Students in Iowa State University's Global Resource Systems program have provided input at United Nations conferences, assisted refugees in Iowa and studied around the world with one objective – becoming globally engaged leaders and citizens.
On May 5, graduates with the degree will walk across the stage and into a world of challenges. Sam Bird is one of the first graduates to obtain a degree in the major, which was first offered to students in the fall of 2009. He decided to attend Iowa State because of the program.
Bird, who grew up in Ames, said he was originally headed to San Francisco to attend college. That changed when David Acker, Iowa State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate dean of academic and global programs, contacted him and explained the global resource systems major at Iowa State. The program allows students to choose an international region as their focus of study. Before graduating students learn the language and understand the resource issues in the region.
ISU graduating its first class of students majoring in Global Resource Systems
Gail Nonnecke, an ISU professor in horticulture who is the faculty coordinator of the Global Resource Systems program, says this major attracts students who are interested in addressing global issues in both developing and developed nations. "This program provides a chance to develop a deep understanding of another culture through internships and coursework," notes Nonnecke. "It's also a wonderful opportunity for Iowa businesses that want graduates who can speak the language and understand resource issues, the culture and agriculture of a specific region of the world."
Bird was one of the first students to sign up for the major. He also was one of the first student peer mentors in the learning community. He says it's amazing what he's learned from other students. "They go to Thailand, Morocco, India, China, all over the world," Bird says. "It's what my classmates do every summer."
Bird focused on Uganda where he completed a value chain analysis for corn markets in eastern Uganda – information that will help small landholder farmers. The message Bird shares with his peers, international students and even United Nations leaders, is that "we all have to work together to make the world sustainable."
These students are the future for global business, government and NGO agencies
Bird participated in the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development from 2009 through 2011, and was selected as a Udall Scholar. He plans to attend graduate school in agricultural and resource economics to study international development.
"I've always believed that students need to have a global perspective, but I never guessed how much I personally would learn by working with these students," Nonnecke adds. "We have students who do amazing things. This summer six students are attending the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil and more than 20 are completing internships in Africa, Asia, Europe, Central America, South America and North America."
The new ISU program has 85 students enrolled. Nonnecke says these are the future employees and leaders for global business, government and nongovernmental organizations. "These students will think systemically about solving complex problems involving global resources," Nonnecke says. "They have a bright future and will contribute to understanding how to sustain food and agriculture resources for the nine billion people estimated to populate the earth in 2050."