Francis to receive honorary doctoral degree

Stephen Baenziger

Charles Francis

UPPSALA, Sweden — Professor Charles Francis, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, will be awarded an honorary doctoral degree for his contributions to agroecology teaching and creative activity in educational research from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences on Oct. 3. The degree conferment ceremony will take place at the Ultuna campus in Uppsala, Sweden.

Francis has many years of experience in collaboration with SLU colleagues, especially on the development of curricula in sustainable agriculture and agroecology.

He will give a lecture in Alnarp, the southern campus of SLU, on Oct. 1, entitled “Education in Integrated Long-term Farming/Food Systems: Focus Agroecology” and “Agroecology Education for Future Food Systems” in Uppsala, Oct. 2.

“I consider this honorary degree a recognition of the emerging importance of agroecology as an integrative discipline that involves production, economics, environmental, and social issues—an arena that could be defined as ‘the ecology of food systems,’’’ said Francis.

Francis started his career at UNL in 1977. He is an agronomist and plant breeder with research, extension and teaching interests in efficient cropping systems, cover crops, rotations, spatially diverse field designs, and integrated crop/animal systems. In agroecology and sustainable food systems, his interests have expanded to whole-farm planning, sustainable practices and farming systems in watershed design, on-farm and participatory research and educational activities, and collaborative research design.

He is vitally concerned about future farming systems, the role of diversity and integrated resource management, value-added enterprises and products, and relationships of small and moderate-scale family farms to viable rural communities. In 2014, he initiated a course about land grabs in the Global South, to help students explore, what he calls, one of the defining food system issues of our time.

He has a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from the University of California, Davis and master’s and doctoral degree from Cornell University in plant breeding. His graduate research was in the Philippines and in Colombia, each time with the national maize research programs and involving farmers. He has been director of the International Program for the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania and director of the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Systems at UNL. Interested in participatory and experiential education, Francis teaches several courses at UNL; in a Midwest consortium with Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota; at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.

With support from Sida, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Francis and colleagues have been instrumental in starting similar master’s of science programs at Makelle University in northern Ethiopia, at Uganda Martyrs University in Kampala and at Altuna in Sweden. Over the past two decades, the consortium has published 35 journal articles and a dozen book chapters describing this and other educational innovations in course content and teaching methods, and several dozen proceedings publications from technical meetings in agroecology and organic agriculture education. Evidence of the education consortium’s success includes a steady number of students in these programs, creation of new programs in five countries and agroecology graduates in meaningful jobs.

More Agronomy and Horticulture News