Strengthening Our Global Engagement

Dean Kate VanderBosch

Dean Kate VandenBosch

“The boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state.” That belief has broadened since the inception of the Wisconsin Idea early last century. The boundaries of the university are now the boundaries of the world—and no college embodies this more than CALS.

CALS faculty members conduct research in some 80 countries around the globe. Their work includes everything from increasing vitamin A content in local produce and breeding hardy crop varieties for challenging climates to economic development and opening new markets for Wisconsin products. Their activities have resulted in a multitude of discoveries that benefit CALS, Wisconsin and communities around the world.

But could we be doing even better? That question was considered when we embarked on our CALS strategic planning effort, and it was answered with a resounding “Yes!” What followed was a thoughtful, committee-led process that included a wide range of voices from within and outside of the college. In a final report the committee stated that “renewed investment in international activities will produce excellence in CALS scholarship and teaching, advance the college’s strategic planning goals, have a significant impact on our stakeholders and generate a substantial return on investment.”

In order to achieve optimal results from that investment, they deemed that a faculty-led International Programs unit is needed—something CALS has not had for about a half-dozen years. Faculty leadership is essential, the committee said, to “reach the threshold level of coordination and expertise required to win large international research and training grants such as those recently awarded to our peer institutions.”

Enter Sundaram Gunasekaran (photo left), a professor of biological systems engineering who has been selected to serve as faculty director of CALS International Programs. Gunasekaran—or “Guna,” as he is widely known—is brimming with ideas and enthusiasm about his new role. This past spring he held a number of “listening and learning” sessions welcoming all CALS faculty, staff and partners to discuss their international work and how a robust reenvisioning of CALS International Programs could help them better pursue it.

“My vision for CALS International Programs is for it to become among the leaders in the nation’s land-grant colleges for international engagement—and for it to effect positive change in global agricultural and life sciences enterprises through research, education and outreach,” Gunasekaran says. “CALS is among the very best land-grant colleges in the nation. Thus it is very appropriate that we envision an international program of a similar stature.”

We’ll be hearing more about CALS’ “new and improved” International Programs in the coming months, including here in Grow magazine. In the meantime, on behalf of the CALS community on campus and around the world, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Guna in his exciting new role.