CANR Dean’s Choice Awards fuel study abroad, undergrad research

The Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has supported two exciting programs that college officials say are critical to the undergraduate experience.

March 3, 2015

The Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has supported two exciting programs that college officials say are critical to the undergraduate experience. With funding from the MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU), the 2013-14 Dean’s Choice Award recognized a student-created study abroad trip to Fiji, and the 2014-15 award led to a new undergraduate research forum to prepare students for larger competitions.

“The Dean’s Choice Award gives us the opportunity to jump start a program, provide start-up funding or reinvigorate an already existing program,” said CANR Dean Fred Poston. “We have made a special effort that these awards provide students with opportunities to learn outside the classroom walls. It’s fair to say that these opportunities would not happen without support from the MSUFCU.”

The $2,500 annual award gives MSUFCU officials the chance to recognize academic excellence and allows deans to allocate grant funds to an academic program in the college.

“MSUFCU has a long history of partnering with MSU for the success of the students and faculty,” said April M. Clobes, president and CEO of the MSUFCU. “Supporting the academic work on campus helps to enrich the campus and local community, which provides better opportunities for everyone.”

In 2014, the CANR Undergraduate Research Program received start-up funds to host a competitive research roundup poster session for participating students. Jim Hunsanger, MSUFCU vice president of internal audit and compliance, was a judge at the roundup, selecting and presenting a special award called “This Makes Sense to Me” on the basis of the aesthetics of poster design and clarity of information for a non-scientific audience.

“The research roundup gives students a chance to compete with other CANR research students before heading to a bigger environment,” said Susan DeRosa, a specialist in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, who coordinates the roundup. “The participants in undergraduate research represent the college when they present their work at the University’s Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) or at professional meetings in their academic fields.”

The CANR awards 10 undergraduate research grants three times a year.

In 2013, Tracy Swem and Alex Killion, graduate students in the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, received the Dean’s Choice Award for the first student-created study abroad trip in the CANR, “A Fragile Fiji: Integrating Ecosystems and Human Dimensions in the Face of Climate Change.” The trip – slated for May 9-June 1 – has been filled and has a waiting list, Killion said.

The trip will expose students to the effects of climate change and challenge them to create practical solutions to deal with its impacts. The interdisciplinary program encourages students to engage with local people and explore Fiji’s culture and biodiversity.

“Hands-on experience in climate change is something that will be appealing to employers in many fields,” Killion said. “Studying abroad gets you out of the classroom setting and throws you into the real world. Learning on the ground opens your eyes to the real problems that people in a third-world country face and the decisions they have to make.”

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