Global Glimpses – Spring 2024

A mosque with four white pillars and blue domes. Trees in the foreground and one person walking towards the mosque.
Photo of the Astana Grand Mosque taken by Jennifer Kushner on her first trip to Kazakhstan with the U.S.-Kazakhstan University Partnerships Program to Astana, Kazakhstan in 2023. 

From the Director’s Desk

Dear colleagues, partners, and friends, 

To kick off the new Gregorian year and start of second semester, I was fortunate to accompany a small group of UW colleagues to Almaty, Kazakhstan. We were there as coaches for Kazakhstani universities who were selected to participate in the U.S.-Kazakhstan University Partnerships Program offered by American Councils for International Education and led out of UW’s International Division. This project exemplifies many of the qualities that we strive for in our global engagements: a diverse UW team, committed leadership, personal and sustained relationships with international partners, exchange of ideas and expertise, cultural sharing, multilingualism. What stuck with me most has been a question about how we hold on to and hold up meaningful traditions and knowledges while reaching toward the new… technologies, identities, ways of knowing and being. Like so many places, including the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, Almaty reflects, and it seems embraces this tension- we visited universities leading cutting edge research inside and housed within or surrounded by ornate buildings constructed during a different era. 

These are good questions to ponder as we decide what initiatives to advance: What warrants preserving? What needs reimagining? We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us as we continue to refine how to best serve you. 

 In this issue of Global Glimpses we are excited to share the work of our 2023 and 2024 CALS Global awardees, provide updates on recent international visitors, provide a recap of our campus-wide event Global Day, and introduce some new initiatives we are working on. 

Since January 2024 we have formalized six new international partnerships with seven more actively in the pipeline. We have hosted visitors from at least eight countries and facilitated international travel, fellowships and sabbaticals for numerous faculty and staff through funding, connections, and resources.  

Further in this issue you can learn about two of our new emerging 5i partnerships, updates on our web presence, 175th Anniversary celebration events with CALS alums abroad, and much more.  

As we look toward semester’s end and the changed rhythm of summer, we want to say thank you to our colleague Cecilia ‘Cece’ de Lamare Hunt. Cece will be graduating in May and starting an internship aligned with her passions in global health and communications. She has added much to our team, and we wish her well! We also say good-bye to colleague Renally Canuto Ferreira, thank her for her contributions, and wish her well in her next endeavors.  

And thanks to you for all you do to make Wisconsin and the world better! 

In service-  

Global Innovation Award at Work in Uruguay

Dr. Valentin Picasso (Plant & Agroecosystem Sciences) was a 2023 recipient of the Krishna Ella Global Innovation Award. His project, titled “Perennial Interdisciplinary Center for Agriculture Sustainability in South America (PICASSA)”, aimed to develop a 5i* center for perennial agricultural sustainability in South America that will a) train students via an intensive course, b) coordinate interdisciplinary research and write grant proposals on perennial grains, c) communicate to society the relevance of perennial crops for agricultural sustainability.

In March 2024, Valentin traveled to Montevideo, Uruguay to teach a one-week course to twenty participants from Uruguay and Argentina. The participants were a mixed group that included graduate students, professional agricultural advisors, researchers, and government employees. An interdisciplinary team of instructors from University of Buenos Aires and CONYCET (Argentina), Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (Chile), and University of the Republic (UDELAR) (Uruguay), designed and implemented the program. The team’s expertise covered multiple disciplines including: ecologists, limnologists, agroecologists, plant breeders, agronomists, social scientists, nutritional scientists, as well as farmers and government representatives.

The course topics included: agricultural sustainability, global environmental challenges, the potential for perennial crops to address global challenges, examples of perennial grain crops under development globally (rice, Kernza, wheat, Silflower, sorghum), socioeconomic aspects of perennial agriculture, and examples of research in the US and South America on perennial crops.

A highlight of the course was trying Kernza pasta, bread, grissini, and pancakes from Kernza flour commercially available in the US provided by Dr. Picasso, prepared by students from the School of High Gastronomy. 

Valentin reflected on the course saying, “There was a lot of interest from participants on new solutions for the great challenges agriculture is facing, including climate change, and the potential of perennial crops to deliver solutions to these challenges. During the course one of the most intense rainfall events in the last decades hit Uruguay, which came right after a historical drought event. The increase in climate variability and climate extremes is very real, and people are concerned and actively looking for solutions to increase resilience in agricultural systems. Perennial grain crops are seen as a promising alternative.”

As for the future of the project, the participants and instructors are working on submitting a research proposal to the National Agency for Research and Innovation (ANII) on perennial grains and continuing to grow the PICASSA Global Center.

*5i partnerships are ones that are international, interdisciplinary, inclusive, innovative, and integrated

Valerie Stull Receives CALS Excellence in International Activities Award

Dr. Valerie Stull is the 2024 recipient of the CALS International Excellence Award. Valerie is a Faculty Associate in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology (CES) and a Research Scientist in the Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at UW-Madison. Her colleagues describe her as “an amazing energy, deeply dedicated to living a life of consequence through applying her learning to helping others, especially in matters of nutrition, agriculture, environment, and global health, with a special focus on the empowerment of rural women.”

Dr. Stull has an extensive list of international accomplishments, including:

  • Co-founding MIGHTi: the Mission to Improve Global Health Through Innovation, a women-led NGO focused on the needs of rural women, in Zambia and Rwanda. Recent and current projects include the Rural Women’s Innovation Hub, the Women’s Literary Project, the Community Water Initiative, Empowering Women through Agriculture, and the Mungu Menstrual Products Shop.
  • Co-founding the LAND (Livelihood, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Development) project, a partnership between the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology here in CALS, Kidlinks World (a South African focused NGO), and the Fort Cox Agriculture Training Institute (a South African college).
  • Helping to launch and serving on the board of the Kidlinks Small Farm Incubator (KSFI), a sustainable agriculture incubator farm in South Africa.
  • Leading the international work at SHALL, the Soil Health, Agroecology, and Liberation Lab at CES.

Currently, Valerie’s mixed methods research centers on themes related to sustainable food systems and planetary health, with attention to linkages between agriculture, climate change, health, well-being, and sovereignty. Her commitment to global engagement goes far beyond what is expected of her position. CALS Global is honored to be able to present her with this award at the CALS Award Ceremony on May 7th.

CALS Global 2024 Awardees

In 2024, CALS Global created a new award, the Global Research & Outreach (GRO) Award. This award seeks to advance sustainable agriculture and the life sciences through a focus on food systems decarbonization, water sustainability, novel agronomic systems, feeding the world through plant biology, promoting healthy aging through gut microbiome and nutrition, and preventing vector-borne diseases. All CALS faculty and academic staff are eligible to apply for this award.

The first recipient of the GRO Award is Dr. James Ntambi (Biochemistry) for his project titled ‘Impact of Enhancing Soybean Sack Gardening on the Lowering of Protein Deficiency Among Children in the Lweza-Mukono Community of Uganda’. The goal of this project is to address and prevent malnutrition through the distribution of soybean “sack gardens” in the Lweza village in Mukono, Uganda, to increase protein intake percentage in the diets of community members, specifically targeting young children in a sustainable manner. Dr. Ntambi will be using the funds to create sack garden kits comprised of 8-10 soybean seedlings, a mixture of black soil and cow manure, and nutritional pamphlets. The pamphlets will include an overview of basic nutritional information including a food pyramid with nutritional tips about defining a balanced diet and information about the benefits of soybean plants. He and his team plan to distribute 2 sack garden kits to 200 households. The project will be carried out over the summer of 2024.

The recipient of the Krishna Ella Global Innovation Award for 2024 is Dr. Erica Phillips (Nutritional Sciences) for her project titled ‘Community-based Diabetes Management: Formative Research for Intervention Design’. This project is exploring means to improve long-term adherence to dietary modification and medication when prescribed. Diabetes prevalence in Tanzania is over double that of the  African region. In both urban and rural areas of Tanzania, there is an unmet need to strengthen community-based interventions that aim to promote behavior modification for long-term diabetes management. Dr. Phillips is collaborating with her team members, Dr. Mary Vincent Mosha, Lecturer at the Institute of Public Health at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College, and Dr. Neema Kassim, Senior Researcher in Food Safety and Nutrition at the Department of Food Biotechnology and Nutritional sciences of the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology.

This project will conduct research to identify facilitators and barriers to uptake and persistence of dietary modifications and medication adherence recommended through current nutrition and health education in two urban and two rural health centers in Northern Tanzania. Dr. Phillips and her team will also explore the feasibility of promoting home gardens to increase consumption of locally appropriate healthy diets and on Health linkages through collaboration with the World Vegetable Center in Arusha. They plan to test the proposed intervention components using the Trials of Improved Practices Model (TIPS) and to potentially include the adaptation of long-term medication adherence model developed at UW-Madison. Updates will be shared throughout the course of the project.

Seven people dressed in protective gear to tour the Center for Dairy Research facility, including hairnets, gowns and booties.
On April 28th a delegation from Zambia visited the Meat Science & Animal Biologics Discovery Building (MSABD) to tour the facilities and learn more about the work being done at MSABD. From left to right: Kuba Kafwimbi, Steve Susann, Christine Mulyampiya, Director General Friday Nyambe, Colin Griffin, Jennifer Kushner, Kalunga Chibale.

CALS Visitors – Spring 2024

It has been a busy time for visitors this spring.  Since January we have hosted short-term visitors from Denmark, France, India, and Zambia. Several of these were focused on establishing industry- or government- university collaboration, and others were strictly university-based. Nonetheless we had an opportunity to share the incredible expertise and facilities within CALS working to address global challenges.  In April we said farewell to a long-term visiting scientist, Dr. David Animasaun from Ilorin University in Nigeria.  David was based in Dr. Heidi Kaeppler’s lab at the Wisconsin Crop Innovation Center for eighteen months where he was trained in crop genetic engineering and gene editing biology, and in molecular technologies including vector construction and genetic assays for transgene integration and copy number and detection of edited DNA sequences in crop genomes. In addition, he joined a team to conduct research in development and optimization of morphogene-based and meriste-based genome engineering and editing systems, initially focusing on maize and other monocot crops, then expanding to other crop species.  

On April 9th, there was a farewell luncheon for David where he gave a presentation describing his research results from his work on optimizing a new genome engineering/editing system in sorghum. Sorghum is an African crop he was interested in working with and which Heidi’s team was in the process of optimizing the systems for their sorghum transformation research and for their WCIC transformation/editing services. In addition, he gave an overview of his university, his position there, and his learning/training goals he had for his time with at UW-Madison. While presenting his research results, he also highlighted what he had learned and thanked and acknowledged the various people/teams that helped in his training and in advancing his experiments. He then discussed his plans for returning to his university and putting the new knowledge and training to work in his research lab and in working with university and government administrators on advancing plant biotechnology research and product development in their country. 

An audience of people turned towards a speaker.
Attendees listen to opening speaker Jonathan Øverby speak during Global Day, an event hosted by CALS Global, at Union South at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS

Global Day 2024 Recap

Global Day, CALS Global’s campus-wide event showcasing the breadth and depth of UW-Madison’s international expertise, was held on February 27th at Union South. The theme for Global Day 2024 was Wisconsin & the World. The event kicked off with a video welcome from Dean of CALS, Glenda Gillaspy, who highlighted the impact that international activities have had on advancing the mission of the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences. The first speaker of the day was  Dr. Jonathan Øverby, who hosts ‘The Road to Higher Ground with Jonathan Øverby’ on Wisconsin Public Radio. Dr. Øverby gave a talk titled “The Womanist Foundation of Roots Music and The Global Understanding of Diverse Groups”, that discussed his passion for world music and the experiences that led to his discovery of said passions.

The event then transitioned to the panel, roundtable, and contest sessions of the day. The Transdisciplinary Initiatives panel featured leaders from around campus who shared best practices and emphasized the importance of transdisciplinary approaches. The Student International Opportunities panel was presented by several returned study abroad students where they discussed the decisions behind choosing their specific programs and the things that future study abroad students should consider before choosing a semester-long program, field experience, or international internship. The Global Career Opportunities panel highlighted various career pathways for people interested in global engagement and the best resources for finding a global career.

Three people sitting at a panel table. Ankur Desai is talking.
Ankur Desai, professor and department chair in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, right, speaks during a panel about transdisciplinary collaborations during Global Day, an event hosted by CALS Global, at Union South at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Other panelists from left are Jorge Osorio and Jo Handelsman.
Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS
Four people seated at a panel table. Keira Obert is talking.
Keira Obert is a senior majoring in wildlife ecology and pursuing certificates in environmental studies, photography, and leadership, speaks during a panel about international opportunities for students, during Global Day, an event hosted by CALS Global, at Union South at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. Other panelists, from left, are Brandon LaBeau, Sydney Bamdad and Jill Goldwasser.
Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS
Two people seated at a panel table. Marie Koko is speaking.
Marie Koko of the La Follette School for Public Affairs speaks during a panel about global career opportunities during Global Day, an event hosted by CALS Global, at Union South at UW–Madison in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. At left is panelist Andrea Poulos.
Photo by Michael P. King/UW–Madison CALS

There were thirty-five roundtables hosted by various offices and programs from around campus that provided resources, networking opportunities, and helped attendees plan for their own global experiences. Some tables had a student-oriented focus, such as the study abroad advising drop-in tables, while others focused more on faculty and staff, such as the international partnerships table. The depth and breadth of the roundtables demonstrated the robustness of international engagement at UW-Madison.

The poster contest provided an opportunity for faculty, staff, and students to share their international research or international experience with the wider campus community. This year’s poster contest winners were:

  • Dante Pizarro: Perceptions of changes in agroecological practices of dairy farms by smallholders in Mexico and Peru
  • Trang Tran: Tiny Earth: Student Sourcing Antibiotic Discovery
  • Genevieve Kell: Water Distribution – Las Pencas & Las Mesas, Nicaragua
  • Geoffrey Siemering: From Coca to Cacao in the Colombian Amazon

The photo contest provided the opportunity for attendees to vote for their favorite photo that showcased Wisconsin & the World. Pictured from left to right below, the winners were:

  • Allie Weber: Walking in the Sahara
  • Moldir Oskenbay: Learning Kazakh at UW-Madison
  • Sylvia Miller: Tuesday at the 시장
A magnificent sand dune with two people far in the distance walking down the dune.
Five people at a table at the UW-Madison terrace holding up the flag of Kazakhstan and two signs with writing in Kazakh.
A bustling market scene. There are colorful umbrellas and goods to purchase with people walking down the street.

Mr. William Hsu (BBA ‘00) provided the afternoon talk titled “Hsu’s Ginseng: The Wisconsin Idea in Action Globally”, where he discussed the importance of ginseng as a global crop and Wisconsin’s leadership role in that industry, as well as his family’s journey to create Hsu’s Ginseng. Mr. Hsu also provided ginseng tea samples for all the attendees.

The keynote address was delivered by Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguez who discussed her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa and the important role that international experiences have in life, at UW-Madison and in the state of Wisconsin. She recognized International Peace Corps week and the important relationship that UW-Madison has had with the Peace Corps as a top volunteer-producing university.  The Lieutenant Governor recognized the Global Day 2024 attendees’ impact by saying, “With your help, we are well on our way to building the future that we want to see for ourselves, for our state and the world.”

The closing remarks were delivered by Vice Provost and Dean of the International Division, Frances Vavrus, who celebrated the international contributions that UW-Madison has made in its 175-year history.

Global Day 2024 was co-hosted by 4W Initiative, College of Agricultural & Life Sciences, CALS Study Abroad, Global Health Institute, International Division, Mead Witter School of Music, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Office of Business Engagement, School of Education Global Engagement Office, School of Medicine & Public Health Office of Global Health, School of Nursing, Visiting International Students Program, and the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

Help CALS Grow Global Initiatives

You can support our programs with a charitable gift directed to the CALS International Programs Fund (112040058)
at the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association. 

Looking Forward

We continue to catalyze and support global engagement on behalf of CALS while advancing 5i* partnerships to achieve our vision- A world fed and supported by a thriving agro-ecosystem.   

This semester we were pleased to offer a new mini-grant program – the Globalizing Research and Outreach (GRO) award – which is intended to catalyze projects that contribute to CALS’ research priorities. Also, starting this semester you can find us easier online with a new shared landing page with CALS Study Abroad, and increased visibility on the main CALS website. 

Our work with the Tropical Agriculture Research and Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica focused on Food Systems Transformation has continued to grow.  There are several theme teams comprised of faculty and staff at both institutions working to develop funded collaborations. The themes include:  

  • Climate change and knowledge transfer 
  • Food and nutrition for the next generation 
  • Restoration and ecological functions 
  • Student and faculty exchanges 

If you are interested in joining a work team or learning more, please contact us

Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) is one of our newer 5i partners with whom we have been exploring and developing areas for collaboration. The main areas of focus have been on the food-water-energy nexus, health, and life sciences communications.  JUST is part of a network of Jordanian institutions who are members, alongside several US universities, of the RAWABIT Binational Higher Education Cooperation Network.  RAWABIT’s primary goal is to facilitate higher education cooperation and university-industry partnerships between Jordanian and U.S. institutions. RAWABIT is funded by the U.S. State Department. If you are interested in participating or learning more, please contact us

We are excited to share some new initiatives we will be working on over the coming months and year.  These include creating new professional development offerings for CALS faculty and staff, establishing programs focused on global leadership in sustainable development, strengthening CALS’ global data for creating better connections and sharing opportunities.  Jennifer will also be traveling to Southeast Asia in June with the Chancellor and a small delegation from UW-Madison. She will be representing CALS at UW-Madison’s 175th Anniversary Celebrations in Seoul, Korea and Bangkok, Thailand, and meeting with partners in both countries.

*5i partnerships are ones that are international, interdisciplinary, inclusive, innovative, and integrated.