By Mary Shelley-Snell
Support the Smith Center Study Abroad Endowment: tiny.utk.edu/smithcenterbigorangegive2023
When Donnie (B.S. animal science, CEO of Foster Farms) and Terry Smith (B.S. elementary education ’80) originally endowed the Smith Center for International Sustainable Agriculture, their vision centered around solving world hunger through science-based, sustainable solutions. An essential part of that mission is preparing the next generation of agriculture and natural resource professionals to address the issues facing our global food system. “Teaching students the importance of producing enough food to feed the global population, while restoring the planet at the same time is just as valuable as the research and outreach,” Smith explained. “Building that desire to go out into the world and solve one of the biggest problems of our time, world hunger, is going to make a big impact in the future.” Making studying abroad more accessible through scholarships is one way the Smith Center hopes to cultivate an interest in international agriculture amongst Herbert College of Agriculture students.
Photos from the 2023 Argentina Agricultural Resource and Economics Program
Harrison Falcofsky, a junior from Murfreesboro, Tennessee studying agricultural leadership, education, and communications, is one example of how donor gifts can directly impact students. Falcofsky studied abroad in 2023 through the Argentina Agricultural Resource and Economics spring break program.“The goal of the program was to understand the grain market and production in Argentina because the growing season is flipped from ours so we were learning about how the grain and soybean markets worked down there,” Falcofsky said, “The countryside is beautiful there. We began in the foothills of the Mendoza region, moved to a plains area, and then traveled to their largest city. We were able to see the way the environment changes throughout the different areas of the country, and in a way, that made it similar to Tennessee.”
The main highlights of the program for him included the food and getting to know the people. “I ate so much good food, and learned how amazing the people were. They were so friendly and willing to welcome a group of strangers into their businesses and farms, and were very open about their culture,” he explained. “We also got to know the graduate students working as our translators, which created personal connections that will last beyond the program.”
Getting to participate in this course helped Falcofsky gain a new perspective and further shaped his goals for the future. He came away from the experience feeling more grateful for the resources he has available to him and intent on learning more about global agriculture.“I had already picked up the international agriculture and natural resources minor because I was interested in global agriculture, and was even thinking about a graduate program related to international agriculture,” Falcofsky said. “But this experience made me more interested in building on my agricultural education degree by teaching abroad in the future. I think it would help me better understand agriculture on a global scale and prepare me to work in agricultural education more effectively.”
Studying abroad provides an opportunity for students to have immersive learning experiences outside the classroom that can impact the rest of their lives. Falcofsky emphasized why it’s important for other University of Tennessee, Knoxville students to have that same opportunity. “I’ve learned through this experience that no matter what your major is, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone. Traveling outside the country, meeting new people, and experiencing their culture helps you understand more about your fellow humans and their lives. It also gives you a new outlook on their environment, your personal goals for the future, and the opportunities we have available to us at UT. I think everyone should do it. It doesn’t matter if you go to England, West Africa or Argentina, just do it. It’s a life changing experience,” he explained.
Participating in the Argentina program would not have been possible for Falcofsky without the generous support of donors like Donnie and Terry Smith.“The Smith Center scholarship was really important for making this trip more affordable, especially combined with some Herbert and UTK scholarships. It was extremely beneficial for me and if I hadn’t gotten that support in scholarships then I wouldn’t have been able to go. I’m very thankful to everyone that’s donated and supported the Smith Center for making this program possible for me and other students,” he said. “Donors should support study abroad scholarships because they provide students with the chance to better understand the world around them. Experiencing culture first hand makes such a big difference, too. You can only learn so much within the classroom. UT already does a great job of getting students experience in the field so with further donor support, they can expand that even more with greater study abroad scholarships and funding.”
Big Orange Give is the university’s day of giving. It is a 24-hour online challenge for alumni, friends, parents, students, faculty, staff, and fans to show their support of Rocky Top. For the duration of Big Orange Give, Dr. Carver will be matching gifts to the Smith Center Study Abroad Endowment up to $500. Please consider supporting our efforts to make global engagement like Harrison’s possible for all Herbert Students!