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Students try to achieve peace, prosperity through food marketing


February 02, 2007

MESA, Ariz. — While many are looking to China and India for growth and opportunities, some ASU faculty and students are looking at the Balkans and Black Sea region, to countries like Greece and Romania.

Last fall, five Arizona State University students affiliated with the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) traveled to Thessaloniki, Greece, as guests of the American Farm School’s Dimitris Perrotis College of Agricultural Studies.

In November, they presented their overseas experiences as part of a grant funded project through the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at a symposium involving Morrison School faculty, NAMA student members, scholars from the American Farm School and the University of Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, and representatives from the Arizona agribusiness sector.

The USDA grant funds the “Balkans & Black Sea Project: American-Greek-Romanian Initiatives to Enhance Understanding of Multicultural Market Opportunities, Trade and Development.” The Balkans Project, for short, is intended to produce graduates with knowledge of foreign languages and cultures and the ability to comprehend complex global issues.

The project helps strengthen and establish links among multiple institutions so that universities, businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, and trade associations in several countries can work cooperatively to enhance understanding and thus to facilitate economic cooperation, export development and sustainable peace, according to Clifford Shultz, ASU Marley Chair and consumer marketing professor at the Polytechnic campus .

The project also brings together agribusiness faculty, students and businesspeople with diverse skill-sets and from multiple countries to collaborate and conduct research on international problems.

“The grant and related grants support students in their efforts to study abroad, helping to prepare more global leaders,” said Shultz.

In addition to benefiting the students, the anticipated outcome of their work is to provide improved trade relations between agribusiness sectors in Arizona and the Balkans-Black Sea region.

“We have been focusing on durum wheat, cotton, general agribusiness and socio-economic development between Arizona and the Balkans-Black Sea region since 1999,” said Shultz.

One graduate student who was attracted to the agribusiness program because of the project is Claudia Dumitrescu. For her, the experience to be part of the Balkans Project has been invaluable.

“I found people more interested in mutual cooperation than I thought they were, and I learned that the ‘Balkan spirit’ is capable to get itself adjusted to globalization,” said Dumitrescu. “The American Farm School scholars and the businesspersons that we met shared with us their experiences, but they also seemed like they need our ideas and advice as well.”

Dumitrescu, a native of Romania, was part of a team that conducted research on the feasibility of exporting desert durum wheat and cotton from Arizona to the region. 

“The experience helped me to improve my written and oral presentation skills and better understand the food marketing system in Greece, the trade and business strategies, and the different cultures and education systems.”

“With this project, we are helping to create sustainable peace and prosperity through food and agribusiness marketing for a region that has seen its share of difficulties,” said Shultz.

For information about the project, visit http://agb.poly.asu.edu/balkans/.