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2019

To help community leaders, municipal officials and others who work in the public and nonprofit sectors, Penn State Extension is offering a video series titled, "Community Conflict: Finding Middle Ground." The free series offers practical strategies to facilitate and build trust in a community. The short videos are designed to be watched individually or as a series. Each video focuses on an individual topic important in productive community conversations. It is important for community leaders to create a civil environment to explore the issues at the heart of polarizing conversations, whether those difficult discussions focus on community planning, resource development or other "hot button" topics, according to Walt Whitmer, senior extension educator with Penn State's Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. He and other Penn State Extension educators are sensitive to the importance of effective engagement and earning the trust of stakeholders for optimal open conversation.

The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC) to enhance suicide prevention efforts in the U.S. Air Force. The two-year grant will enable the Clearinghouse to bolster the pilot implementation of the Zero Suicide Systems Approach (ZSSA) at five Air Force bases. ZSSA is an evidence-informed, framework designed to assist healthcare organizations implement, improve, and sustain system-wide suicide prevention efforts. Components of ZSSA include: universal screening for suicide risk, full suicide risk assessments for those who screen positive, providing a clear pathway to the most appropriate and least restrictive care, safety planning, and counseling on how to prevent access to lethal means such as firearms and medications. Within civilian settings, ZSSA has had promising results in reducing suicides in several large healthcare systems.

A new, innovative community service-learning course — "Service-Learning with Pennsylvania Farmworkers" — offered by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences is aimed at breaking down those barriers. "This course is an example of how our faculty and students use their knowledge and talents to make a difference in the lives of others, and I applaud their dedication and enthusiasm," said Deanna Behring, assistant dean and director of international programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences, when referring to the inaugural course, which took place in the fall 2018 semester and was supported by the Harbaugh Faculty Scholars program.

According to lead author Daniel Perkins, founder and principal scientist at the Clearinghouse, the good news about veterans that is often overlooked is that “the majority of veterans do not have negative experiences as they adjust to civilian life, rather they make a successful transition back to their communities.” However, a significant number of veterans report they have difficulty with reintegration challenges.

Widespread adoption by dairy farmers of injecting manure into the soil instead of spreading it on the surface could be crucial to restoring Chesapeake Bay water quality, according to researchers who compared phosphorus runoff from fields treated by both methods. However, they predict it will be difficult to persuade farmers to change practices. In a four-year study, overland and subsurface flows from 12 hydrologically isolated research plots at Penn State's Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center were measured and sampled for all phosphorus constituents and total solids during and after precipitation events. During that period, from January 2013 to May 2017, the plots were planted with summer crops of corn and winter cover crops of cereal rye. Half the plots received broadcast manure applications, while the others had manure injected into the soil.

Sometimes the seemingly small things in life can be major stressors. Nobody likes sitting in traffic, for example. According to one study, commuting is one of the least pleasant things we do. But it’s not just an annoying time waster — there’s a case that it’s a public health issue. According to analysis by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average American commuter spends 42 hours per year stuck in rush-hour traffic. In the Los Angeles area, the figure is nearly twice that, equivalent to more than three days. A 2015 Los Angeles Times poll found that among residents of that city, traffic concerns exceed those pertaining to personal safety, finances or housing costs.

Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has named Jayson Harper, professor of agricultural economics, as interim director of the Fruit Research and Extension Center, effective March 1.

Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute (SSRI), in collaboration with the Institute for CyberScience (ICS) and the College of Information Sciences and Technology, has awarded over $100,000 in funding to support six new interdisciplinary teams of Penn State researchers whose work is aimed at developing innovative research programs using Twitter data. “Twitter data provides significant opportunities to study social problems that cannot be easily addressed by traditional data, advancing the social and behavioral sciences,” said Guangqing Chi, associate professor of rural sociology and demography and public health sciences and director of the SSRI and PRI’s Computational and Spatial Analysis (CSA) Core.

The Appalachian communities that enjoyed persistent economic growth following the 2008 Great Recession have a number of factors in common, according to researchers who analyzed all 420 counties in the Appalachian region. Their findings will help guide future economic development strategies across Appalachia. “Economically resilient communities, such as Pennsylvania’s McKean County, can teach us about strategies for promoting resilience elsewhere in the region,” said Stephan J. Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development. “By identifying the resilience-promoting factors these communities share, our findings will help other communities select strategies and policies to enhance their own future economic prospects.” The results of the analysis recently were published by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in a report titled “Strengthening Economic Resilience in Appalachia.”

Two faculty members in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences have been named the recipients of the 2018 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award, which recognizes exceptional articles accepted or published by refereed scholarly journals in the social and human sciences within the past two years. Molly Hall, assistant professor of veterinary and biomedical sciences, will be recognized for her work in human sciences, while Daniel Brent, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, will be recognized for his work in social sciences.

Mark Brennan, professor and UNESCO Chair in Community, Leadership, and Youth Development in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and Ali Kara, professor of business administration at Penn State York, are the recipients of Penn State's 2019 Milton S. Eisenhower Award for Distinguished Teaching. The award recognizes excellence in teaching and student support among tenured faculty who have been employed full time for at least five years with undergraduate teaching as a major portion of their duties. Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served as president of Penn State from 1950 to 1956.

"GreenBriq, a student venture aimed at turning the biomass of invasive water hyacinth plants into affordable fuel briquettes for Kenyan families, recently won the $7,500 first-place prize in the Ag Springboard pitch contest... One of the other finalist teams, Team Nuglys developed fruit and vegetable-based cookies made with ugly fruits and vegetables — meaning misshapen and discolored — sourced locally. The team's vision is to provide local farmers with a fair price for difficult-to-sell produce and make a profit on a unique cookie. Team members are Laura Greaves and Jon Colwell, agribusiness management majors, and Navjit Singh, a finance major..."

How do regional opinions on Twitter represent real-world attitudes toward climate change? A team of researchers will work to find out, thanks to a recent seed grant from the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. Ting-Hao (Kenneth) Huang, principal investigator on the project is collaborating with Guangqing Chi, associate professor of rural sociology and demography and public health sciences in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and John Yen, professor of information sciences and technology, on the project. The seed grant funding was awarded by SSRI, in collaboration with the College of Information Sciences and Technology and the Institute for CyberScience. This is one of six University projects this spring to receive SSRI funding for developing innovative research programs using Twitter data. The team is pursuing external funding to further advance the project.

Water for Agriculture, a Penn State-led interdisciplinary research project funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute on Food and Agriculture, has announced the launching of its website. The project aims to address the water and agriculture issues that matter most to communities through effective stakeholder engagement. “Our purpose is to transform the way scientists, the cooperative extension system, technical services providers, agency officials, engagement practitioners, and communities can collaboratively approach critical water and agricultural issues,” said Kathy Brasier, professor of rural sociology in the College of Agricultural Sciences and the project’s principal investigator. “The website is one tool that we plan to use to share information and build our network of collaborators.” The website provides information and background on the project as well as an events calendar for each of the communities. It also houses a library of webinars, a news and update section and a community engagement toolbox, which provides a practical guide to the major concepts, tools and strategies for implementing effective community engagement processes. Water for Agriculture brings together social and biophysical researchers and practitioners. These interdisciplinary teams are working in five communities in Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Arizona. “The purpose of Water for Agriculture is to better understand the processes by which a broad range of stakeholders can come together to improve how water and agricultural issues are addressed in differing agricultural contexts,” said Walt Whitmer, a Penn State senior extension associate and project facilitator.

Matthew Kaplan, professor of intergenerational programs and aging in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences and coordinator of the Intergenerational Leadership Institute, noted that the fair will provide a unique opportunity. "By now, most people have heard the saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' Well, the Intergenerational Friends Fair is all about strengthening the intergenerational village," he said. "The event will be a multimedia celebration of the bonds of caring and community that connect and enrich the lives of all generations." Stephan Goetz, professor of agricultural and regional economics and director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, which is providing partial support for the Intergenerational Friends Fair, emphasized the community-building significance of the event. "This event will highlight some ways in which the skills, knowledge and experience of older adults help to strengthen families and contribute to community quality of life for all residents, regardless of age," said Goetz.

Penn State students and alumni will travel to all corners of the globe for the 2019-2020 school year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Including: Tessa Sontheimer, undergraduate; Community, Environment, and Development, College of Agricultural Sciences, and Global and International Studies, College of the Liberal Arts; Indonesia

The 2018–19 Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) seed grant recipients have been awarded to 18 groups of interdisciplinary researchers at Penn State. IEE established a Seed Grant Program in 2013 to foster basic and applied research addressing IEE’s research themes. Over the previous rounds, IEE has awarded over $2.7 million to 104 interdisciplinary projects with investigators from at least 15 Penn State colleges and campuses. This year, seed grants were awarded to proposals focusing on three of IEE’s five strategic research themes — Climate and Ecosystem Change, Future Energy Supply, and Human Health and the Environment — as well as three strategic crosscutting topics -- Food-Energy-Water Systems, High-Performance Building Systems, and Energy and Environmental Resilience.

Tessa Sontheimer and Geoff Merz, graduates of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, have been named recipients of Fulbright Study Awards.

The Interinstitutional Center for Indigenous Knowledge (ICIK) has selected the winners of its 2019 Whiting Indigenous Knowledge Student Research Awards, funded by the M. G. Whiting Endowment for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledge. Applicants must be Penn State students planning to conduct research related to an approved topic for an undergraduate capstone course, honors thesis topic, master’s or doctoral thesis, or similar. The 2019 Whiting Award winners are: — Richard Caneba, a doctoral candidate in the College of Information Sciences and Technology, for “Power, Knowledge, and Indigenous Ways-of-Knowing in the Information Age: A Postcolonial Perspective on Indigenous IT and STEM Educational Outreach in Canada”; — Christian Kelly Scott, a doctoral candidate studying rural sociology and international agriculture and development, for “The Pasture, the Village, and the People: Food Security Endowments and Abatements in the Southern Kyrgyz Highlands”; and — Ryan Naylor, a master’s degree candidate studying recreation, park and tourism management, for “Tribes, Timber, and Tourism in the Nation's Largest National Forest: Emic Perspectives of Indigenous Alaskans on the Tourism Development unfolding in Tongass National Forest.”

With the U.S. economy on track for potentially the longest expansion on record after the Great Recession of 2008-09, employment in Pennsylvania overall is strong. But the rosy statewide job numbers can mask persistent decline in various industries and regions across the state, according to economists in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences. Their conclusions are reflected in a report newly released by Penn State's Center for Economic and Community Development, titled "Pennsylvania: Bust to Boom? Great Recession to Recovery & Beyond." Through the liberal use of graphics, the report illustrates job growth and decline statewide and in five regions and 20 major industry sectors.

Ted Alter, professor of agricultural, environmental and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, is among an international group of community, industry, government and academic leaders who are being lauded for their work to help manage an invasive and destructive species in Australia. The team has received the 2019 United Nations Public Service Award, the most prestigious international recognition of excellence in public service, which rewards the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide. The group accepted the award during this year’s United Nations Forum, which was held June 24-26 in Baku, Azerbaijan. The team’s initiative, the Victorian Rabbit Action Network, or VRAN, was focused on reframing and renegotiating the relationships between government agencies and citizens for more effective management of Australia’s worst invasive species — the European rabbit, according to Michael Reid, program manager for Agriculture Victoria, an agency of the Australian state of Victoria.