Small planet, global classroom

The Faculty of Land and Food Systems (LFS) is launching two new academic programs this September to address urgent global issues—from childhood anemia to watershed conservation.

Nutrition Major

The International Nutrition Major will focus on applied nutrition and food security. The first of its kind in North America, the four-year, undergraduate program emphasizes the application of theory to international fieldwork, explains Asst. Prof. Judy McLean.

“We developed the program in response to the demand from students for more international content in their course work and relevant experience needed to further their careers,” says McLean who designed the curriculum with Assoc. Prof. Tim Green and other LFS colleagues.

The new major requires students to complete mandatory placements with NGOs and organizations such as UNICEF as part of their International Field Studies (FNH 460) course. McLean says the course will prepare students for careers in public health, medicine, international development and research, while providing LFS partners with field support for their projects.

“There’s a significant need for people who can hit the ground running, who know how to design, implement and measure community-based interventions, targeting under-nutrition and food insecurity,” says McLean. “Graduates of the major will help to fill this need.”

LFS has established a strong reputation for its international research, teaching and community connections. Currently, McLean and Green are looking at ways to increase and diversify food production and nutrition for small, rural households in Cambodia. In Rwanda, McLean and her team are working with the government, UN, community health workers and rural families to tackle anemia and micronutrient deficiencies among children aged six to 23 months.

LFS student Kristina Michaux says her four-month placement in Rwanda was definitely a highlight of her undergraduate career.

“There’s such a difference between textbook knowledge and going into the field and seeing the kind of real-life setbacks that communities face in developing countries,” says Michaux who graduates this November with a BSc in Food, Nutrition and Health.

Earlier in the year, Michaux assisted McLean’s team with data collection and management that included working with local enumerators and visits with Rwandan mothers and children in rural communities. Since then Michaux has received several job leads for paid research positions in Rwanda. “It helped to confirm my interests in international nutrition and community development work.”

Watershed Management

Students keen to understand integrated watershed management and soil science will benefit from UBC’s research and teaching leadership in these areas, says LFS Prof. Les Lavkulich of the new Master’s of Land and Water Systems (MLWS) program.

“The future of the planet depends on judicious management of soil and water resources,” says Lavkulich, a soil scientist who studies sustainable agricultural systems, land use hydrology, mining and the environment.

He adds, “Healthy land-water systems are essential to the earth’s ecological structure and functions such as photosynthesis.”

The MLWS program will investigate the impact of human activities and climate change along with strategies to conserve and rehabilitate land and water systems. Students will also explore the physical, chemical, biological and climatic processes that impact the soil’s productive capacity in agriculture, forestry and urban settings.

“Also key to the program are current best practices and recent innovations in characterizing and remediating soils,” says Lavkulich.

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UBC Reports | Vol. 58 | No. 9 | Aug. 23, 2012

In Rwanda, Kristina Michaux worked on a micronutrient powders study. Martin Dee Photograph

In Rwanda, Kristina Michaux worked on a micronutrient powders study. Martin Dee Photograph

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“There’s a significant need for people who can hit the ground running, who know how to design, implement and measure community-based interventions.”

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