LSU AgCenter, Mendel University reunite after COVID interrupts international partnership

(08/11/22) BATON ROUGE, La. — After two and a half years of not being able to travel internationally, faculty, staff and students with the LSU AgCenter and Mendel University in the Czech Republic finally were able to reunite for in-person activities in Baton Rouge this summer.

Several students and faculty members from both schools gathered on the LSU campus in July for an International Summer School. More recently, Jiri Skladanka, Mendel’s newly elected vice rector of international affairs, visited LSU for the first time.

The two institutions have had a strategic partnership since 2014 for a variety of initiatives, including student exchanges, internships, research projects, publications and events. Participants in the collaboration have kept in touch since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic via virtual meetings.

The return to in-person visits is significant.

“Universities are very dynamic environments, and much will change in two years regarding new research, and technologies,” said Ivana Tregenza, associate director of the LSU AgCenter Global Network. “It is crucial for in-person exchanges to continue to identify synergies. Working together enables universities to adapt the newest best practices more quickly, which in turn benefits the students, farmers and stakeholders in the region.”

Exposure to other countries, cultures and customs is important, especially for students, she added.

“Our current senior students lost opportunities to gain international experience during COVID-19, and we are committed to bringing them such opportunities before this generation graduates to elevate their competitive edge in their professional future,” Tregenza said.

During the International Summer School, several students, visiting scholars and faculty members from both schools — and from seven countries — spent two weeks exploring AgCenter research facilities and private agricultural enterprises. An initial summer school program was held in 2019 at Mendel, which is located in the Czech city of Brno.

From food science to aquaculture to crops, the summer school included a wide range of hands-on learning experiences. A video about the program is online at

When Vice Rector Skladanka visited in early August, he met with AgCenter animal scientists to identify potential opportunities to expand joint research efforts and student trainings. Skladanka is a specialist in animal nutrition and forage production.

He toured the AgCenter Food Innovation Institute and Aquaculture Germplasm and Genetic Resources Center. He also met with upper AgCenter and College of Agriculture administrators, the college’s Les Voyageurs student ambassadors and the team at the A. Wilbert’s Sons land management company, a long-term supporter of the AgCenter-Mendel collaboration.

People look at containers of food products.

During an Aug. 10 tour of the LSU AgCenter Food Innovation Institute, director Gaye Sandoz, right, shows Mendel University Vice Rector Jiri Skladanka a jar of salsa made by a tenant in the institute. Looking on at left are LSU AgCenter Global Network student workers Sandra Botello and Jenish Tandel. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

People sit on a tarp-covered wagon.

Participants in the International Summer School ride a wagon during the LSU AgCenter Sugar Research Station field day July 20. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU College of Agriculture

People stand next to plants in a greenhouse.

Participants in the International Summer School visit a greenhouse at the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Photo by Annabelle Lang/LSU College of Agriculture

8/11/2022 2:58:25 PM
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