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All the world’s your stage with international agriculture

By Oklahoma State University

Settling on your undergraduate or graduate course of study is a big decision. The wide range of directions just about any degree in agriculture can ultimately take you and your career makes narrowing your options even tougher.

However, a focus on international agriculture might be the right call for anyone interested in making the world their office.

For instance, study abroad travels to Panama and Ireland as an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University convinced Katie Schrodt to further her education in international agriculture in OSU’s Master of International Agriculture Program.

“I think it’s so fascinating that all around us we have different cultures and languages and customs, but we’re all connected through agriculture because we all need to eat,” Schrodt said. “Agriculture is so important to day-to-day life and it can solve so many different issues like social concerns and poverty.”

There are a range of benefits for students who elect to take a global approach to their agriculture course of study.

Living and working in a global environment. Turns out business as usual is no longer usual these days.

Our world has become more global, stressed Shida Henneberry, director of the Master of International Agriculture Program at Oklahoma State University, who noted agricultural trade illustrates this point perfectly.

“There’s only so much you can sell here in the U.S. Most of the world’s population lies outside the U.S., and especially high-income countries and emerging markets like China and India and Russia. China and India have huge populations and they’re excellent markets for ag commodities because they need to eat,” Henneberry said. “Our comparative advantage is in ag while China’s comparative advantage might not be ag. They import a lot of their foods.”

Flexibility. Studying international agriculture means meeting and interacting with people from lots of different backgrounds and cultures. As a result, no matter where in the world their career path leads them, international agriculture students learn through first-hand experience people are simply people.

“It just puts you at that level where you really understand where people are coming from. They’re not very different from you. We’re all the same,” Henneberry said. “That’s what they learn. They can speak in a way that they can connect with these people because they’ve lived in other countries.”

See the world, change the world. International agriculture programs often incorporate an opportunity to travel and study abroad. In some cases, like OSU’s MIAP, there are generous travel funds available.

It’s easy to understand this could be a life-changing experience for students, but it can be just as impactful for the local communities where they work and serve. For instance, students can help increase crop yields or teach women and youth about agriculture.

“This is very valuable in those developing countries because they are starting to emphasize more agriculture and they have a lot of population in rural areas,” Henneberry said. “Their governments are now trying to improve their ag sector because for a lot of them the comparative advantage is the ag. They have good land, good soil and good water. They just need that kind of ag education that our students can provide them.”

Ultimately, some international agriculture students even decide to make their careers overseas. Consider that MIAP graduates have gone on to work over the globe, including Field of Hope, a Christian community dedicated to international agricultural development, and the One Acre Fund, which serves smallholder farmers in Africa.

“Our students have succeeded,” Henneberry said. “The types of jobs they’re doing, it’s amazing.”