(Information provided by MSU Office of Public Affairs News Bureau)
Mississippi State University’s work to address key challenges of the 21st century was the focus of a speech delivered by MSU President Mark E. Keenum in Italy on Wednesday [Nov. 6].
At the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters in Rome, Keenum addressed an audience of FAO officials and staff, as well as ambassadors to the UN’s mission in the historic capital city.
“We know that agriculture is a key to transforming developing nations and reducing poverty,” he said. “We also know that for the United States, investing in international agriculture aid pays dividends domestically.”
According to the FAO, more than 820 million people suffer from chronic hunger and about 736 million people live in extreme poverty. The agency is working with its partners to “achieve a world without hunger, malnutrition and poverty and do so in a sustainable manner.”
Keenum described the impact major research universities in the United States, like MSU, can have in the global fight against hunger and poverty.
“American universities, and particularly land-grant institutions such as Mississippi State University, are well equipped to help governments, international organizations like FAO, the private business sector, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in addressing these pervasive problems,” he said. “Land-grant universities have knowledge, infrastructure and experience pertinent to every aspect of the food chain, from the laboratory to the farm to the market to the table. Our challenge is to bring our resources to bear on critical global issues.”
A former Under Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Keenum has made food security a central focus of his professional life. Currently, he serves as chairman of both the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and the Board of International Food and Agricultural Development.
Mississippi State is ranked in the top 10 nationally for agriculture and natural resources research and development, generating more than $100 million in expenditures annually. The university is actively engaged in support of Mississippi agriculture, which has a nearly $8 billion annual farm-gate value and employs more than a quarter of the workforce in the state.
In addition to the speech, Keenum signed agreements to expand Mississippi State’s partnership with the FAO. The memorandums of understanding will create three new programs offering international internship, fellowship and volunteer opportunities for MSU students, recent graduates and faculty.
“Rome continues to be a priority for us as our global engagement efforts grow in depth and scope academically and in research,” said MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw. “These new agreements will benefit our students and faculty, and also contribute to FAO’s overall mission.”
Shaw and Interim Vice President for Research and Economic Development Julie Jordan joined Keenum for meetings in Rome with the FAO and several additional MSU partners in the city, including the University of Rome Tor Vergata and the University of Arkansas Rome Center.
Jordan also continues to serve as associate vice president for international programs and director of the MSU International Institute.
“The study abroad opportunities for our students and faculty exchanges we have in place in Rome will benefit from the additional agreements with the FAO,” Jordan said. “International engagement is based on having successful partnerships, and we are fortunate to have great partners in Rome and a thriving collaborative culture at MSU.”
MSU has a long-standing relationship with the FAO, with research partnerships focused on food safety, nutrition, aquatic animal health and agriculture, among other areas. The FAO and the World Food Programme have recognized MSU as a Center for Knowledge for Aquatic Health.
Mississippi State offers a study abroad program for students at Arkansas’ Rome Center. Housed in a 500-year-old building in the ancient yet modern city, the program offers courses in architecture, art, interior design, humanities, fashion design, historic preservation and business.
MSU has hosted more than a dozen students from Tor Vergata over the past few years. In the summer of 2020, students and faculty from MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering will be visiting the public research university.