Students come from China to master dairy science

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences will host the first two students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University this fall in a new joint dual master’s degree program.

The students already have a Master of Science in food science and technology from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and will attend Cal Poly for the second half of a two-and-a-half year master’s degree program. They will research dairy science for 12 to 14 months to obtain a Masters of Science in agriculture with a specialization in dairy products technology. Faculty from both schools will collaborate in the research project. The goal of the program is to host new students every year.

Phillip Tong, dairy science professor and director of Cal Poly’s Dairy Products Technology Center, visited China 15 years ago as part of a team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that gave educational seminars on dairy science. About 10 years ago, the Dairy Products Technology Center began hosting foreign scholars.

China’s economy has grown rapidly in the past 20 years and the food industry is demanding higher quality nutrients in food. China’s dairy industry, however, is underdeveloped and relies heavily on milk powder and dairy products from other countries. Students from Shanghai Jiao Tong University will attend Cal Poly to learn, understand and ensure the quality of dairy products.

“We hope to provide training and science-based information to help advance the China industry to be self-sustaining,” Tong said.”We are trying to train the next generation of leaders for the Chinese dairy industry.”

Former dean of CAFES Joe Jen was in charge of research, education and economic issues as the under secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He eventually returned to Cal Poly where he was appointed a senior advisor to President Warren Baker and California State University Chancellor Charles Reed in 2006 with the goal to help Cal Poly expand internationally.

Jen said the high quality of practical research attracted Shanghai Jiao Tong University to work with Cal Poly. “We provide a uniqueness that intrigued them to do something at a master degree level,” he said.

Jen and Baker traveled to China in April 2007 to explore joint program ideas with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, one of the oldest and highly regarded universities in China, once known as the “Eastern MIT.” Out of the 38,000 students enrolled, 18,000 are graduate students.

Mark Shelton, associate dean of the CAFES, traveled to China in June to develop a long-term plan. A memorandum of agreement was signed to establish a joint masters of science degree program in dairy food/science between the CAFES at Cal Poly and the school of agriculture and biology at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Shelton said that Cal Poly can provide a practical application of dairy science to students who can then use the knowledge to improve China’s industry.

“I think this program is a great way to internationalize for world peace, positive international relations and exposure to different cultures. The more we stay connected to China, the better,” he said.

Bruce Golden, professor and department head of the dairy science department, said the new students will be working with other students in labs and classrooms. Cal Poly students, he said, will be exposed to Chinese culture and build networks.

“Asian markets are very important to the dairy industry. We are teaching and improving the ability to process dairy ingredients into sellable products. A successful program will expand professional relationships between China and the U.S. and build a mutual relationship as members of the international community,” Golden said.

Sheng Yi, a director’s assistant at Jiao Tong’s SJTU-Bor Luh Food Safety Center and visiting scholar at Cal Poly, said that Shanghai Jiao Tong University will benefit from the “learn by doing” experience at Cal Poly.

“We will gain an opportunity to practice and strengthen our education,” she said. “Cal Poly can learn about the Chinese culture, and we will be able to communicate with each other more directly to solve problems.”

“Hopefully this will induce other programs in other departments. I have seen interest in foreign students wanting to come to Cal Poly; hopefully Cal Poly students will be interested in researching the reciprocal. We are opening the door for expansion,” Jen said.

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