Leslie D. Blanchard, Tregenza, Ivana
Leslie Blanchard, Rocio Lopez and Ivana Tregenza
Studying abroad can provide students with valuable experiences that expand their worldviews and lend them valuable experience in the job market. The LSU College of Agriculture provides a variety of opportunities that allow students to gain this international experience. The college works closely with the LSU AgCenter Global Network to expand the range of experiences available to students in the form of study abroad, semester abroad and international internships. In early 2018, the college implemented changes to its curriculum to prepare graduates for the global workplace and increase their employability.
Students and parents have responded with increased applications to the college and increased interest in the expanding global offerings. During freshman orientation, about 70 percent of students and parents expected international experience to be included within their undergraduate studies. They realize these experiences will benefit graduates who pursue careers with farms and firms in Louisiana as much as those who pursue their careers elsewhere in the United States or abroad.
Over the past two years the LSU College of Agriculture substantially increased international opportunities for students. The College of Agriculture strengthened existing shorter-term programs targeting Swaziland, Mozambique, Thailand, Nepal and Greece, while also introducing new innovative programs to Nicaragua, Slovakia and Poland. The college has also been engaged in expanding relevant, longer-term semester abroad and year abroad programs that can provide significant benefits for students with specific majors. The number of students taking advantage of longer-term programs increased from two in 2016-17 to nine in 2017-18, and the college hopes to continue this trend.College of Agriculture students are pursuing studies in partner universities in a diverse range of countries, including the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Fiji, Italy, Korea and Australia.
The LSU College of Agriculture offers degree programs that vary widely, and that includes a broad menu of opportunities for students to gain international experiences. For example, textiles and apparel merchandising majors learn in the fashion capitals of Paris and Milan. Nutrition and food sciences majors explore the native cuisine of the Mediterranean while immersing themselves in the culture and ancient history of Greece. Agricultural economics and agribusiness students investigate the fundamentals of agriculture in Central Europe through study abroad and semester internships in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Wildlife ecology majors research the species and ecosystems of the southern African nations of Swaziland and Mozambique. As the college continues to expand students’ opportunities, enthusiasm for international programs and the transformational knowledge they provide continues to grow along with the partnerships that have been established.
The college’s ultimate goal is to bring international experiences to all its students. In preparation for experiences abroad, the college invites all interested students to participate in the Global AgAmbassadors organization on LSU’s campus. Global AgAmbassadors serve as hosts and guides for incoming international students, faculty and visitors who are guests at LSU here in Louisiana. College of Agriculture students gain social awareness, global understanding and an appreciation of cultural differences from the comfort of home in anticipation of the eventual participation in their own international experience. Visitors to the Baton Rouge campus appreciate their student-hosts’ efforts to welcome and assist them. AgAmbassadors often establish lasting relationships with the visitors they host.
To assist those students for whom cost is a deterrent to pursuing global study, the College of Agriculture has established a scholarship program to help offset the expenses. These scholarships vary in amount as the duration and fees for each opportunity is different. Last year, 12 students were awarded financial assistance in the form of study abroad scholarships that totaled more than $7,500.
The College of Agriculture plans to continue to serve both students and stakeholders in innovative ways to provide students with a range of opportunities for valuable, relevant international experiences.
Students who participate in these opportunities gain valuable experiences that will lend them an advantage in the job market after graduation. Global, national and local industries will also benefit from hiring students with international experiences who can better monitor, understand and cope with changing global conditions. In partnership with the LSU AgCenter Global Network, the College of Agriculture stands ready to serve students and stakeholders with an expansive list of cultural opportunities that enrich the lives of students and help to prepare the agricultural leaders of tomorrow.
Leslie Blanchard is the assistant dean of the LSU College of Agriculture. Rocio Lopez is coordinator of international relations, and Ivana Tregenza is director of international relations.
(This article appears in the spring issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)
Madelyn Smith, an LSU College of Agriculture student studying natural resource ecology and management, participated in a study abroad program in the summer of 2017 focused on sustainable agriculture in Thailand.
LSU College of Agriculture students spent spring break learning about agriculture in Nicaragua, and they visited the Laguna de Apoyo water crater. Back row, left to right, are faculty members Kristin Stair and Mike Kaller and students Chloe Christmas, Brooke Comeaux, David Baudoin, Preston Dumont and Adam O’Malley. Front row, left to right, are students Olivia Soler, Caitlin Holder, Hayley Jackson and Ashlyn Sak and John Russin, director of LSU AgCenter Global Network.
LSU College of Agriculture nutrition instructor Judy Myhand, left, takes a ferry ride on the Aegean Sea with students Brooklyne Smith, Heather Moran and Gabrielle Kerkow. The students visited Greece during the 2017 winter intersession as part of the food and culture in Greece course.
LSU College of Agriculture students can participate in semester-abroad exchanges at the universities shown above. In addition, they can learn from LSU faculty in one- to three-week courses at one of seven locations around the world: Nicaragua, Poland, Thailand, Mozambique, Greece, London and Mendel.