Pilot program brings together international minds

Jacqui Becker

Nineteen graduate students and faculty members from around the world have arrived at Iowa State in an effort to improve higher education, agriculture and the environment of their countries. The visit is the first in the International Higher Education Loan Program (I-HELP), which was developed to help students and young faculty get loans to travel to another country, said David Acker, director of international agriculture programs. “I-HELP aims to help the world’s brightest young professionals gain international experience and build leadership skills as they prepare to address two great challenges facing our world today – food security and environmental sustainability,” he said. In the past two years, Iowa State has formed a consortium of universities all over the world. There are currently 264 members representing 132 countries, Acker said. “The idea was to bring similar agriculture universities together to share ideas and exchange students,” he said. Twelve countries are represented by 19 international agricultural leaders who will work with the College of Agriculture for three months. “Essentially the faculty will act as mentors and have the international students participate in faculty’s research projects,” Acker said. Participating mentor Allen Knapp said there is an opportunity for learning on both levels. “It’s really two way learning; it is always good for everyone,” said Knapp, associate professor of agronomy. Brian Meyer, agriculture communications specialist, said the program will help Iowa State’s faculty gain international experience. “It will help them know what is going on around the world,” he said. The international visitors are matched with one faculty member and then decide their areas of research. “It can be tailored to the interest of their countries,” Meyer said. “It can fit into their interests in agriculture and production.” Iowa State privately raised about $120,000 for the pilot program. The program will be evaluated by a committee in three months.