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K-State Today

May 21, 2020

Middendorf contributes to forum on postsecondary response to COVID-19

Submitted by Pat Melgares

A Kansas State University official who participated in a recent national discussion on the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic to education and research said that she is encouraged by the amount of collaborative work being done at America's universities to get past a tough time.

Jan Middendorf, associate director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, represented K-State at the Forum on Postsecondary Response to COVID-19, hosted by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to discuss and highlight important work that is being conducted across the United States and around the world.

"There has been an enormous amount of collaborative effort, work and resources for faculty, students, and administrators" as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Middendorf said. "There has also been a lot of forgiveness and flexibility in trying to transition to this new reality."

Middendorf said K-State also has been proactive, and is well positioned to tackle these issues as evidenced by three strategic initiatives:

  • Innovation in education.
  • Global food, health and biosecurity.
  • Engaging as a cyber land-grant university.

"Looking ahead," she said, "there is still much uncertainty due to COVID-19, but keeping engaged with these timely efforts will be important to our future."

In terms of research globally, Middendorf said society is witnessing the strength of interdisciplinary collaboration to address complex global issues, which is a lot of the work she does within SIIL. She said science and research are core to a solution, and many disciplines should be part of that effort.

"Now more than ever, we need to engage all of our resources, expertise and collective understanding across the globe to address the COVID-19 challenge and future challenges that we ultimately will face," Middendorf said.

Middendorf said students should look at this crisis as an opportunity: "This pandemic has demonstrated that addressing the challenges of an increasingly interconnected global society will require problem-based, cross-disciplinary education at our universities."

"I have faith in the innovation and creativity of not only our current faculty, administrators, and staff, but more importantly of the student body who will be our current and future scholars," she said.

The NASEM forum covered researchers' national and global response efforts, impacts on laboratories, policy and discussions regarding long-term implications on postsecondary education and the critical role universities play during this time.

SIIL is one of four Feed the Future Innovation Labs at K-State that are funded by the United States Agency for International Development. SIIL works to produce measurable impacts on reducing global hunger, poverty and improving the nutrition of smallholder farmers across the globe.

The seven sessions conducted during the NASEM Forum are available to view online.