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Food & Agribusiness Institute

Food & Agribusiness Blog for news, events, announcements, and more.

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  •  Summer 2013 Updates

    Happy August from FAI!

    As the new school year approaches, we are reflecting on the exciting and productive work that has taken place at FAI in the past several months. The Food and Agribusiness Institute frequently collaborates with Second Harvest Food Bank on a number of different projects, and this summer was no different.

    SHFB Summer Internship

    Sarah Madden, a rising junior at Santa Clara, recently wrapped up her internship with Second Harvest Food Bank. Sarah's work focused primarily on assisting Susan Takalo, Director of Programs and Services at SHFB, with distributing the Hunger Survey in the San Jose area

    Sarah is now heading off for a voyage with Semester at Sea and will return in January to continue working on her undergraduate studies, focusing on her FAI pathway.

    Cost of a Healthy Meal Research Project

    It has been over two years since the inception of the "Cost of a Healthy Meal" Research Project in the summer of 2011. Our research team has conducted over 600 interviews thus far, and by October 2013 they intend to have collected and analyzed 800 primary interviews, as well as secured 100 secondary and 100 tertiary follow-up interviews. The summer research team expanded to include 16 interns, seven research assistants, and one graduate student manager. We are excited about their recent progress and eagerly await the next formal update.

    Fall Immersion Trip

    The FAI staff is gearing up for the Institute's annual immersion trip! FAI Director Dr. Gregory Baker, and Assistant Director Erika French-Arnold, will be taking 12 students to Burma in September for a 13-day excursion. The students will have the opportunity to learn about the agriculture of various areas in Burma by speaking with the locals, exploring limestone caves, and learning about Burmese traditions such as silk weaving and meditation. We wish the group the best of luck on the adventure!

    IFAMA Student Case Competition

    FAI is proud to announce that a group of MBA students took 1st place at the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association's Student Case Competition this past June in Atlanta, Georgia. We can't wait to see what else the students will accomplish during their time at Santa Clara and their future careers!

     

    FAI has several exciting events in the works for fall, so check back soon and get all the information!

     

     

    Five MBA students pose proudly after taking first place in the IFAMA Student Case Competition in Atlanta, Georgia this past June.
    Five MBA students pose proudly after taking first place in the IFAMA Student Case Competition in Atlanta, Georgia this past June.
  •  FAI Burma Trip Featured in Campus-Wide Newsletter

     

    SCU in Myanmar

    Two years ago, Americans could not visit Myanmar, the beautiful Southeast Asian country that is transitioning—with occasional setbacks and bouts of violence—from a military-ruled country to a democracy. 

    But in early September, a group of 11 Santa Clara University students responded to an invitation from the business school’s Food and Agribusiness Institute (FAI), and joined a trip to Myanmar as a way of learning up close about that country’s traditional and varied farming methods for everything from tea, rice, sugar, peanuts to grapes; its challenges to develop its agricultural industry without damaging the environment; and the threats of global warming to the country’s industrious inhabitants. 

    “We had hoped the students would be pushed out of their comfort zone to experience both the challenges and richness of life in a developing country,” said Naumes Family Professor Greg Baker, the director of FAI who also accompanied the students on the two-week trip. “When I hear students describe their experiences as transformative or life-changing, I know that we’ve been successful.”

    FAI Assistant Director Erika French-Arnold, who planned and co-chaperoned the trip, believes SCU may be the first university to take students on an immersion trip to Myanmar.

    Several  students recently shared their experience with fyi:  Garrett Jensen, a senior accounting major; Lisa McMonagle, a junior majoring in political science and environmental studies; and Nicole Orban, a junior finance major. They each marveled at the country’s beauty and how vastly different it is from America—from its pagoda-dotted landscape to its extravagantly friendly residents (some of whom had never seen an outsider before).

    “Myanmar has very little western influence,” said McMonagle. “If you visit in the future, it probably won’t be the same. We all felt we came at a very unique time.”

    Among the highlights for students was a trip to a Yangong village, which required a four-hour bus ride and a two-hour boat ride on a branch of the Irrawaddy River. They were heading to a village that had never been visited by foreigners, so some of the children had never seen people with white faces. When the SCU students arrived, the entire village welcomed the group, escorting them to a monastery, feeding them nonstop, offering them extra bedding and setting up mosquito nets.

    “We were really struck by their generosity, and we did not feel that we deserved that necessarily,” said McMonagle. “One of my friends said it made her really aware of how other people treat strangers in other parts of the world.”

    The students also visited the city of Bagan, home to thousands of pagodas and temples, and villages along the Inle Lake region, where villagers farm on unique lake gardens, floating incubators for crops like tomatoes, supported with bamboo and beds of weeds.

    The visit included many stays in monasteries; meditation with Buddhist monks; lessons in microfinance; an audience with a midwife who shared tales of NGO contraceptive workshops that didn’t quite take (think men taking birth control pills and putting condoms on fruit, as they had been shown in demonstrations); and an attempt at foot-steering a fishing boat that almost landed some students in the drink.

    The level of poverty in the area was a shock to some students. “The poverty I experienced in Burma was unlike anything I was expecting to see,” said Orban. “Before the trip, I imagined that I would come into contact with begging, homelessness, and people suffering from a lack of the necessities of life. I found the most significant poverty was a poverty of options.”

    Orban noted that many of the younger girls were excited to find husbands—and will never have the opportunity to travel or learn in a classroom. “They don't have the luxury of choosing a career path,” said Orban. “They will marry young, live life on a farm, and raise their daughters to do the same.”

    Also during their stay, the students couldn’t avoid politics and the fact that the country (called Burma by countries like America that didn’t recognize the right of the military to change the name in 1989) is still heavily influenced by the military, which gave up power in 2011.

    “All of the people we talked to were extremely honest,” said Jensen. “But they were hesitant to be honest if they were government employees.”

    The students are now taking two classes to reflect on the experience, and have become Facebook friends with an author on Burmese culture and food whom they met during a class session before the trip.

    “I think that our students gained an appreciation of how privileged they are,” said Baker. “They learned the importance of a functioning democracy, infrastructure, education, working markets, access to health care—all of the things that we take for granted.”

    Both students recalled fondly using their free time to climb to the top of a pagoda in Bagan at sunrise and sunset, where they surveyed the landscape of the entire region, with its verdant waterways, crops, and temples and pagodas “popping out everywhere,” said McMonagle.

    “We were seeing this ancient, ancient place,” she said. “It was just beautiful.”

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