Symposium highlights ties between LSU AgCenter, Honduran school

(10/13/16) BATON ROUGE, La. – A recent symposium held on the LSU campus highlighted the ties between the LSU AgCenter and one of its strongest international partners, the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in Honduras.

The fourth Symposium of Zamoranos was held Oct. 7 and 8, marking the first time LSU hosted the event.

The AgCenter has collaborated with Zamorano for many years, supporting a number of student and faculty exchanges between the two universities, said AgCenter International Programs director David Picha.

Many Zamorano students come to LSU as visiting scholars who work with AgCenter scientists to fulfill a required internship. Others come soon after graduation to gain further career preparation.

“The LSU AgCenter and Zamorano have a mutually beneficial partnership,” Picha said. “Many Zamorano students come here and make a positive contribution to our research programs, which favorably impacts our agriculture industry.”

Zamorano Agricultural Society at LSU president Adriana Gaitán and vice president Alejandro Castro organized the two-day symposium, which included presentations from AgCenter and Zamorano representatives and tours of local sites related to food and agriculture. Talks on the first day focused on different ways the two institutions cooperate, while the second day featured presentations on research, agriculture industry trends and leadership development.

Zamorano is an international school that draws most of its students from throughout Latin America, and its alumni can be found around the world, Picha said. Many now work for leading agribusiness firms while others are professors and researchers, including at the AgCenter.

Luis Osorio, a graduate of Zamorano who later studied at LSU, will soon become the academic dean of Zamorano.

“Our roots run deep with Zamorano,” said Rogers Leonard, AgCenter associate vice president, adding that the Zamorano students who visit LSU and the AgCenter are top-notch and represent their university well.

“Zamorano is known for the fact that it produces students that want to work,” Leonard said. “They want to learn; they want a good education, and they want to contribute to agriculture. That’s so important today.”

Susan Karimiha, AgCenter International Programs coordinator, talked about the visiting scholar program, which has so far brought 90 Zamorano students to the AgCenter. The scholars, who call themselves Zamo Tigers, come to complete semester-long internships as undergraduates and recent graduates. Some return to LSU and enroll in graduate school.

“The scholars positively impact our campus and show that with a career and education in the agricultural field, you can directly impact poverty and make a positive impact on countless individuals,” Karimiha said.

Currently at the AgCenter, two Zamo Tigers are visiting scholars, 28 are in graduate school, and five are faculty or staff members.

Although next year is Zamorano’s 75th anniversary, the undergraduate-only university has produced just 7,806 graduates to date, said Zamorano president Jeff Lansdale.

“It really speaks to the quality of the Zamorano educational program,” Lansdale said. “What used to be a three-year, more technical agronomy program is now a four-year university program. And those four years are so intense that Zamoranos who are here will agree that those were probably the most intense moments in their lives.”

Students are required to live in dorms, wear uniforms and spend about half their time working in on-campus fields, labs and food and agricultural production facilities.

The rigorous schedule and code of conduct instill a number of important lessons.

“That’s our mission — to maintain the excellence,” Lansdale said.

Zamorano students are critical to Honduras’ future, he said. The country’s population has grown rapidly — it doubled from 4 million 30 years ago to 8 million today — and with it, many problems have developed.

About 67 percent of the country lives in poverty, Lansdale said. Nearly 1 million Hondurans are teenagers who have dropped out of school and cannot find work. They are known as “ninis,” an abbreviated version of ni trabajan ni estudian, which means they neither work nor study.

Solving poverty would mean improving youth education, nutrition and health, the environment and employment opportunities. But “we just don’t have enough research going on … so there isn’t reliable information,” Lansdale said.

That is why Zamorano matters, Lansdale said, especially because many poor Hondurans come from farming backgrounds. With AgCenter help, students have been able to bring back valuable knowledge.

The university anticipates starting a master’s degree program in agriculture and food sustainability next academic year. It will also soon launch a capital campaign with the goal of raising $75 million to fund various campus initiatives.

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Rogers Leonard, LSU AgCenter associate vice president, left, welcomes attendees to the Symposium of Zamoranos on Oct. 7. The event highlighted the contributions of graduates of the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in Honduras to agricultural research and business around the world, as well as ways the university collaborates with the AgCenter. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Jeff Lansdale, president of the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School in Honduras, speaks during the Symposium of Zamoranos on Oct. 7 on the LSU AgCenter campus in Baton Rouge. Photo by Olivia McClure/LSU AgCenter

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Attendees of the Symposium of Zamoranos listen as Luis Osorio, a graduate of the Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural School and LSU, speaks on Oct. 8 on the LSU AgCenter campus in Baton Rouge. Photo by Marco Toc/Zamorano Agricultural Society at LSU

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Attendees of the Symposium of Zamoranos peruse research posters on Oct. 8 on the LSU AgCenter campus in Baton Rouge. Photo by Marco Toc/Zamorano Agricultural Society at LSU

10/13/2016 7:13:39 PM
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