College of Agricultural Sciences hosts Ukrainian scholars at Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences is hosting two visiting scholars from Ukraine during the spring semester, through efforts of a University-wide task force.

Chaired by Rick Roush, dean of the college, and Roger Brindley, vice provost for Penn State Global, the task force was organized after the Russian invasion of Ukraine to organize the Penn State response to support academic partners and scientists in Ukraine.

For 30 years, the college has had a strong and productive working relationship with agriculture and universities in Ukraine. “Agriculture and rural development are important research areas and are foundational to economic growth and healthy, open and democratic societies,” said Deanna Behring, the college’s assistant dean for international programs and director of Ag Sciences Global. “That’s the philosophy behind our partnership and this visiting scholar program.”

The task force encouraged each college at Penn State to offer visiting scholar opportunities to Ukrainians who were able to leave the country. The College of Agricultural Sciences was able to select two scholars, thanks to the Woskob New Century Fund, a large, private endowment from the Woskob family of State College. The Woskob endowment covers visiting scholars’ travel and living expenses.

Lyudmyla Kuzmych is working with Andy Warner, director of the Penn State Water Consortium, and Olga Buchko is collaborating with Suzanna Windon, assistant professor of youth and adult leadership and Penn State Extension specialist.

Kuzmych, whose research interests include water management and water engineering, is the chief researcher at the Institute of Water Problems and Land Reclamation in Kyiv, Ukraine. At Penn State, she is conducting research under the auspices of the Institutes of Energy and the Environment and the Penn State Water Consortium, a new University-wide water initiative involving faculty and staff engaged in research, teaching and outreach.

Kuzmych pointed out that more than 70% of all water withdrawals in the world are used by agriculture and that 90% of global electricity generation is water intensive. Further, according to UNESCO estimates, the global demand for water is projected to increase by 20%-30% by 2050.

Ecosystems are suffering from increasing pressure on natural resources, including the ever-increasing global demand for energy, food and water, noted Kuzmych. “Today, choices related to the management and use of energy, land and water are made mostly in isolation and without proper assessment of the cross-sectoral implications of planned developments,” she said. “An interconnected approach to managing shared resources could significantly enhance water, energy and food security through increased resource efficiency, the use of regional complementarities and improved management of natural resource use and restoration.”

Kuzmych said she is honored to continue her research at Penn State. “The opportunity to participate in the visiting scholar program means working side-by-side with the best scientists, specialists and experts in the field of water, energy and food security for the benefit of not only Ukraine, but the entire world,” she said. “My objective is to cooperate closely with my colleagues here, develop my skills and gain new experience so that when I return to Ukraine, I will be ready to join the reconstruction of the country after the Ukrainian victory in this terrible war.”

Warner said consortium members are pleased to have Kuzmych working with them at the intersections of water, energy and food production. “Understanding the interactions of these complex systems provides a stronger foundation for rebuilding Ukraine and helps us strengthen social and ecological resilience to climate change impacts here in Pennsylvania and around the world,” he said. “These types of innovations are at the heart of Penn State’s efforts to address society’s most pressing water-related challenges.”

Buchko’s ties to Penn State began after she completed a Fulbright program in the College of Education, then earning a dual-title doctorate in workforce education and development and in comparative and international education. She gained postdoctoral experience as a research associate in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, focusing on human resource development, volunteering and leadership education in agriculture.

“Penn State has gained a very special place in my heart,” Buchko said. “I am excited about being back, working with Dr. Windon and having a meaningful opportunity to contribute to research projects on human resource development in agriculture.”

Windon said she is honored to serve as a mentor for one of the Ukrainian scholars. “Olga and I plan to focus our research efforts on human resource development in agriculture and natural resources in the U.S. and Ukraine,” Windon said. “My hope is that she will have a meaningful experience through collaborative work with Penn State faculty and students. She also will have an excellent opportunity to attend regional and national annual meetings, present her research and expand her professional networking.”

Noting that it has been more than a year since Russia’s invasion, Behring emphasized the comprehensive, long-term nature of the college’s partnership with Ukraine. “We’re doing all we can to support scientists during the course of the war and to provide opportunities to keep their research and programs going,” she said. “As we look to the future and explore what agriculture-related sectors will need for rebuilding, we are optimistic about working with our Ukrainian friends and colleagues in that process.”

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