New Paradigm Programs

The Quiet Revolution

The USDA CSREES (now known as National Institute of Food and Agriculture - NIFA) Higher Education Challenge Grant Program awarded to MSU in 2007 has begun with a Quiet Revolution. Based on the action research course launched Spring 2008 in Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology (PSPP), an on-going 3-credit University Core course in Research and Creative Activity was approved. PSPP 465R, entitled Health, Poverty, Agriculture: Concepts and Action Research was launched in the fall of 2008. Meanwhile, four courses at three other universities were initiated when faculty adapted the PSPP 465R syllabus and teaching-methods model.

The three-year grant encouraging this Quiet Revolution is the New Paradigm for Discovery-Based Learning: Implementing Bottom-up Development by Listening to Farmers’ Needs and Using Participatory, Holistic Processes. The P.I. is Dr. Florence Dunkel. The Co-PI is Dr. Clifford Montagne, Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences, also at Montana State University.

Partner schools are Virginia Tech, the University of St. Thomas (UST, St. Paul, MN), the University of California-Davis (UC-D), the University of California-Riverside (UC-R), Chief Dull Knife College (CDKC - Lame Deer, MT), and the University of Bamako in Mali. PSPP 465R and the four sibling courses are typical of the radical, innovative teaching style change promoted by the grant. Students address real problems of subsistence farmers holistically, in real time (thanks to solar charged cell phones in remote Malian villages and the Internet), interacting weekly with the foreign partner team. Each course is interdisciplinary, linked to partner institutions, and vertically integrated.

At UST, where the word "agriculture" was not spoken until our collaboration began in 2002, 30 students in the UST School of Business’ M.B.A. program are engaged in a Project Management course working on the Certified Disease-Free Seed Potato project in Mali. M.B.A. students are linked in teams to six former MSU graduate students now returned to Mali. Project leader is Mme. Aissata Thera, 2008 M.S. graduate of PSPP. Other former PSPP students leading teams are: Keriba Coulibaly, Abdoulaye Camara, and Adama Berthe. Undergraduate UST students in Sociology, French Language/Literature, and Mechanical Engineering (specifically in the local chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World) assist.

At UC-R, a molecular entomologist/immunologist in the Department of Entomology linked up with the Department of Economics and a Cultural Anthropology professor to create a similar course.

At Montana State in PSPP, students in our “Poverty Course” are from Horticulture, Political Science, and Pre-Med (Post Bac) majors. They decided to focus on a subsistence farming village wanting to “erradicate malaria” that had asked for help implementing anti-malarial Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Students will follow up with the villagers on the biocontrol, the use of traditional plants, a cottage industry initiated to generate funding, and a junior high school community awareness program begun PSPP 465R students. October 16, 2008, students from across the country joined PSPP students to discuss poverty concept texts assigned for that week. In the joint video conference, students met each other and practiced the art of listening-to-and-not-leading subsistence farmers, putting these farmers in the “driver’s seat,” all while valuing traditional wisdom (and each other’s knowledge base).

How are we vertically integrated? Graduate students in professional programs link in teams with undergraduates and professional agricultural scientists. Junior high students in a Malian village school link with undergraduates and professors at MSU to solve a Malian community problem. Junior high students from Manhattan, Montana, work on questions posed by local seed potato farmers and each May share their research results in a virtual “Global Science Fair” with high school students in Mali, advised by Mme. Aissata Thera. Malian village school students initiating the malarial IPM community-awareness campaign, answered questions from program officers at the USDA Washington.

Why do we do this? Students across the US are asking for a holistic approach to solving real world problems and the skills to address those problems effectively. What is the ultimate goal? World peace is one goal, along with alleviating hunger and minimizing the effects of dibilitating diseases and malnutrition. Other aspects of the New Paradigm Project, and related grants, are detailed in this website.