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July 13, 2001

Outreach critical to the future of agriculture education

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Universities of the future must be connected globally, yet be locally accountable. That's the overall message from key speakers at the Global Consortium of Higher Education and Research for Agriculture Conference taking place in San Francisco through Saturday (7/14).

More than 200 educators from agricultural universities and institutions, representing 130 countries, are participating in the conference. Conference discussions focus on how agricultural research and education will play a role in feeding the growing world population while sustaining the environment.

Rick Foster, vice president for programs at W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on applying knowledge to solve the problems of people, spoke today (7/13) and said: "Universities of the future must be part of the social fabric of a country, and they must use their tremendous knowledge to help people at all levels be successful."

Conference leaders note that as social and political changes occur all over the world, universities must be in step with those changes.

Martin C. Jischke, president of Purdue University and the consortium said, "The global shift toward market-driven economics has enormous implications for higher education in agriculture throughout the world. The mission of this consortium is to foster global cooperation to improve higher education and research for agriculture to help solve world food security and environmental problems."

Foster said that state and land-grant universities are providing appropriate higher education for the future of the United States, and that the land-grant university may be a model for institutions in other countries.

Foster challenged universities to not only focus on research, but also include outreach. In addition, he said universities must be sure that students can not only apply their new education to new problems, but that they can reorganize old knowledge in ways never thought of before.

To accomplish those tasks, Foster outlined six foundation-level building blocks for universities of the future:

• Create teaching programs that are both relevant to local communities and with a global context.

• Develop collaborative research programs that make the best use of minds from around the world.

• Develop a technology system that provides access to knowledge resources from all over the world.

• Use distance-learning technologies and the power of outreach to positively influence the education of more people.

• Develop a rewards and recognition system that encourages faculty to be their best in whatever areas support the university's mission and support collaboration with other institutions worldwide.

• Open up institutions to the public for inspection and participation to become the "people’s university."

"Information and knowledge are power, and technology is putting more and more of that power into the hands of the public, Foster said. "The way we react to the new learning and information society will determine whether or not universities will continue to be a resource for discovery and knowledge."

GCHERA was established in 1998 to foster cooperation and improvement of agricultural higher education and research institutions. During its July 1999 inaugural conference in Amsterdam, the group focused on leadership of higher education in agriculture. The consortium includes more than 260 universities in 134 countries.

Sources: Rick Foster, (616) 969-2209

Martin C. Jischke, (765) 494-9708

Writer: Steve Cain, (765) 494-8410

Purdue Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, Ag News Coordinator, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://persephone.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/news/

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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