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K-State Today

August 2, 2012



Going the distance: Frontier Program uses field trip to Mexican border to inspire students studying food security

By Communications and Marketing

Border Pens

At the Santa Teresa, N.M., port of entry, about 300,000 cattle a year imported from Mexico pass through the national security checkpoint.

This summer, students from Kansas State University, as well as other universities, traveled to the New Mexico entry port to observe the intricate process of maintaining secure borders.

"We take students on field trips to learn about the complexity of the food system, to see firsthand why it's important to have an interdisciplinary approach to studying trade issues that relate to the food system and security," said Justin Kastner, co-director of the Frontier Program and an associate professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at the university's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The Frontier program is a cooperative educational program between Kansas State University and New Mexico State University that focuses on border security, food security and trade policy. The program is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, which has headquarters at the University of Minnesota.

Thirteen students from Kansas State University went on the recent six-day field trip. Danny Unruh, a May 2012 bachelor's graduate in food science and political science from Manhattan, was amazed by the protocols in place.

"Something that would seem simple on the surface is actually quite complex," Unruh said.

The students split into two groups and spent half a day at the cattle crossing and the other half at a citizen crossing.

Preston Lagemann, a junior in food science and agricultural international economics from Olathe, was impressed by the efficiency conducted by the border officials.

"The process has to continue to be fluent because if cross-border trade of livestock and food stops, people don't eat," he said.

Being able to watch border security agents and other professionals in action and talk to them about their jobs helps students like Lagemann decide their future careers and build excitement for their prospects, according to Kastner and Steve Toburen, Frontier Interdisciplinary eXperiences, or FIX, program coordinator.

"The instructors can only persuade the student so much," Kastner said. "At some point there has to be an external force that motivates them. I believe the field trips help provide that motivating external force."

Other Frontier faculty members include Abbey Nutsch, assistant professor of animal sciences and industry at Kansas State University, and Jason Ackleson, associate professor of government at New Mexico State University and an adjunct professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology at Kansas State University.

Frontier program faculty teach the students the importance of skills like critical thinking, writing, and communication and interdisciplinary thought. The Frontier field trip is a way to show the students how to put these skills to use.

"When we go on field trips, students get to see immediately why they are so important," Kastner said. "We have an obligation to do all that we can to creatively enrich the educational experience of students, and I believe the field trips are a great way to do that."

Along with Unruh and Lagemann, other Kansas State University students on the trip included:

Kassie Curran, senior in food science and industry, Farlington; Amy Sents, master's student in public health, McPherson.

From Manhattan: Sean Cochran, senior in English; Thomas Regier, third-year veterinary medicine student; and Eric Zeak, junior in food science and industry.

Heather Chance, a December 2011 master's graduate in public health, Miltonvale; Jennifer Engel, master's student in public health, Overland Park; and Nick Sevart, December 2011 bachelor's graduate in food science and industry, Wichita.

From out of state: Ryan Fuerte, master's student in food science, Fontana, Calif.

From out of country: Venkata Pasupulleti, master's student in biomedical sciences, Manuguru, India.

Students from New Mexico State University, the University of Minnesota and the Georgia Institute of Technology also attended.