Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program

Peter Hobbs

Peter HobbsA 2014 Engaged Faculty Fellow, Peter Hobbs is an adjunct professor in the School of Integrative Plant Science – Soil and Crop Sciences Section and associate director, professional development in International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Read his faculty profile for more information.

The Story

Peter has spent 30 years in South Asia since he graduated with a PhD from Cornell. He worked for two International NGO’s during this time; IRRI (International Rice Research Institute, based in Bangladesh) and CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, based in Pakistan and Nepal). During this time he worked closely with the national program scientists, extension agents and farmers in South Asia to catalyze and promote improved agronomic practices for rice, wheat and other system crops that helped improve farmer incomes and livelihoods while at the same time minimizing the impacts on the environment. This required developing skills in engaging partners/stakeholders in a synergistic way so they did not perceive him as a threat or competition. In his work the term “participatory technology development and extension” was coined to describe how to ensure key stakeholders were involved in planning, experimentation and feedback and to accelerate adoption of new ideas. “If farmers do not adopt new practices, research is essentially of little use.”

Since returning to Cornell in 2002, Peter has been active in teaching several courses related to international and tropical agriculture. In 2010 he took over the responsibility for the academic programs of International Programs (IP) in CALS. He mainly works with the 80 students in the International Agriculture and Rural Development major. A key component of this major is gaining international hands-on experience about what it is like to work overseas in a different culture and economic environment. This can be short trips, longer internships and even longer programs such as Peace Corps. There is a need to incorporate a stronger service-learning component in these courses and experiences.

“After this summer, I am convinced that a fundamental rethinking of organization of natural resource management across the globe is necessary for progress to occur in the long term. Additionally, I’d like to approach this by focusing on individual families as a unit of measurement and contextualizing them within the broader scheme of global economic and environmental dynamics — an idea I perhaps started to look into this summer but ran out of time to pursue at any significant length. Ultimately, as a student of International Development and Natural Resources, you want to make yourself useful to the world, and you want to do so in an open-minded and curious, investigative way, and it’s asking and following up on questions like these that will get you there. This, to me, is why an experience like the one I had in México is as valuable as your professors tell you it is, and then some. I can already tell that the perspective and mindset that I gained from this summer will surely lead me to many interesting and exciting places in my career, and perhaps do so very soon.” — Henry Wells, IARD student who interned in Mexico 2012

The Strategy

  • Become more aware of the engaged learning pedagogy and literature as it relates to international development
  • Incorporate this pedagogy in the two area study courses and longer term international experiences above
  • Better define the learning outcomes for these courses and experiences
  • Incorporate the multidisciplinary service learning courses developed by Engaged Cornell staff into the curriculum of the IARD major
  • Improve the before and after assessments of student learning in the courses and international experiences
  • Work with the host organizations providing the international experiences to incorporate a stronger service learning pedagogy in their programs

Engaged Faculty Fellowship Program

A yearlong cohort program in which faculty dive deep into the theory and practice of engaged learning; meet monthly to discuss readings, share projects and workshop challenges; and help transform what it means to teach at Cornell

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