Internationalizing Penn State Grads

Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students gained valuable international experience and earned dual-degrees upon their recent graduation.

Two Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences graduate students gained valuable international experience and earned dual-degrees upon their recent graduation.

The students were enrolled in the International Agriculture and Development (INTAD) dual-title degree program. According to Deanna Behring, the college's director of international programs, the program provides students with international perspectives and expertise to strengthen their primary graduate degree.

"Increasing numbers of employers are looking for graduates with international experience and credentials," Behring said. "INTAD is a part of Penn State's initiative to internationalize its land-grant mission and prepare students to work in interdisciplinary teams on global challenges."

The students, Jonathan Dumas and Kristal Jones, come from different backgrounds and primary areas of study, but each have benefited from the INTAD experience.

Dumas, an Agricultural Extension and Education and INTAD graduate, became interested in the program after hearing about it during one of his graduate courses. For the first generation American whose family emigrated from Haiti, the program was a natural fit. "My cohort's international project took place in the Dominican Republic, sister country to Haiti. Upon visiting a border city, I got to see first-hand the environment in which my people lived in and the conditions they faced," he said

The experience was inspiring for Dumas, and allowed him to develop further both personally and professionally. He applied his INTAD experience to his thesis research on factors that influence Blacks and Latinos in high school to pursue careers in agriculture.

Dumas also participated in the USDA Pathways program. USDA Pathways provides students enrolled in a wide variety of educational institutions with opportunities to explore USDA careers while still in school. Dumas' participation in both programs helped him to secure a position with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service upon graduation. "Definitely my experience abroad and Penn State education played a big role in obtaining employment after graduation. I think graduates who have global experience are what employers will be increasingly looking for into the next century."

Kristal Jones, Rural Sociology Ph.D. and INTAD graduate, was also awarded the Alumni Association Dissertation Award. The award is considered to be among the most prestigious available to Penn State graduate students and recognizes outstanding achievement in scholarship and professional accomplishment.

In her research, Jones looked at formal and informal crop seed systems in West Africa. She assessed both the market and social systems in place in West Africa to determine how seeds move through the system. "The INTAD program made it possible for me to travel to West Africa and work with plant scientists to learn about agricultural systems and practices," she explains.

Jones was on the original graduate student committee that helped form the INTAD program when it was being developed in the College's Office of International Programs. "INTAD got me interested in courses outside of my primary area of study and was very instrumental in helping me understand how agricultural research works," she explained. "Meeting with researchers in West Africa before developing my thesis on the dimensions of agriculture decisions was invaluable." Jones will continue her involvement in the Office of International Programs, as she recently accepted a postdoc position in the program.

According to Melanie Miller-Foster, INTAD advisor, the goal of the INTAD program is to bring the social and biophysical sciences together in order to research solutions to complex international and development issues. Students enrolled in one of the six participating graduate programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences can apply.

The program has enrolled 28 students in its three-year existence and has conducted study tours in 19 countries including Russia, Brazil, Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago as part of the capstone course. Students pursue additional international course work and their graduate research project must have an international component. The Soil Science graduate program was recently added to INTAD and more programs are expected to join in the near future.

To learn more about the INTAD dual graduate degree, visit the program website at or contact Miller-Foster at 814-867-3831 or