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OIRD Extends Land-Grant Mission

By Catherine Doss

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 28 - April 16, 1998

(Editor's Note: This article about Virginia Tech's Office of International Research and Development is part five in a series about outreach at the university. Future articles will highlight other units within the Outreach Division, including distance learning and public service. A final article will focus on Extension and its critical role in the outreach mission.)
The Office of International Research and Development (OIRD), a unit of the Outreach Division, serves the university's tri-partite mission internationally through collaborative projects and programs in education, research, and service. Virginia Tech faculty members and graduate students from many disciplines participate in OIRD donor-funded projects focusing on global problems with local implications: environmental policy and management, sustainable agriculture, and the equitable development of market economies. "OIRD works to create overseas markets for Virginia Tech expertise," said S.K. DeDatta, OIRD director and associate dean for international agriculture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "We bring back to Virginia the technical knowledge, institutional partnerships, and experience in collaborative, cross-national development that enable leadership in a global community and marketplace."
With a current portfolio of contracts and grants of about $22 million, OIRD has helped Virginia Tech attain a ranking within the top five of National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) members receiving United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds for international agricultural projects. Donor projects mostly fund OIRD's eight faculty and seven staff members, and last year, project dollars funded nine-and-a-half graduate research assistantships with Virginia Tech faculty members.
In educational projects, OIRD and Virginia Tech faculty members are assisting Albania as it restructures and moves toward a market economy by advising on library and curricula development in agricultural economics and business at the University of Tirana. In addition, a pest-and-pesticide-management project in Ukraine involves a large number of Virginia Tech and other land-grant university faculty members in curricula development and training in appropriate pesticide-management and application techniques.
The OIRD research agenda includes significant involvement in the USAID Global Bureau's Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSP's). All CRSP projects support both faculty and graduate-student involvement.
One example is the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) CRSP, a global program focusing on the development of innovative, multidisciplinary IPM strategies to deal with the pests of export crops and transitional agricultural systems. OIRD manages the project, which includes over 20 U.S. and foreign institutions in coordinated research in the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Jamaica, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
OIRD and Virginia Tech faculty members also lead the West African component of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM) CRSP, which focuses on the development of innovative research methodologies and tools to facilitate natural-resource-management decision-making at all levels.
In the Peanut CRSP, OIRD and Virginia Tech faculty members are working to enhance the environment, promote economic growth, and improve human health and nutrition through the production, distribution, and use of groundnuts globally.
An additional OIRD/Virginia Tech research project includes a joint U.S.-Israeli-Egyptian Middle East Research Cooperation (MERC) venture. This high-tech peace initiative seeks to build the collaborative environment necessary to solve the severe problems caused by parasitic weeds within the region.
In service and technical assistance, OIRD recently completed involvement in the Moscow Business Incubator project designed to help channel highly trained and innovative human resources formerly employed in the Soviet defense industry towards the emerging high-tech private sector in Russia. The project provided the necessary business training and environment to launch new and successful private-sector businesses.
Virginia Tech is the lead university for the South East Consortium for International Development's (SECID) Community-Based Natural Resource Management Project (CBNRM) in Senegal. The CBNRM will serve as a model for effective decentralized and participatory natural-resource-management strategies for countries throughout the region. OIRD/Virginia Tech's role in the CBNRM project was recently featured on national television in Senegal in conjunction with President Bill Clinton's visit to that country.
OIRD's program in Women in International Development (WID) contributes to all three components of the university's land-grant mission. WID involves Virginia Tech faculty members and graduate students in collaborative research investigating the effects of international development policy and individual projects on the health and economic well-being of women and children.
"Our goal is to ensure that all OIRD projects contribute to gender equity around the world, both through policy research and through programming of our own projects," DeDatta said.
OIRD is committed to serving Virginia, the nation, and the world community through faculty and student involvement in projects that have a major impact on societal health and welfare.