Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 13, 1999

Iowa State assumes a lead role in international consortium

by Anne Dolan
Iowa State emerged last month as a leader in a new international consortium formed to uncover ways to feed a burgeoning world population -- and raise the quality of food available to many. The Global Consortium of Higher Education and Research for Agriculture aims to do this through shared technology, people exchanges among member schools and research institutes, curriculum reforms in higher education to graduate better-prepared students, and a mindset of international cooperation.

Formed last September, the consortium held its first event, a conference focusing on leadership in higher education, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 22-24. Amsterdam was selected for its neutral, accessible location.

Iowa State personnel planned the conference and President Martin Jischke, who is president of the consortium during its first year, gave the keynote address. (Jischkes speech is available online at www.iastate. edu/~pres_info/speeches/99/amsterdam.html.) Education dean Walt Gmelch also spoke on trends in educational leadership.

"We don't have the time to achieve the reform that's needed, one institution at a time," Jischke said. "The need for reform is global in scale and a challenge in many places."

And while there's lots to be learned from others, Jischke said Iowa State is one of a small group of institutions "defining the standard."

"We're seen by many as truly a leader," he said.

Jischke said the consortium will work toward its goals via conferences -- such as the Amsterdam gathering -- on a variety of relevant topics, exchanges of people among institutions and working groups. About 10 suggestions for initial working groups emerged at the Amsterdam conference, he said, including a virtual electronic university, a revolving loan fund to serve students attending consortium member schools, food safety and veterinary medicine.

About 100 universities from 35 countries sent representatives to Amsterdam. Membership is open to all colleges and universities in the world with an agriculture program.

Iowa State's College of Agriculture will serve as secretariat of the consortium through 2001, supporting the group's president and managing day-to-day activities. Agriculture dean David Topel was careful to point out, however, that the consortium is larger than just the college or even ISU.

"There's been a strong interest in this concept, from universities and institutes around the world and from funding groups such as the Kellogg Foundation, for a long time," Topel said. "This needed to be done; it's time. "And if it's done well, the consortium will be able to do a lot more than Iowa State or the agriculture college can do," he added.

Topel said ISU faculty and staff can receive more information on working group topics and get involved in any that interest them. Individuals also may become consortium members for $25 a year.

Funding partners of the conference included UNESCO, the United States Agency for International Development, the Farm Foundation (a private foundation based in Oak Brook, Ill.), and the Kellogg Foundation.

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