Since its founding in 1222, the University of Padua, or the Università degli Studi di Padova in Italian, has been home to countless experimenters, including Copernicus and Galileo.
Soon, University of Georgia students will be able to conduct research at this same institution.
By the end of 2015, UGA and University of Padua plan to sign a “memorandum of understanding” creating a dual master’s degree in sustainable agriculture, funded in part by the United States Department of Agriculture.
George Vellidis, whose UGA lab in Tifton has received more than $15.4 million in research funding, is spearheading the program’s development. He said he hopes to have the first students enter the dual degree in fall 2016.
“Agriculture is an international enterprise,” said Vellidis, who studies how to better address variability in fields through precision agriculture. “We all need to eat, and our population is expected to reach critical levels by 2050. We hope these types of partnerships can provide momentum for solving global food production problems.”
Francesco Morari, Vellidis’ counterpart in Padua, said Italian students are excited to come to the U.S. to learn.
“We hope to be able to create an international graduate who will understand cultural diversity overseas and in Europe and who will be able to interact with people in different environments,” Morari said.
The farms in Italy tend to be smaller than those in the U.S., where big farms dominate, and vineyards are an important part of the landscape and history, Morari said.
Logan Moore, a senior agriscience major on UGA’s Tifton campus, said he hopes to participate in the program if it is approved. Moore said he is particularly interested in learning about Italy’s sustainable pest management programs.
“The most appealing part about the program would be spending time in another country,” Moore said.
Moore has traveled to Peru and Mexico and discovered an interest in foreign affairs during those trips.
“As part of my job as a university professor, I get to travel to a lot of places,” said Vellidis, who was born in Zambia and raised there and in Greece. “I enjoy meeting people that work in the same field as I do and then having lifelong friends across the planet."
In the dual master’s program, Vellidis said students would spend their first year at their home institution and then the second year doing research in Italy or Georgia respectively before graduating with a degree from both institutions.
The proposed partnership grew out of the 2004 TransAtlantic Precision Agriculture Consortium, which provided grants for 22 undergraduate students from UGA, Auburn and Mississippi State to travel to schools in Greece, Italy and Germany and 21 grants for European students to study in the U.S.
After seeing the success of TAPAC, which was funded by the Department of Education’s Atlantis program, Vellidis said three students piloted graduate student exchanges.
James Bevington participated in this exchange and did his graduate research at the University of Padua.
He said Padua is a “good sized city with a large international population,” but it is not overrun by tourists like Venice, which is 45 minutes away.
The city is also approximately three and a half hours by car from UGA’s satellite campus in Cortona, Italy.
“This isn’t a three week vacation,” the Louisiana native said. “This is a chance to live abroad for a year and actually understand the culture in Italy.”
Vellidis said UGA and the University of Padua are strong partners because both have similar academic requirements and agriculture departments.
He hopes to eventually have a “full grown” partnership with the university, including faculty exchanges where professors on each side could learn different teaching methods and share their knowledge abroad.
“We want our students to learn that Italy is not the center of the world and for the American students to know that the United States is not the center,” Morari said.