UD alum Westenbroek works as agricultural adviser in Afghanistan

November 7, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Patricia Westenbroek said that when she was young, her mother instilled in her a desire to help others. While her agricultural education at the University of Delaware helped lead her to a role in the Cooperative Extension Service, it is that desire to help that brought her to Afghanistan, working as an agricultural adviser for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service.

Westenbroek — a UD alumna who graduated in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in animal science with a pre-veterinary concentration and minors in agricultural economics and chemistry and went on to earn a master’s degree in agricultural development at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland — said that her job entails working with extension specialists in the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (DAIL). She said that she works on “a variety of agriculture projects, including animal husbandry, animal nutrition, beekeeping, and planting perennial trees at the district and provincial level.”

DAIL works closely with United States and coalition forces, the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and local organizations as a team to “strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government, improve farm management and rebuild markets,” said Westenbroek.

One part of her job that she finds especially enjoyable is working with the female extension agents employed by DAIL in the province. “In them is so much promise,” said Westenbroek. “Public roles for women have been limited in Afghanistan and that has been changing. These women take the risk to help their people improve their lives by providing social, agricultural and education services.”

While some might have reservations about moving to Afghanistan, Westenbroek said that the decision for her was fairly easy. “I’ve wanted to be able to do this type of work for a long time,” said Westenbroek. “It was natural to say yes to an opportunity to help farmers and extension agents.”

Although she does admit that there was initially a bit of trepidation about going to Afghanistan, Westenbroek said, “The opportunity to work with Afghans as they rebuild their country outweighed my concerns.”

Though her day-to-day routine is varied — one day she may be out on a mission with military colleagues to meet villagers while the next she may be meeting with government officials or extension agent — she always has a daily Dari lesson to help her learn the local language.

The other thing that remains constant is what she enjoys most about her job: the people.

Westenbroek said that she meets all sorts of people ranging from “DAIL representatives who truly want what is best for their province or district to help the farmers to make positive changes; a young boy who is extremely proud of his goats because they are healthy; a little girl excited to see two women with the military team walking with me around the village and telling me about her day at school; the kindness of everyone as I learn Dari — teaching and laughing with me.

“I have been overwhelmed by the warm welcome from a young Afghan woman who embraced me with tears of joy, thanking me and all Americans for coming to Afghanistan to help her country.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


CANR Alum first U.S. Delegate at the Nuffield International Farming Scholars Contemporary Scholars Conference

May 23, 2012 under CANR News

Jean Lonie, Pfizer Animal Health Marketing Communications Manager who graduated from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, had the honor of being the first ever U.S. Delegate to attend the recent Nuffield International Farming Scholars Contemporary Scholars Conference (CSC) in London and Amsterdam.

The Nuffield International CSC brings together more than 50 competitively selected Nuffield International Farming Scholars annually from seven participating nations, as well as delegates from nonparticipating countries. Since the United States is not a Nuffield member nation, Lonie will work with the Eisenhower Fellowship program, a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization seeking to foster international understanding and leadership through the exchange of information, ideas, and perspectives among emerging leaders throughout the world, and Nuffield International to develop a plan that will ensure opportunities for U.S. producers to participate in the CSC and build a connection with the Nuffield network.

Lonie said that she was excited by the desire in the Nuffield organization and in the U.S. to connect the two entities. “Having experienced the benefits of this organization firsthand, my goal is to look at how to formalize this relationship and generate a stronger connection with Nuffield International, so U.S. producers have the opportunity to benefit from this amazing program dedicated to building the personal and professional capacity of agriculturalists.”

This year’s CSC was attended by 63 scholars and gave delegates the opportunity to travel through the Netherlands and London to learn about contemporary agriculture production and policy issues in the host nations and across the globe.

Nuffield scholars come to the conference with a chosen individual study topic, and Lonie’s study topic was focused on creating a more formal connection between the United States and the Nuffield International program, specifically the role of agribusinesses in supporting the leadership development of farmers.

“Across the globe, farmers and ranchers are developing new best practices that can help us safely, affordably and sustainably feed a growing population,” said Lonie. “Many of the thought leaders behind these practices have a unique common bond — they are Nuffield Farming Scholar alums.”

For more information on the About the Nuffield International Farming Scholars, visit their website.

For more information about the Eisenhower Fellowship program, visit their website.


Delaware Nature Society Names Burr Monroe Downstate Backyard Wildlife Habitat Coordinator

April 12, 2012 under CANR News

The Delaware Nature Society has named Burr Monroe its new backyard wildlife habitat coordinator for Kent and Sussex counties. He will be based at Abbott’s Mill Nature Center in Milford.

Monroe graduated from the University of Delaware in 2005, where he majored in wildlife conservation and received a minor in landscape horticulture.

Monroe has nine years experience managing natural resources for residences, municipalities and non-profits.  He has worked on ecological restoration, environmental assessments, stormwater management projects, landscape design, native plant propagation, educational outreach and more.

In addition to his new position at the Delaware Nature Society, Monroe is a restoration ecologist with Tributaries, an ecological consulting firm in Georgetown.  He also has worked for firms in Harbeson, Rehoboth Beach and Santa Barbara, California.

“I am pleased to strengthen our successful Backyard Wildlife Habitat program in Sussex and Kent counties,” says Brian Winslow, executive director of the Delaware Nature Society. “Habitat stewards previously had to travel from New Castle County to serve the needs of downstate residents who wished to certify their properties as backyard habitats.”

“With Burr’s knowledge of native plants and stormwater issues, we will be able to more effectively work with downstate homeowners, businesses and schools to improve habitat for wildlife on their properties. By creating these wildlife habitats we also are improving water quality in the Delaware and Chesapeake bays and their tributaries,” adds Winslow.

A resident of Georgetown, Monroe is an active community volunteer for Delaware Adopt-A-Wetland. When he is able to find the time, he enjoys surfing at the Delaware beaches.

For more information about the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program, downstate residents should contact Monroe at 422-0847 or burr@delawarenaturesociety.org. New Castle County residents should contact Greg Gagliano, 239-2334, ext. 142 or greg@delawarenaturesociety.org.


Pan credits UD Statistics Program for preparing him for DuPont career

March 14, 2012 under CANR News

Winning the prestigious Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award is an honor for any DuPont employee, especially so when it is only your fourth year on the job. Such is the case for Zaiqi Pan, who received a master’s degree from the University of Delaware Statistics Program in January 2008.

An employee of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, Pan received the award with his fellow team members — Laura Higgins, Lindsey Flexner and Natalie Hubbard — in January 2012 for their work developing and implementing an innovative method to deploy refuge for the Pioneer genetically modified corn plant.

Pan, who received a master’s degree in statistics, credits the personal and educational support he received from the professors in the Department of Food and Resource Economics in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources for not only helping him make it through to graduation, but also for starting him off on his successful career path.

When Pan started in the statistics program in 2005, a serious family situation made him question whether or not he wanted to continue with his studies. Luckily for him, the statistics faculty was there to help guide and support him through the rough patch.

“Dr. Ilvento encouraged me to stay in the program and keep connected when I had to go through such a very stressful time,” said Pan, adding that he missed a lot of class time and studies that Tom Ilvento, professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, helped him make up.

After the difficult start, Pan said he soon began thriving in the Statistics Program, specifically in the StatLab, a statistics laboratory designed to help researchers in the use of effective and appropriate statistical techniques in different research areas. It was in the StatLab that Pan worked and formed a close friendship with Lidia Rejtö, professor of statistics in the Department of Food and Resource Economics.

That friendship was cemented, Pan said, when Rejtö spent a sabbatical at Pioneer, DuPont Agricultural Biotechnology, in 2008 and they worked together on a number of projects.

Rejtö said she enjoyed working with her former student and praised Pan for his statistical abilities. “What is very rare is that he knows not just the statistical theory but he’s able to apply the theory and to develop a program,” said Rejtö. “There are not many statisticians who can combine the two things.”

Pan, who did his undergraduate research in mechanical engineering and then went to work as a software engineer in telecommunications before joining the UD Statistics Program, praised StatLab for providing him with the skills that ultimately led him to become a successful professional.

“It’s a really hands-on experience,” said Pan, adding that it helped improve his communication and collaboration talents.

Pan explained this comes in handy working at DuPont, where “you have to have excellent communication skills to present your ideas, so your audience will be able to understand your creative solutions quickly.”

The program also helped Pan by providing him with an opportunity to intern at DuPont while still studying for his master’s degree. He worked with Bruce Stanley in the Stine-Haskell Laboratory at DuPont Crop Protection, which gave him the first-hand experience that helped him get his current job with Pioneer studying agricultural biotechnology.

Pan has helped current students in the same way that he was helped as a student, saying that he currently oversees three interns from the UD Statistics Program.

“I think that the internship just helped me a lot to prepare for my career, so now I try to actually give back my experiences to my interns,” said Pan. “We value their strength and capability and assign them real projects they can work on and build their professional skills on. We treat the internship as a learning experience so they can successfully prepare for their future career.”

About the Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award

The Bolton/Carothers Innovative Science Award is named after Wallace Carothers, who is credited with inventing nylon in 1938, and Elmer Bolton, who helped encourage Carothers and commercialize the product. The award recognizes creative scientific invention or discovery that results in a recently commercialized new product, technology or business generating significant revenue with the potential for sustainable earnings.

About StatLab

StatLab provides statistical consulting services to UD graduate students, faculty, staff and researchers throughout the University, as well as non-University agencies and companies. The StatLab is jointly supported by the Statistics Program of the Department of Food and Resource Economics and Research and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily