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June 27, 2016   Columns Articles | Inside UGA | UGA, Italian university partner to establish dual-degree…
Magnify Vellidis, George-h.env
George Vellidis, a UGA professor of crop and soil sciences, spearheaded the effort to develop the groundbreaking dual master's degree program in sustainable agriculture.

UGA, Italian university partner to establish dual-degree program

J. Merritt Melancon

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By J. Merritt Melancon | June 27, 2016
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To promote collaboration on some of the biggest challenges facing agriculture today, UGA's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences is partnering with the University of Padova in Italy for a groundbreaking dual master's degree program in sustainable agriculture.

On May 3, administrators and faculty from the University of Padova and UGA met in Padova in northern Italy to sign a memorandum of understanding finalizing the dual-degree program. The first students will be enrolled this fall.

Both the University of Padova, which is the top-ranked agricultural university in Italy, and UGA, which houses one of the best colleges of agriculture in the U.S., are leaders in precision and sustainable agriculture.

"This innovative program will not only provide UGA graduate students with outstanding ­training, it will also provide them with a unique opportunity to learn about the challenges, opportunities and leading edges of their field on another continent," said Suzanne Barbour, dean of the UGA Graduate School. "This experience will serve our students well when they enter the job market in our increasingly global economy.

I hope the dual-degree program in sustainable agriculture will be a model for others to follow as they develop comparable offerings in other disciplines."

The dual-degree program, housed in the crop and soil sciences department at UGA, is the first of its kind in the college.

The challenges facing agriculture in the 21st century are global and won't be solved by scientists from a single country or continent, said George Vellidis, a UGA professor of crop and soil sciences who spearheaded the effort to develop the program.

"When agriculturalists from across the globe work together, we can better solve the constant problems that emerge and threaten food production and food security," he said. "The dual degree is beneficial to students because it will train them in both sustainable agriculture and global competence,  a valuable portfolio in a globalizing economy."

The dual degree is the maturation of a 12-year partnership between UGA, the University of Padova and four other European and U.S. universities. Together, these schools formed the TransAtlantic Precision Agriculture Consortium in 2004. To date, 45 undergraduate students and eight graduate students have participated in the program.

"The dual degree is one of the important outcomes of a relationship cultivated over a decade between UGA and the University of Padova," said Amrit Bart, director of the college's Office of Global Programs. "Building and sustaining international partnerships such as this takes the backing of both universities and their stakeholders. While other universities and programs are talking and thinking about dual-degree programs, our college and our faculty are making it happen."

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