What can we learn from Boilermakers? No, not that kind of Boilermaker. Got your attention though, right? The Boilermakers in question are the Purdue University Boilermakers. Heifer International has cultivated a wonderful and innovative partnership with the School of Agriculture at Purdue, the potential of which has yet to be fully realized.
Where to start? Romania, of course, in 2004. Yes, Purdue is in Northern Indiana, an easy drive from Goshen, home of Dan West, and it certainly stands to reason that there were connections between Heifer and Purdue before 2004. This version, however, starts in Romania where Purdue has partnerships with three agricultural and veterinary medicine universities. Dr. Mark Russell, along with other faculty from Purdue’s Agronomy Department, co-led a class called “Exploring International Animal Industries” on a visit to Romania. While there, one of the Romanian universities introduced to the group to the Heifer Romania office. The class was then taken to visit a community that was working with Heifer Romania. Upon return to Purdue, the seeds of a partnership with Heifer Romania began to take root in Dr. Russell’s mind. Back to that later.
The story picks up again in 2006, this time in Poland. Mr. Lee Stanish, the Indiana 4H International Programs coordinator working with the Purdue Extension Service, chaperoned a trip of Indiana 4H youth visiting Polish 4H groups. The 4H clubs visited worked with Heifer Poland so the local 4H leaders were eager to connect the American group to the Heifer. Once again, seeds of collaboration were planted. In the words of Mr. Stanish, “I came home, having seen Heifer for the first time . . . kind of backwards. Most Americans would hear from Arkansas first! In doing some digging, I found that Heifer at that time had an office in my backyard in Goshen, Indiana. I drove up and spent a half day or so talking with David Boothby [then Heifer’s Midwest regional director] about how Heifer is structured and potential collaborations. He explained the Ranch to me, and as an international educator, I was fascinated.” Mr. Stanish made a trip in early 2007 to see Heifer’s Learning Center at Heifer Ranch for himself and returned home determined to get Indiana 4H’ers involved.
Dave Boothby put Mr. Stanish in touch with Rex Enoch, then Heifer’s manager of adult education. Rex invited Mr. Stanish to return to Heifer Ranch to participate in a faculty summit attended by college and university faculty from around the country. The Summit was organized as a think tank to collect ideas and inspiration for Heifer’s college and university outreach and resulted in an informal blueprint still being followed and pursued today. More seeds planted, older seeds beginning to sprout.
Now to the Purdue campus in 2008. Dr. Russell and Mr. Stanish, working together in the College of Agriculture, decided to introduce their students to Heifer. Dave Boothby, by then retired and volunteering his time, was invited to speak to the first-year Animal Science students and resulted in a small group of students deciding to start a Heifer “chapter” on their campus, recruiting from the University at large and the Department of Animal Sciences in particular. Dr. Paul Ebner volunteered to be the club’s faculty advisor. In the fall of 2008, Purdue Heifer Chapter members attended the first Heifer U for College and University Students at Heifer Ranch. Mr. Stanish also took a bus full of 4H’ers down to Heifer Ranch for a Global Gateway program. Additional seeds planted and seeds from 2004 beginning to blossom.
2009 . . . Back to Romania. Dr. Russell again co-led the “Exploring International Animal Agriculture” class to Romania. The class met with the Heifer Romania Office and this time, the group began planning a service learning course involving Purdue students and Heifer Romania’s partner organizations. Meanwhile, the Purdue Heifer Chapter grew in ranks and ambition, setting their sights on having informational tables and activities at the annual campus Springfest, hosting a pumpkin-carving fundraiser in the fall, organizing bake sales, and volunteering at different events. Mr. Stanish also began planning another 4H trip to Heifer Ranch for the fall of 2010. Seeds planted, flowers blooming.
2010 . . . In February, more students from the Purdue Heifer Chapter, along with Dr. Russell, attend the Heifer U for College Students at Heifer Ranch. In May, Drs. Russell and Ebner lead a “Maymester” service-learning course to work with Heifer Romania partner organizations in Vata de Jos and Paclisa, Romania. Purdue students worked side-by-side with agricultural students from Timisoara, Romania, to build livestock enclosures and improve pastures. According to Dr. Russell, the purpose of the trip was to grow a global awareness and sense of service in the students. The completed tangible projects were a happy consequence. In October, the Purdue Heifer Chapter again sent representatives to another Heifer U for College Students at Heifer Ranch. And another busload of 4H’ers also visited the Ranch; this time, the students were the teachers, sharing their experiences with other students from around the country. Seeds are bearing fruit.
2011 . . . Drs. Ebner and Russell are planning on taking another group of students to Romania for a Maymester course and are recruiting students for a similar service learning course in Haiti taking place in late December 2011 and early 2012 in collaboration with the Heifer office there. Dr. Russell is also an active member of Heifer’s new College and University Advisory Council. The Heifer Purdue Chapter just wrapped up Springfest, a giant open-house style event in which they had a booth and other activities promoting Heifer. The chapter has also set a goal of getting local elementary schools to participate in Read to Feed and have attracted a willing partner in Elanco Animal Health who has had great success with a similar effort in Indianapolis and is sponsoring four active Heifer Projects around the world. The chapter’s numbers have grown from two members in 2008 to 30 active members in 2011, setting an example that we are trying to replicate in other universities. Mr. Stanish continues his work to involve more 4H’ers and is planning a third trip to Heifer Ranch.
Heifer’s values based planning process states that a crucial step in community development is identifying and utilizing resources within the community. As Heifer plans for future educational outreach to colleges and universities, the example set by Purdue should be kept in mind. Purdue has engaged Heifer in the field, at our learning centers, and on campus. Perception is reality, and Heifer’s identity is as much in how the public perceives us as how Heifer perceives itself. The great opportunity before Heifer now is to help academia perceive Heifer as a willing and cooperative partner in education, a source of shared learning and resources. This is the example that Purdue has set for future collaborations. As a result, much of the Purdue campus now sits in the shade of fruit bearing trees.