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University establishes Greek link

By Stewart MacInnis

Spectrum Volume 21 Issue 09 - October 22, 1998

The ties Virginia Tech has established with the two-year college component of the American Farm School of Thessaloniki, Greece, will benefit both institutions, according to the director of Virginia Tech's two-year agricultural-technology program.
The memorandum of understanding between the two institutions creates the groundwork for exchange of students and faculty members, as well as technical assistance and training, said John Crunkilton, associate dean and director of agricultural technology for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
The memorandum was signed by President Paul Torgersen and George Draper, president of the American Farm School.
"The Farm School is quite a renowned institution," Crunkilton said. "It does work with many of the other countries in the Balkan region."
The agreement pertains to the Dimitris Perrotis College of Agricultural Studies, a two-year college program of the American Farm School. Crunkilton helped establish the curriculum for the program as a Fulbright Scholar three years ago.
The Farm School was established in 1904 by American expatriates to teach the rural youth of Greece modern agricultural methods and vocational skills. It now offers academic and vocational training of students equivalent to the American tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. The College of Agricultural Studies was established in 1996 to provide a two-year degree program.
In July, Crunkilton gave the commencement address at the ceremony marking the awarding of the first college degrees.
"This is a very practical, hands-on type of school," Crunkilton said. "It has a spirit that many schools have lost over the years--that the individual student is important. One of its strengths is that it requires all students to devote a certain amount of time each week to the hands-on work required to operate the institution's farm."
The new two-year program "has been an innovation in agricultural technology in Greece," he said. It is putting graduates into the agriculture sector who understand good agricultural practices and farm-management techniques.
To date, the two-year college program has included mostly Greek students. Crunkilton said the college hopes to expand its enrollment base to include more students from Albania and Bulgaria. In the future the Perrotis College hopes to become a four-year college program.
Crunkilton said the alignment with the Greek school offers Virginia Tech potential opportunities for summer internships for Virginia Tech students. The partnership also offers the chance for Virginia Tech to explore ways to make its agricultural curriculum relevant in an international context.
"The opportunities are here for the two institutions to interact to the benefit of one another," he said.