ACES Global Academy wraps up 15th year with Partnerships for Global Impacts

musical instruments in La Paz.

The fifteenth year of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) Global Academy was appropriately marked with our faculty and staff working on projects around the world in countries including Colombia, Tanzania, and Bolivia. 

The ACES Global Academy program provides a forum for the selected faculty and staff to build and support capacity for international partnerships to achieve greater impact in their work. The academic year-long program includes a series of on-campus seminars, roundtable discussions, and events. The program typically concludes with the entire Global Academy cohort traveling internationally together to selected partner institutions; however, the 2021-22 format allowed for more flexibility as international travel returned post-pandemic, and the teams of two traveled to locations specific to their own projects.  

View the list of 2021-2022 Global Academy Partnership for Global Impacts teams and themes.  

As the five teams wrapped up their Global Academy projects, many have already reported strong impacts from the experiences, as detailed below.

“The Global Academy was an awesome opportunity to engage internationally and interdisciplinarily,” says participant Ann Witmer.


Improving grain quality in rice

Juan Arbelaez and Jessica Rutkoski, a team from Crop Sciences who are developing strategies to improve rice in the Latin America and The Caribbean, traveled to the annual meeting hosted by the Latin America Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) where they presented the latest advancements in their research collaboration.

The pair already has expanded collaborations from the experience.

“We created two new research projects from this visit, one would extend our collaboration in improving grain quality and marketability and the other will integrate genomic tools to improve rice resistance to blast and 'hoja-blanca' diseases. We have also agreed to write an NSF educational grant with CIAT to bring undergraduate students to Colombia and experience how a state-of-the-art Genebank operates and inspire the next generation of plant conservationists and custodians of plant genetic diversity,” says Albelaez.

“We identified potential visiting scholars to come to engage with our research groups starting in spring 2023 and we got FLAR interested in collaborating with us on applying predictive breeding methods for improved sensory properties in rice,” adds Rutkoski.


Improving dairy cattle genetics

Crystal Allen and Matthew Wheeler, a team from animal sciences, are working to improve dairy cattle genetics. As part of their Global Academy experience, Allen traveled to Tanzania to meet with collaborators and visually inspect cattle at the two participating ranches where they will travel in early 2023 to implant embryos.

The impacts of the work are far reaching.

“We will help the people of Tanzania improve their dairy cattle genetics in order to produce more milk using fewer cows. Increased milk production with fewer cattle will reduce GHG production and fewer cattle will graze less land to conserve the environment,” explains Allen.


Educating small farmers on fertilizer quality

Hope Michelson and Sarah Janzen, a team from Agricultural and Consumer Economics, worked with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture to further their work on small farmer beliefs about fertilizer quality.

The pair reported several impacts directly related to the Global Academy experience, including allowing for a graduate student to travel to Tanzania to collect data. They also built connections with the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa and faculty at Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro.


Bridging the Context Gap in Technology and Music

Agricultural and Biological Engineering’s Ann Witmer joined up with Bernard Scully in the Department of Music to travel to the Aymaran plains of Bolivia to engage with rural communities and explore both music and technology.

“We visited five rural communities as well as the city of La Paz, and were joined by the concert master of the Bolivian National Orchestra. Spontaneous music events provided my partner with insights into indigenous music, while explorations of food, energy, and water technologies with a partner NGO and Universidad Privada Boliviana (UPB) generated stronger understanding of place-based solutions to infrastructure needs. Constant conversations between principal investigators assisted us both in reframing our understanding of own disciplines through comparison of experiences,” says Witmer.

The pair are already working on a global classroom course for spring 2023 that will include UPB students and are in talks with a publisher about a book that was inspired by the collaboration. They are also hosting a summit this month to “to explore indigenous responses to climate change in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus.”


A unique platform for personal and professional growth

Year after year, faculty and staff report that the Global Academy experience provides valuable personal and professional benefits beyond specific research work as exampled above.  

This year’s Global Academy participants especially enjoyed:

  • Meeting other ACES colleagues interested in international agriculture
  • Having comradery and discussions with the others in the group.
  • Getting to know about the work of other researchers and research teams in the college
  • Building international collaborations
  • Enhancing collaboration with ACES team members which will lay the groundwork for future collaborations

Suzana Palaska, associate director in the Office of International Programs, says, “It has been exceptionally rewarding to witness this program’s impact on our faculty and staff’s ability to engage globally in very profound and impactful way. The College of ACES is a leader in international academic and community engagement efforts, in no small part due to capacity enhancing nature of the Global Academy."

Look for the announcement of the 16th ACES Global Academy cohort soon.

Learn more about the ACES Global Academy.