Quarterly newsletter from ACES International at the University of Illinois.
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ACES International Newsletter - March 2020

ACES International is published twice per semester. Please click on the links for more information about these news items presented by the Office of International Programs in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 


The emergence of COVID-19 as a global health challenge is foremost in the minds of many people engaged in international work. The disruptions created by the virus are a reminder that we live in a highly connected world, in which a malady can transmit rapidly across countries and continents. Fortunately, the same complex connectivity that exposes us to threats at a global scale also gives access to unprecedented capacity to address those challenges. Effective responses to COVID-19 draw on a wide range of capabilities, including the ability to coordinate across borders and understand international contexts and global dynamics. By training students who become the leaders in government, industry, and science around the world and by building partnerships with institutions globally, the College of ACES and the University of Illinois as a whole are contributing to our collective ability to coordinate globally and minimize the impact of risks emerging from global connectivity. Even as the COVID-19 episode disrupts our international activities, it demonstrates the importance of learning from and working with international partners to address the grand challenges of the day. The stories in this newsletter show that ACES is building the talent and the partnerships that will help us maximize the benefits of global connections and minimize the consequences of global threats.

 Alex Winter-Nelson, Associate Dean, College of ACES Office of International Programs

Dean Kidwell and Alex Winter-Nelson with GBPUAT delegation. 

The College of ACES recently hosted a delegation from its longtime partner, India’s G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology (GBPUAT). The visit was motivated by GBPUAT’s interest in using funding from India’s National Agricultural Higher Education Program (NAHEP) to revitalize its relationship with the University of Illinois.

 “ACES International welcomes the opportunity to continue our historic relationship with GBPUAT under the NAHEP. The programs they are proposing, including leadership and student training, already exist within our capacity and experience, and the expanded international connections we can develop will offer new opportunities for ACES and Illinois,” says Alex Winter-Nelson, Associate Dean for International Programs.  

The history between GBPUAT and Illinois dates back many decades to 1964 when Illinois’ faculty were instrumental in designing this university (formerly Uttar Pradesh Agricultural University) and its education system, including research and extension programs, from the ground up. The dedication and hard work of the Illinois faculty paid off when the new university became a significant force in India’s green revolution that increased agricultural production in the developing world.

The forum's closing session presented by (L to R) Shahidur Rashid, Director, IFPRI South Asia; Ashok Gulati, Infosys Chair Professor for Agriculture, Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations; and Alex Winter-Nelson, Director, ADMI. 

The ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss (ADMI), a core program of ACES International, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) co-hosted “Securing the Harvest: A Forum on Improved Grain Storage for Smallholder Agriculture” on February 5, 2020, in New Delhi, India.

The event brought together thought leaders, researchers, and practitioners from the public and private sectors to discuss ways to reduce these losses in India. ADMI researchers at the University of Illinois and universities in India and Bangladesh presented outcomes from their work and contributed to this important discussion.

Proceedings and presentations from the forum are available at: https://postharvestinstitute.illinois.edu/outreach/new-delhi-forum/

IALP Class of 2020 members at Leitich Farms in Kenya. Photo provided by IALP. 

The Office of International Programs (OIP) hosted 30 emerging leaders in Illinois agriculture on February 6-7, 2020, for an international perspectives seminar as part of the Illinois Agricultural Leadership Program (IALP).

ACES is a longstanding educational partner for IALP and hosts its class members biennially to promote a greater understanding of international affairs that will be beneficial for the future of agriculture in Illinois.

For this year's program, OIP coordinated a diverse and knowledgeable line-up of speakers who provided insight into the culture, economy, agriculture, and political issues in Kenya and Israel, where the group later traveled as part of their curriculum. ACES faculty who presented included Nicholas Paulson, who spoke about advising the Trump administration on agricultural and trade issues and Pete Goldsmith, who spoke on soybean economics in Kenya.


An upcoming symposium hosted by the College of ACES will further the University of Illinois’ interdisciplinary work towards food security.

Registration is open for “Comparative Extension Models: Perspectives from the Field,” co-sponsored by University of Illinois Extension. The event will also be livestreamed.

This year’s keynote lectures include:  

  • “Effective Extension Strategies” by Steven Worth, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
  • “Perspectives on Community Development” by Anne Silvis, University of Illinois Extension

Additional sessions include:

  • Developing Collaborative Networks
  • Delivering Impactful Programming in the Digital Age
  • 4-H and Youth Programs
  • Effective Extension Learning Strategies

Please be aware that disruptions related to COVID-19 may affect this program. Registrants will be informed of any changes in planned activities.

Roger Thurow, senior fellow for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, gave the keynote address at the Soybean Innovation Lab's annual retreat on February 18, 2020. 

The Soybean Innovation Lab held its annual researcher and advisory board retreat February 17-18, 2020, on the Illinois campus. The focus of this year's retreat was on sustainable networks. Members of each managed research area evaluated their current African networks prior to attending. The purpose of the retreat was twofold: to assess the viability and strength of our networks, and then to look for ways to build and foster these networks so they can be sustainable well into the future.  

The retreat was held virtually in an effort to connect with partners from around the globe that could not join us in person. The Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial (PAT) program network joined from nine different countries across Sub-Saharan Africa providing attendees with first-hand experiences on the challenges involved with registering and licensing new soybean varieties. The PATs are currently in the process of bringing 15 new soybean varieties to farmers in Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Cameroon, and Malawi. 

Roger Thurow, author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, and most recently, The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—and the World, gave the keynote address. Thurow shared his expertise and guidance on how universities can turn their research into impactful, meaningful positive change in the development world. His lecture is available at the link above or by clicking the image.

Following the keynote event, the Office of International Programs coordinated opportunities for students to interact with Thurow. 


Craig Gundersen, distinguished professor and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, is serving as a co-investigator on a new project to improve the affordability of healthy food and food security in remote Australia. The $2.1 million grant was awarded through Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Center.

“The highest reported rates of food insecurity in Australia are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people residing in remote communities. Poverty co-exists with high food costs in these areas. This project aims to give the children in these communities the best start in life and addresses the inter-generational impact of food insecurity,” explains Gundersen.

Gundersen will be working with a team that includes indigenous and non-indigenous researchers led by Megan Ferguson from The University of Queensland.

The project has two phases over three years. Phase 1 will test the effect of a healthy food price discount on diet quality for women and children and the affordability of a healthy diet. Informed by these outcomes, Phase 2 will use qualitative methodology to develop a community-led framework of proposed solutions to improve food security. Specifically, the team will use photo and voice testimonials to maximize public acceptability around defined policy messages.  

Ultimately, the project findings and knowledge shared can contribute to the reduction of malnutrition, diet-related disease, and inter-generational poverty, in line with Australian targets and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Nicole Lee (second from right) with colleages from IITA, IIAM, and Mussa Bin Bique University. 

Nicole Lee, a graduate student in crop sciences advised by Adam Davis, visited Mozambique twice during the fall semester. In August she conducted an Integrated Pest Management and Pesticide Safety Training course for 97 extension workers in three districts in north and north-central Mozambique in collaboration with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM). She returned later in the semester to evaluate their learning retention. Her travel was partially supported by the ACES Graduate Student International Research Grant. 

Maize fields near Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo by Rodrigo Trevisan. 

Rodrigo Trevisan, a graduate student in crop sciences advised by Nicolas Martin, has been working with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) to understand the possible climate behavior in specific regions to help local farmers plan for and reduce the risks associated with climate variability. Trevisan's travel was partially funded by the ACES Global Food Security Graduate Fellowship Program.


Five talented and motivated ACES undergraduate students have been selected as Global Food Security Scholars to pursue work related to food and nutritional security in low and middle-income countries. Selected scholars will also receive funds to support the costs of participating in an international travel experience that is associated with the internship.

The 2020 spring Global Food Security Scholar interns are:

Anneli Cers will be studying the role of women in ensuring food security in Indian forest communities. She plans to share her results with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in New Delhi this summer. She is a student in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences supervised by Dan Miller.

Fina Healy and Katie Koprowski will be researching ways to inhibit bacterial growth in water that causes disease in developing countries. Both are students in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering supervised by Paul Davidson.

Allison Place and Rachel Pu will work with the Soybean Innovation Lab’s Pan-African Soybean Variety Trial program. They will travel to a SIL site in Africa to assist with data collection. Allison is a student in the Department of Crop Sciences. Rachel is a student in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Both will be supervised by Pete Goldsmith.


The Office of International Programs newsletter highlights the international activities in the College of ACES. If you have any comments, questions, or news items, please contact Leslie Sweet Myrick at lsweet@illinois.edu. Click here to: subscribe or unsubscribe from ACES international e-news.

Stay informed and involved! The Office of International Programs maintains lists of current international funding opportunities and upcoming international events.