Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introduction: Kirby, Professor, University of Florida. On to Korea!

I began my career in agricultural education as a vocational agriculture instructor in Ohio after graduating from Ohio State University. I later served as an assistant state supervisor in agricultural education in Ohio before completing my Ph.D. in agricultural education at Ohio State. The next 16 years on the faculty at Ohio State included seven years as department chair and nearly three years as head of the 4-H Youth Development program.

My first international experience occurred when I was 18, thanks to FFA---an around-the-world venture of three weeks, and an unbelievable experience. But nothing else evolved internationally for a while, and I was heavily involved with a young family and a career.

Then off to the University of Illinois as Associate Dean of the agriculture college. A new opportunity unfolded, this time in Egypt. and for the last 10 years my international development involvement has focused on curriculum development and teaching/learning enhancement at the high school and college levels. My work in Egypt as well as in Saudi Arabia, Ghana, and Swaziland is done with two over-arching goals in mind: that the people I leave behind will be better, and that the colleagues I take with me will return home with a broader set of skills and understandings regarding agricultural education.

And the University of Florida, where I have been since 2005, is supportive of these international development activities.

I believe that all undergraduate students should have the opportunity to study outside the US, even if only for a week. And I believe that the most valuable international experiences can be those that are closely related to career interests and aspirations. I have taken students to the Dominican Republic, Korea, and Egypt. While places like Egypt offer instruction in agriculture in the high schools, there is no agriculture teacher preparation program in the universities. A notable exception in the world is the Republic of Korea.

Seung Il Na completed a Ph.D. in agricultural education at Ohio State and I was his adviser. He got me involved in an international agricultural education conference in 1992 at Kon-kuk University in Seoul. He and I have maintained a close professional relationship over the years as he joined the faculty and was department chair at Seoul National University, the premier public university in Korea. He is now Vice Minister of Education. We have hosted students from SNU here in Florida as well.
So the similarities between US and Korean agricultural education in public schools and in universities, and the friendship with Dr. Na and others, makes our course and study tour a logical approach to broadening our horizons into East Asia. Plus the culture and history . . . and the wonderful people! It will be a great experience.

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