Training agricultural scientists for a more globalized world: Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars Program after 7 years

Monsanto’s Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars (MBBIScholars) Program was established on March 25, 2009, on Dr. Norman Borlaug’s 95th birthday. Monsanto initially funded the program for $10 MM ($2 MM per year for 5 years) and extended the program with a second grant for $3 MM ($1 MM per year for 3 years). As of February 2015 (6 years of funding) the program has supported 70 students. The 70 MBBIScholars were selected from 359 applications.  MBBIScholars are from 25 countries with India having 20 scholars. MBBIScholars from other countries are – Argentina 3, Bangladesh 2, Brazil 2, China 4, Columbia 4, Ecuador 1, Egypt 1, England 1, Ethiopia 4, Kenya 2, Korea 2, Iran 3, Italy 1, Mali 1, Nepal 2, Pakistan 1, Philippines 1, Syria 2, Tajikistan 1, Thailand 1, Tunisia 1, USA 4, and Uruguay 2. Forty scholars studied wheat breeding and 30 studied rice breeding. Twenty seven scholars were ladies. Applications for the 7th round were due on or before February 1, 2015. A unique feature of the MBBIScholars Program is the requirement that scholars must complete part of their PhD program in both developed and developing/transition countries. Scholars have worked with developed country scientists as follows – Australia 4, Canada 3, USA 43, and Western Europe 20. The program pays for the MBBIScholars to participate in a 3 day Leadership course prior to attending the World Food Prize during their first 2 years. It has been a good experience to see MBBIScholars gain self-confidence after attending the Leadership Course and World Food Prize, and as they study and conduct research in developed and developing/transition countries. They also gain many lifelong contacts in the plant breeding community. Based on the current funding agreement with Monsanto, the final round of MBBIScholars will be selected from applications due February 1, 2016. In view of the great success of this model of training international plant breeders, it would be highly desirable for donors to support and extend this PhD training program to include additional crops of interest in developed and developing countries.

Program Director and Judging Panel Chair, Texas A&M University, USA
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