The Great Exchange

Zhou and Dr. Bratcher
Exchange of ideas among different countries is nothing new. But as our U.S. society becomes more global and we routinely interact with other cultures, the need for direct international exposure becomes more important.

This is especially true for college students and faculty, says Pat Curtis, director of the Auburn University Food Systems Institute (AUFSI). Curtis and AUFSI recently formed an International Academic Interchange Agreement with the University of Bologna in Bologna, Italy.

Also known as a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the agreement encourages collaboration between the two universities. In addition to student exchanges, the MOU may involve exchange of faculty members and technical staff, joint research activities, seminars and academic meetings, and anything else that may foster international awareness and growth on both sides.

Auburn made the arrangement with the University of Bologna’s School of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, and while the MOU was initiated by AUFSI and the Department of Poultry Science, any school or department at Auburn is welcome to participate.

The schools signed the agreement this year, so collaborative plans are still coming together, but Auburn has already received an international student as part of the MOU. De Zhou, a native of Beijing, has been studying animal science at the University of Bologna for eight years. He arrived at Auburn in March this year and will be here until September 2013.

During his stay, Zhou will work with Christy Bratcher, an assistant professor of meat science in the Department of Animal Science. They are collaborating on a project to identify the repeatability of some common measurements of tenderness in beef research A master’s student, Zhou said he also wants to complete his thesis at Auburn. And he says, of course, that he’d like to “improve his English and meet some new friends” during his first visit to the U.S.

The program is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and there is no limit to the number of student exchanges between the two schools, Curtis said.

Auburn poultry faculty will travel to the University of Bologna this September for a meeting, and Curtis and Extension food scientist Jean Weese will return to Italy in November to further interact with food science faculty.  Additionally, the Department of Poultry Science is also planning a study abroad course in Italy in 2014 as part of the MOU.

The official MOU will last five years, but Curtis indicated the collaborative relationship may last longer depending on the interest of faculty at both schools.