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International Influence Growing in Penn State Entomology

(PRWEB) January 26, 2005 -- International applicants are on the rise in the department of entomology at Penn State, despite a national trend of declining international students at universities across the U.S.

 “  The purpose of this Ph.  
According to a recent report from the Institute of International Education
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, the number of international students studying in the United States last year declined 1.3 percent from the previous year, while Penn State saw a 1 percent decrease in international enrollment across all Colleges. Travel restrictions placed on these students post Sept. 11 and other immigration-related issues are the likely cause, says Dr. Gary Felton, head of the Department of Entomology at Penn State, and reversing this trend has become a priority of the department. “We saw international enrollment steeply decline to about 20 percent of our students since Sept. 11, which concerned me,” says Dr. Felton.

Nationwide, the U.S. has “never been more eager” to welcome foreign students to its shores and to send more Americans to study abroad, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently at the U.S. University Presidents Summit on International Education
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. “To be successful, our government and our universities must forge a new partnership for education
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 exchange, a partnership that rests on new thinking and new action,” said Rice.

Dr. Felton feels that having international students in the department is important for several reasons. “Nationally, there are not enough domestic students entering into the scientific fields. In addition, having international students in the department exposes us to other cultures,” he explains.

In addition, enrolling international students has a long-term impact on the department. “Many of international students we educate return to their home countries and often send students they advise to the U.S. for advanced degrees. We have several students who are here now as a direct result of this,” Dr. Felton says.

The entomology department is implementing a multi-pronged approach to attract international students. The department recently made its web site more user-friendly to international applicants by including information in foreign languages. “International students in the department helped us to translate information into several different languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and German,” Dr. Felton explains. “I feel this helps demonstrate we’re more receptive to international applicants and it has increased traffic on our site.” The web site can be found at http://www.ento.psu.edu/.

Dr. Felton also credits the entomology department’s participation in an international exchange program for the increase in international interest. The department, along with the College of Ag Science’s Office of International Programs, is one of several partners in the Sustainable Crop Protection in Agriculture Program (SUSPROT). The international exchange program allows graduate and undergraduate students to spend time in one of four institutes in Western Europe to gain a global perspective on sustainable agriculture.

The SUSPROT project is funded by the Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the U.S. Department of Education and the EU-US Cooperation Programme in Higher Education and Vocational Education Training of the European Commission (http://www.cas.psu.edu/docs/international/FIPSEMain.htm). So far, several European graduate students have experienced internships at the U.S. institutions, usually for a 4-6 month period. Likewise, American students spend several months studying at European institutions.

Another project, Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPMCRSP)(http://www.ag.vt.edu/ipmcrsp/index.asp), a USAID-funded research grant has provided assistantships and short-term training stipends for students and mid-career scientists from Asia and the Caribbean.

Additionally, the department recently announced a new international graduate assistantship the will require the Ph.D. candidate to spend at least one semester abroad. “The purpose of this Ph.D. graduate assistantship is to encourage international research and educational collaborations with partner institutions in Europe while completing the Penn State degree,” says Dr. Felton. “Students selected in this program are required to complete at least one semester abroad at one of the host institutions during their first three semesters of study.” For more information on the assistantship and to apply, see web site http://www.ento.psu.edu/Graduates/AssistantshipJan06.htm.

The department’s efforts are paying off, as Dr. Felton says the majority of the new applicants are now international. “The students we’re recruiting are much more broadly-based geographically. For the first time since the beginning of my tenure, we have several applicants from Korea, Japan and Mongolia, two from Europe, and one each from Latin America, Lebanon and Iran.”

Established in 1963, Penn State’s Department of Entomology has grown into a well-balanced department providing undergraduate education, graduate student training and extension outreach education focusing on both domestic and international issues. Twenty faculty and more than thirty graduate students work on a variety of research topics providing insights into insect ecology, behavior and molecular biology as well as integrated pest management. The department is part of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. For more information about solving insect problems, descriptions of research and education programs or admission to the graduate program, visit web site at http://www.ento.psu.edu/ or contact the department at (814) 865-1895.


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