National Needs Fellowship focuses on training leaders

PULLMAN – WSU has received a $258,000 National Needs Fellowship grant from the U. S. Department of Agriculture to help train the next generation of policy makers, educators and researchers in agriculture.

The grant, in the form of fellowships, will support three Ph.D. students for three to four years. WSU was one of 12 universities selected by the USDA to receive NNF grants for fiscal year 2008. The program targets a number of areas short in expertise, including agricultural systems engineering, agricultural management and economics, and sustainable sciences.

Markus Flury, professor of soil physics; Joan Wu, associate professor of biological systems engineering; Claudio Stockle, chair of biosystems engineering; and Ray Huffaker and Phil Wandschneider, professors in the School of Economic Sciences, are actively seeking suitable candidates for the multi-disciplinary doctoral graduate fellowship program. They developed WSU’s proposal which focuses on sustainable development and natural resource management.

Research can be done in any of the three departments, but the main focus is biological systems engineering and economics, according to Flury. “Fellows will have a lot of leeway to choose research,” he said. “There aren’t many strings attached regarding the research topics.”

The fellowship includes an internship at the University of Bologna in Italy to further global awareness and understanding. “Students will have the opportunity, in their second year, to go to Bologna for two to three months to take courses and do research,” Flury said. They will attend relevant courses and conduct research. WSU and the University of Bologna have established a Graduate Student Exchange Program which allows course credits to be transferred between the universities. Each fellow will receive an $8,000 travel allowance to cover the expense of international internship as well as Italian language training before going.

Flury has had about a dozen inquiries since he started recruiting students in December. Two engineering students have been accepted for the fall 2009 semester. One more fellowship is available for the spring 2010 semester.

Applications from underrepresented minorities and first generation college students are encouraged. “One important goal of the program is to recruit minority students,” Flury said.

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