We coordinate a variety of events to facilitate international engagement. See below for information on current and past lectures, workshops, and symposia. For upcoming events, you can view our calendar.

Workshops & Special Seminars Distinguished International Lecture Series Symposia

Lectures and Symposia

Distinguished International Lecture Series

Our Distinguished International Lecture Series brings special guests to campus to highlight international affairs. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to learn from and interact with our guests.

Previous lectures include:



We organize and co-sponsor symposia events for internal and external audiences.

Workshops & Special Seminars

The goals of our workshops and special seminars are to:

  • provide educational opportunities and interactions with distinguished guests
  • create access to policymakers, and governmental or other agencies for our faculty, staff, and students
  • deliver discipline-specific content with a strong international dimension 
  • highlight current global collaborations 
  • find potential global collaborators

Speakers have included the former Director of NIFA’s Center for International programs, the Director of FAO North America, and many other USDA, USAID, and FAO administrators.


2019-20 Seminar Series

October 18, 2019 - "Food Safety at the Nexus of Food Security—Lessons Learned from Afghanistan for Future Use”

Presented by Dr. Haley Oliver, Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety

Co-sponsored with the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition

November 15, 2019 - "Multi-Omics Integration for Modeling Drought Stress Response in Soybean"

Presented by Prof. Hiroyoshi Iwata, University of Tokyo

Co-sponsored with the Department of Crop Sciences

2018–19 Seminar Series

September 7, 2018 - Crop Sciences

Dr. Eduardo Chavez Navarrete, Escuela Superior Politecnia del Litoral, presented "Cacao (Theobroma casao, L.) as an ideal crop for studying environmental soil-plant science in Ecuador: previous, ongoing and future research activities"

September 26, 2018 - Division of Nutritional Sciences

Dr. Betty Schwartz, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented "Identification and characterization of novel molecules involved in the regulation of metabolic homeostasis"

October 12, 2018 - Agricultural and Biological Engineering

Dr. Rubens Tabile, Professor, Department of Biosystems Engineering at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, will present  “Agriculture in Brazil and University of Sao Paulo"

October 15, 2018 - AGREACH

David Gandhi, Agriculture Development Practitioner, specializing in sustainable agriculture, soil and water conservation, and natural resource management, will present “Developing a Climate Smart Alternative to Shifting Cultivation for Hill Regions”

November 8, 2018 - Crop Sciences

W-121 Turner Hall at 2 p.m.

Dr. Ricardo Oliva, Research Specialist at the International Rice Research Institute, "Exploring the rice microbiome to design future crop improvement efforts"

2018 Workshop: French Funding Institutions

For faculty and staff interested in funding opportunities with French institutions

To facilitate partnerships with French institutions, the ACES Office of International Programs hosted the Attaché for Science and Technology Consulate General of France Tatiana Vallaeys on February 12. She presented a seminar to faculty and staff who are interested in funding opportunities for collaborations with French institutions. 

French Funding Institutions presentation

“My job is to promote contacts between researchers in the Midwest and your peers and potential collaborators in France,” explained Dr. Vallaeys who is currently on sabbatical from her professorship at the University of Marseille to work in this position.  

She listed her two major aims in speaking to Illinois scientists as:

1. Reconnecting them with INRA, the world’s second-largest agricultural research center. “We have a long history that has fallen off, but now we need to see where we can reconnect,” she said. She worked at INRA for 15 years.

2. Finding potential collaborators for Pasteur Institute where she also worked for several years.

Vallaeys noted that most opportunities with these institutes would require an Illinois researcher to first establish a strong relationship with a French host institution or colleague.

“Please use me as an intermediary to help you find a French colleague who may be doing similar work,” she said.

She highlighted several initiatives and opportunities potentially of interest to ACES faculty and students including:

  • Make our Planet Great Again

    • An initiative of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron contains a series of ambitious and innovative measures to embed the objectives of the Paris Agreement in public action and to involve all actors in this global fight. Dr. Vallaeys said this is a great opportunity for sabbaticals to work with French scientists in France.

  • Thomas Jefferson Fund 2018 Call for Proposals

    • The 2018 Call for Proposals is now open until March 12. This program, launched by the Embassy of France in the United States and the FACE Foundation, aims to encourage cutting-edge, multidisciplinary research projects of the highest quality and especially seeks to support emerging collaborations involving a team of younger researchers. Each selected French-American project will receive up to $20,000 over two years.

  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowships

    • The Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions support researchers at all stages of their careers, regardless of age and nationality. Researchers working across all disciplines are eligible for funding. The MSCA also supports cooperation between industry and academia and innovative training to enhance employability and career development.

  • French Innovation Week 2018

    • The 5th Annual event will take place in May 2018 with a variety of events throughout Chicago that showcase the best of French science, technology, innovation, and more.

  • Fulbright Grants for U.S. Citizens

    • The Franco-American Fulbright Commission's US Scholar Program offers grants to US academics, university and college administrators, professionals, and artists to lecture and/or pursue research in France.

  • Erasmus+ - Key Action 1 - Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees

    • Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees (EMJMDs) are international study programs delivered by a consortium of higher education institutions (HEIs) from different countries and where relevant other partners with specific expertise and interest in the study program.   

Vallaeys encouraged faculty and staff with questions about finding collaborations in France can contact her at attache-agro@amboscience-usa.org or (312) 327-5237.

The website for her consulate office in Chicago is https://www.france-science.org/-Homepage-English-.html, and all the opportunities she discussed are available there.

More about the speaker: Tatiana Vallaeys was appointed as attaché for science and technology at the French consulate in September 2017. She is a Professor of microbial ecology and biotechnology at the University of Montpellier, France. She holds an HDR (DsC) in Microbial Ecology from the University of Dijon France, a joined Ph.D. degree from the University of Lille (France) and Cardiff (United Kingdom), a master's degree in statistics from the Lyon University (France) and a second master in biology –biochemistry from Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France. She also graduated in Management from IAE Montpellier France. She worked for over 15 years for INRA, the French Agronomic research institute, mainly on bioremediation, and spent 5 years at the Institut Pasteur working on an NIH-funded project to develop multi-pathogen screening techniques in biological fluids and aqueous environments.

2017 Workshop: Foreign Agricultural Service

FAS representative discusses opportunities for trade capacity building in agriculture

As part of the College of ACES International Seminar Series, the Office of International Programs hosted Jocelyn G. Brown, a Deputy Administrator for the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), who spoke to students, faculty, and staff about “Trade Capacity Building in Agriculture and Opportunities for Engagement with the FAS.” She was joined by Jim Suits, an International Program Specialist with FAS.

The Foreign Agricultural Service leads the United States Department of Agriculture’s efforts to help developing countries improve their agricultural systems and build their trade capacity. The agency also administers food assistance programs that benefit people in need around the world.

Brown explained, “The FAS links U.S. agriculture to the world to enhance export opportunities and global food security through three strategic pillars: Trade Promotion, Trade Policy, and Trade Capacity Building.”

What exactly is Trade Capacity Building?

Brown defined “trade capacity building” as “technical assistance that results in an improvement in the ability of a beneficiary country to participate in international markets and trade.” She said trade capacity building is “mutually beneficial” because it allows access to broader markets, increased efficiencies, and greater food security.

An explosion in the global middle class and their demands for better quality of food and more protein have revolutionized agricultural systems, she said.

“Opportunities exist abroad because the gross domestic product for developing countries is projected to grow at more than double the rate of developed countries,” she said.

To build trade capacity, the FAS has identified five thematic priorities: Post-harvest loss reduction (including food waste), climate-smart agriculture, nutrition, market information systems (improving quality and analysis of data), and compliance with international policies and trade organizations to protect from the spread of pests, diseases, and contaminants.

She noted some additional emerging challenges including how to get electricity to farmers in developing countries and the increasing number of displaced people (refugees) in the world and the resulting strain on resources, for example, water resources in Jordan.

FAS uses the best technical skills available, Brown said, to implement its programs to achieve its priorities and address emerging issues. These resources may include universities, like Illinois, international organizations, foreign governments, and consulting firms.

The FAS links with universities for short and long-term technical expertise, to implement activities, or innovative applied research, and to train the next generation.

Brown mentioned the following three programs specifically (click titles for more information) as of interest to faculty members: 

Quality Samples Program (QSP)

The QSP enables potential customers around the world to discover the quality and benefits of U.S. agricultural products. The program focuses on processors and manufacturers rather than consumers, and QSP projects should benefit an entire industry or commodity rather than a specific company or product. Projects should focus on developing a new market or promoting a new use for the U.S. product.

Emerging Markets Program (EMP)

The Emerging Markets Program (EMP) helps U.S. organizations promote exports of U.S. agricultural products to countries that have -- or are developing -- market-oriented economies and that have the potential to be viable commercial markets.

Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC)

The Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) program provides funding to U.S. organizations for projects that address sanitary, phytosanitary and technical barriers that prohibit or threaten the export of U.S. specialty crops. Eligible activities include seminars, workshops, study tours, field surveys, pest and disease research, and pre-clearance programs. Eligible crops include all cultivated plants and their products produced in the United States except wheat, feed grains, oilseeds, cotton, rice, peanuts, sugar, and tobacco.

A comprehensive list of FAS programs can be found here: https://www.fas.usda.gov/programs

Brown and Suits concluded the presentation by encouraging researchers to reach out to the USDA about their ideas for furthering trade capacity building.

“We greatly value continued and new connections between institutions and researchers, and even if we don’t have funding or a relevant program, we will try to make connections,” Brown said.

2017 Workshop: National Institute of Food and Agriculture

NIFA’s Director of International Programs offers global perspective

Why should ACES engage globally?

This question was answered convincingly by Dr. Otto Gonzalez who serves as Director of the Center for International Programs at the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) when he spoke recently on campus as part of the ACES International Seminar Series.

Using four categories, Dr. Gonzalez explained the benefits of active international engagement:  

1. Trade and food safety

A great portion of our food comes from other parts of the world so by sharing science, we are also protecting ourselves.

“We want people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. This is one of USDA’s promotional messages. ‘Eat your colors - Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables’ – this is what we tell people. But even though we produce a lot here, half of our fresh fruits and nearly half of our vegetables are imported,” Gonzalez said.   

The United States imports fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables from 64 different countries, he noted.

“We need to share our science, including techniques for diagnostics, prevention, and detection, with other countries so they can better protect against microbial contamination which ultimately protects us as well,” he urged.   

2. Emerging and reemerging diseases as a threat to food safety

Plant and animal diseases often initiate elsewhere, so it is beneficial to address them before they arrive in the United States.

Gonzalez provided multiple examples of how diseases threaten our food safety. Wheat blast, which causes plants to be absent of seed, somehow made its way from Latin America to Bangladesh. And the cost of the 2013 Asian influenza in chickens amounted to $1 billion worldwide. “Not only are the birds lost, but faith in the industry is lost,” he said. 

“In working with other countries we are able to share information and test out resistances in different areas of the world. Being able to protect ourselves from these emerging and reemerging diseases is a strong case for global engagement,” he said.

3. Climate trends as a threat to food security

Uncertainties in climate are contributing to global food insecurity.

Using a color-coded map of the world, Gonzalez demonstrated, "The areas already most affected by food insecurity are also the areas being most affected by variabilities and uncertainties in climate.”

“Many of these areas are already dry, and the changes in rain patterns are further exasperating the situations,” he added. And droughts and lack of access to water often contribute to migrations, further compromising food security.

He noted that NIFA has already worked with Tanzania to develop a climate change resistance plan to adapt to the changing climate.  

4. Conflict

Much of the world’s conflict is rooted in a lack of resources.

“Another reason to engage with the rest of the world is to prevent conflict. Because so much of conflict is rooted in the loss of people’s livelihoods, often which are agricultural,” he said.

To conclude the first segment of his presentation, he said, “There are lots of good reasons to engage globally, but I’ve found these categories to be a handy way to summarize them.”  

Opportunities for Engaging with NIFA

Gonzalez next discussed how academics can use NIFA as a resource for international engagement.

He clarified that obviously, a National Institute of Food and Agriculture is national in nature. In fact, he said only 2.6% of NIFA’s current projects have global engagement. He noted that at least five of these awards are based at the University of Illinois!

 “NIFA supports global engagement that advances U.S. agricultural goals,” he clarified.

The Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program is the flagship competitive grant for U.S institutions. The NIFA website posts the AFRI calls at: https://nifa.usda.gov/afri-request-applications.

The site states that in the Fiscal Year 2017, there will be seven Requests for Applications (RFAs): Foundational Program; Childhood Obesity Prevention Challenge Area; Climate Variability and Change Challenge Area; Food Safety Challenge Area; Sustainable Bioenergy and Biproducts Challenge Area; Water for Food Production Systems Challenge Area; and the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Human Sciences Education and Literacy Initiative.

“International collaborations often show a greater impact, and you can write your partners into your proposal,” he noted. “The objective has to come back to a domestic objective,” he clarified.

Many of the points covered by Dr. Gonzalez about AFRI’s international partnerships can be found on this AFRI Q&A page: https://nifa.usda.gov/resource/afri-international-partnerships

He noted that NIFA has added several international partners to give U.S. researchers additional opportunities to work with international colleagues. NIFA and its international partners hope to issue more joint proposals in the future.

 “We are not giving each other money; we are each funding our own researchers,” he said of the international collaborations.

Dr. Gonzalez said a way to collaborate with your former international students is to encourage them to apply for the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) grants: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/peer/index.htm

The Office of International Programs and the College of ACES were honored to have Dr. Gonzalez as a speaker and guest. During his visit, he met with several ACES administration members, faculty, and students.

More about Dr. Gonzalez: Otto Gonzalez in February 2016 became the Director of the Center for International Programs at the NIFA. Before that he was a Special Projects Officer in the Office of Capacity Building and Development in the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), based in Washington, D.C. with frequent travel, where for 19 years he led international technical assistance activities to build capacity in natural resource management, agriculture, and rural development. Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central America are among the areas where Gonzalez has had projects. He earned his Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environment (focused in forest ecology) from the University of Michigan.

More about NIFA: https://nifa.usda.gov/

2017 Workshop: United Nations

UN visitors discuss sustainable development goals and encourage students to join the major group for children and youth.

As part of the College of ACES International Seminar Series, two representatives from the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) visited the University of Illinois campus to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how students can get involved with the UN to help achieve these 17 goals.

The SDGs are the new global framework passed by the United Nations General Assembly to tackle a host of social, environmental, and economic challenges including ending poverty and hunger, providing access to clean water and sanitation, and addressing climate change.

Mr. Christopher Dekki and Mr. Aashish Khullar discussed how the SDGs are interconnected and how they evolved from the UN’s previous goals. They encouraged students and student groups to officially join the UNMGCY.

SDGs are interconnected

Mr. Dekki asked the audience, consisting mostly of students, to identify a “favorite” of the 17 goals. After receiving various answers including “climate action” and “clean water and sanitation,” he responded, “The best answer is all of them.”

The UN’s official stance is that all of the goals are equally important and inter-connected. Dekki said that although all member countries have agreed to implement the goals as equally as possible, it is also understood that countries are in different places with regards to achieving the various goals and may require more work on some than others.

Dekki explained how the 17 SDGs evolved from the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015.

“The MDGs were considered a gift,” said Dekki. Developed nations were seen as helping developing nations.

“However, the way we were doing things for so long is no longer sustainable. All of us have been involved in unsustainable practices,” said Dekki. Now, the UN considers every member country as a developing country in relation to these goals.

“The traditional narrative focused on an economic dimension. More money always meant good things would come, and growth was always good. With the new goals, for example, gross domestic product is still a target, but lots of other things are measured too, including equality in social and environmental outcomes,” explained Dekki.

The new SDGs also provide for the engagement of protected and legally mandated spaces for key sectors of society like children and youth.

Join the UNMGCY

The UN MGCY is the official UN General Assembly mandated space for children and youth to engage in several intergovernmental and policy processes at the UN. The group acts “as a bridge between children and youth and officials in the UN system.” It has been a key player in global policy formulation since its creation in 1992, as part of Agenda 21.

The speakers urged students who are interested in a particular topic – or ideally all 17 of the goals – to officially join the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. Students can join as individuals or as student organizations. Members should be under age 30 or part of an organization that represents the interests of children or youth.

You can officially join at this link: http://childrenyouth.org

Email: op@childrenyouth.org

Facebook: UNMGCY

Twitter: @UNMGCY

The visitors were hosted by Soo Ah Kwan, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and Asian American Studies, and their travel was supported by the ACES Office of International Programs.

More information about the speakers:

Christopher Dekki has years of advocacy experience in intergovernmental policy processes at the United Nations. Currently, he is working for the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development, coordinating national Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation workshops in multiple countries. Dekki is active in the UN advocacy work of many youth-led organizations, particularly the youth movement from which he comes, the International Movement of Catholic Students. As a Board Member, he also supports the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, the official space for youth engagement in UN policy processes. Dekki is an adjunct professor of political science at St. Joseph's College in New York City.

Aashish Khullar is one of the Organising Partners of the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. His thematic work includes research in environmental and ecological economics, looking at the integration of environmental variables in economic analysis in the context of a steady-state economy. He is a StartingBloc fellow. He is originally from New Delhi and received his bachelor's from the London School of Economics. He is currently based in Boston.