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Remembering Borlaug, Food for Thought

Posted by | September 16, 2009

Remembering Borlaug and Celebrating Our “Amber Legacy”

We recently lost one of the world’s great heroes. Plant scientist and green revolutionary Norman Borlaug died last week at the age of 95. Borlaug, a recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, worked tirelessly to help ensure that people the world over have enough to eat.

Borlaug worked closely with WSU scientists, including Orville Vogel. In a great tribute to Borlaug, The Spokesman Review’s John Stucke writes, “The two engaged in a sort of competitive camaraderie during the 1950s that launched agriculture’s Green Revolution.”

Stucke continues: “The annual harvests of eastern Washington are a living legacy to scientist Norman E. Borlaug, who helped develop types of wheat that feed the world.”

Borlaug’s gravitas and authority will be missed, CAHNRS dean Dan Bernardo told the Spokesman Review.

“Let’s face it, the issue of agricultural production and science is not real glitzy,” Bernardo said. “Yet Norman Borlaug had the ability to bring it to the forefront.

“He was somebody who could speak eloquently about those topics. He really was the respected and recognized voice for agricultural research and importance in the world.”

WSU researcher Robert E. Allan (left) with Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, at Spillman Farm, May 1995. Borlaug is credited with fathering the Green Revolution.

Learn more about Borlaug and his connection with WSU in The Spokesman Review

Robert E. Allan (left) with Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman E. Borlaug, at Spillman Farm, May 1995. Borlaug is credited with fathering the Green Revolution.

CAHNRS Broadens Common Reading Conversation

As many of you may have heard, WSU’s Common Reading Program for the 2009-2010 academic year features the book Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. While Pollan’s writings may be controversial and even infuriate some people within the agricultural community, the use of the book in the Common Reading Program provides a perfect opportunity to expand the program into a broad, university-wide conversation and curriculum surrounding how and what we grow and eat.

At a recent meeting of the CAHNRS Ag Kitchen Cabinet (a 15-person advisory group comprised of agricultural industry leaders), the use of Omnivore’s Dilemma in the Common Reading Program was discussed at length. The group unanimously supported use of the book and instructed the college to embrace the opportunity to showcase the food and agriculture industry and provide a balanced and constructive dialogue about topics addressed in the book. CAHNRS has taken that advice to heart and developed a comprehensive plan for engaging the university and its student body in an open dialogue about our food system. This plan involves a variety of strategies for faculty, staff, and students to create a much broader conversation that incorporates the book as one small element of a larger learning opportunity.

Many of the college’s activities are described on a new CAHNRS Web site developed specifically to inform the university community about resources and activities being made available to them by CAHNRS. The “Food for Thought” site is at and features a schedule of events, a guide to faculty experts, supplemental readings, podcasts, an Ag Word of the Week and additional resources for students. The Web site was just launched and will continue to be updated as new events are added and other material becomes available. We will be contacting various stakeholders over the year as opportunities present themselves for participation in talks, panels, and tours.

CAHNRS dean Dan Bernardo wrote about the College’s contribution to the WSU Common Reading program on his blog; you can read that posting here:

Food for Thought

What is the Common Reading Program? The Common Reading Program was started three years ago to build critical thinking skills within the freshman class. A common book is selected, and all freshmen are given a copy at orientation. Instructors of freshman courses are encouraged to incorporate learning activities using the book into their courses. Goals of the program are (1) to provide new students with a common ground from which interdisciplinary discussions and assignments can spring; (2) to serve as an introduction to the academic life of the institution, both inside and beyond the classroom; and (3) to draw upon the research expertise of WSU professors to bring subjects to life for the students.

What books have been used in the past? Fall 2009 marks the third year that WSU has offered a common reading program in Pullman. The first common reading book in fall 2007 was “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It,” by Gina Kolata. The second common reading in fall 2008 was “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers,” by Mary Roach.

Who selects the book to be used in the program? The book was selected by the Common Reading Committee, composed mostly of faculty members involved in freshman instruction, as well as undergraduate students.