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VIPP Partakes in MSU's Global Engagement through Borlaug Fellowship

Published: Tuesday, 09 May 2017
Author: VIPP
Department: Visiting International Professional Program

One of the most prominent research areas and strengths at Michigan State University is agriculture and food systems. "How will we feed a growing global population?" is one of the guiding questions that have shaped MSU's international research and global engagement. The Visiting International Professional Program at MSU partakes in this big idea by hosting Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Programs, managed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Borlaug program promotes food security and economic growth in the world by providing training and collaborative research opportunities to fellows from developing and middle-income countries. So far, VIPP has hosted two Borlaug fellows from Kenya and Vietnam and connected them to MSU faculty experts in the field of biotechnology and agricultural economics, respectively. 
In both cases, Dr. Xinyu Wu, director of VIPP served as a training coordinator. Her role was to identify MSU faculty experts in the fellows' relevant fields and work closely with the faculty and MSU Office of Sponsored Programs to develop project proposals and budgets. Once the project is awarded by USDA, the MSU faculty member serves as a mentor to the Borlaug fellows during the fellowship period. Typically fellows study and research at MSU's campus for 12-16 weeks. Dr. Wu and VIPP colleagues arrange all support needs for fellows so they quickly get settled in a new country and focus on their research right away. VIPP service does not end here. Once fellows return to their home countries, MSU mentors visit them to ensure their learning at MSU comes to reality and VIPP provides post award financial support to the MSU mentors.
"VIPP people were extremely helpful even prior to my arrival," says Ms. Dung Phuong Le, one of Borlaug fellows VIPP hosted. As a researcher from CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) Asia office in Vietnam, she stayed at MSU for 15 weeks from January to April 2017. For the first-timer in the US, fifteen weeks flied so fast. Although she was here in Michigan during the winter season, her MSU experiences could not be warmer: "It is such a warm and nice environment for international people. Everyone on campus was kind and friendly. I made many new friends. I was especially impressed by the diversity of campus." 

Dung Le, Borlaug fellow (left) hosted by VIPP poses with Dr. Mywish Maredia (right) in front of Beaumont Tower at MSU's campus 

Among others, her MSU mentor, Dr. Mywish Maredia in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at MSU, is the one who made Le feel at home most. Dung's research was about economic impacts of cassava production in Vietnam with a focus on finding out different methods to identify crop variety adoption by farmers and its impact on their livelihood and welfare. Dr. Maredia's extensive research expertise in impact assessment and economics of technology adoption in the developing countries was a perfect match for Le. In Vietnam, cassava is used for food and its extracted flour from roots is a popular export to China and other countries for industrial use. If you like boba tea (also called bubble tea) you may know that tapioca pearls inside the drink is made of starch extracted from the cassava root. In Africa, cassava is a good food security crop since it can withstand drought. Once grown, they don't have to be harvested immediately and they can be stored as it is in the ground for food security during the hunger season. Beyond that, cassava can feed animals and can be used for biofuel. Indeed, it is an important food and industrial crop serving multiple purposes worldwide. 

Dr. Mywish Maredia visited Vietnam prior to Dung Le's arrival at MSU. She will return to Vietnam to follow up Le's research implementation in summer 2017. 

During her stay, Dung Le also took three graduate courses and interacted with students and faculty at MSU. She already has a master degree in Agricultural Economics but she wanted to expand her knowledge and expertise. Her goal is to apply what she learned to Vietnam to give back to the community. Dr. Maredia will continue helping her with this goal. She will visit Vietnam to supervise her research application and meet CIAT cassava leader from Colombia. This is the general procedure of the Borlaug fellowship; the U.S. mentor later visits the fellow's home institution to continue collaboration and make sure the program fosters international exchange in agricultural sciences. 

Dung Le's MSU experiences couldn't be better without friends she made at international campus. 

VIPP is pleased to be part of such international exchanges. MSU departments, colleges and research centers that are in the process of bringing international visitors to campus or working on grant proposals for training, capacity building or logistic support, can turn to us for our expertise. 


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