Europe with the Semester Abroad program, the oldest continuing international study program at UWRF. Students spend 100 days in Europe, traveling and researching a project of their choice, and then compose a substantial research paper after returning home.    

Brenda Boetel, a professor within the agricultural economics department, is planning to venture off to Argentina and Uruguay next March. She will be traveling with extension specialists from multiple states touring livestock facilities and packing plants in both countries. "Argentina and Uruguay are both large producers of beef and are becoming big competitors for the U.S. beef industry," said Boetel. This will be her first time working with extension departments abroad.

Retired CAFES faculty members also are staying involved in international pursuits. Professor Emeritus Jerry Nolte, retired from the agricultural economics department, continues his consistent travels and international agricultural service and is currently recruiting Lou Greub, agronomy professor emeritus and Dewey Wachholz , another retired professor from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science (CAFES), to go to Paraguay with him next spring.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:07:56 Central Daylight Time


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