Inaugural Pears Foundation Alumni Workshop in Nutritional Sciences attended by practitioners from Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East

Pears Alumni Workshop participants and graduating students from Nepal September 23, 2012: The first Pears Foundation Alumni Workshop for graduates of the international master's program in nutritional sciences was held earlier this month at the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment on the Hebrew University’s Rehovot campus. More than 20 alumni joined current students of the program, with 18 countries — Canada, Mexico, India, China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Ghana, Nepal, Kenya, Thailand, Tanzania, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Swaziland, South Africa, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority — represented. A total of 200 people attended the five-day workshop, with the alumni and students joined by Smith Faculty members, visiting scholars and local and international students.

The workshop was initiated and sponsored by the Pears Foundation of London, a leading supporter of student fellowships for the Smith Faculty’s international master’s programs in nutritional and plant sciences, held in alternate years. This year, the Pears Foundation also provided scholarships for the international master’s program in animal sciences.

The workshop — organized by the Smith Faculty’s Division for External Studies — comprised an intensive program of professional updates by the alumni, seminar presentations by master’s students, research symposia on micronutrients and on global nutrition and roundtable discussions on fighting global obesity and on sustainable solutions for meeting nutritional needs in the developing world. Presentations by both the master’s students and alumni covered a wide range, from a presentation by a student from Ethiopia on nutritional care for HIV/AIDS-infected women to alumni updates on iron-deficiency anemia in Nepal and the impact of national free maternal healthcare policy in Ghana. Visiting scholars included Prof. Mary Murimi of the School of Human Ecology at Louisiana-Tech University and Prof. Michael Zimmerman, head of the Human Nutrition Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

During the workshop, a graduation ceremony was held for the 15 students from nine countries who this year completed the one-year international master’s programs in nutritional sciences and animal sciences. The gala ceremony, also attended by the visiting alumni, was held at the Rehovot campus with the keynote speech given by outgoing Ghanaian ambassador Henry Hanson-Hall. An agricultural expert by profession and a regular visitor to the Smith Faculty, Ambassador Hanson-Hall praised the remarkable development of Israel’s agricultural sector and the unique expertise that was being shared globally through the overseas master’s programs — he emphasized the benefits of academic and professional networking facilitated through alumni initiatives such as the Pears Workshop. Pears Foundation Israel representative Dina Gidron also congratulated the graduates.

The Pears Workshop participants and the new master’s graduates were presented with their certificates and degrees by Smith Faculty Dean Prof. Aharon Friedman, nutritional sciences program co-chair Dr. Aliza Stark and animal sciences program co-chair Prof. Rina Meidan. Prof. Friedman acknowledged the foresight and generosity of the Pears Foundation and other scholarship supporters, including the British Friends of the Hebrew University. He welcomed new support from the Bonita Trust of Britain which is to provide a scholarship for an Indian student participating in the upcoming international master’s program in plant sciences. Tali Tokeras of Mexico (nutritional sciences) and Garth Odell Scott of Jamaica (animal sciences) responded on behalf of the students.

In addition to the five-day workshop, the visiting alumni became reacquainted with Israel. They spent a professional field day in Jerusalem and, following the graduation ceremony, were joined by the new master’s graduates for a two-day tour of northern Israel, including visits to the Hula Nature Reserve, Safed, Acre and Christian holy sites in Nazareth and Caperneum.

The new Pears Foundation Alumni Workshop is one of several Pears Foundation initiatives to support the 900 graduates of the international master’s programs run by the Smith Faculty’s Division for External Studies and of the international master’s in public health (IMPH) program at the Braun Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health and Community Medicine. Designed to build upon and sustain the success of the master’s programs, these include an online alumni social network, periodic newsletters, a comprehensive alumni database and seed grants for selected research projects.

Many alumni of the Smith Faculty’s international programs have reached senior positions in their native countries and in international organizations such as UNICEF; nine graduates are currently doing their doctorates at prestigious universities around the globe. Graduates of the program in nutritional sciences have, over the years, developed many methods to increase access to food for children in developing countries. In Malawi, for instance, Lovemore Nakata-Malanga has pioneered two programs — in one, school pupils cultivate (and eventually consume) various crops in school-based vegetable gardens; in the second, malnutrition-caused mortality in babies and infants has been significantly reduced through the use of local, cooperatively-grown and produced hummus powder which, when mixed with water, provides a low-cost and effective food supplement.

Click here to view the Pears Foundation Alumni Workshop closing ceremony and the international master's in nutritional sciences graduation ceremony

For interview with Pears Foundation Executive Chair Trevor Pears, click here and go to page 23