MW president awarded Fulbright
WORTHINGTON -- Dr. Richard Shrubb, president of Minnesota West Community and Technical College, will travel to Russia in early April to help forge relationships between rural Russian farmers and agribusiness professionals and farmers from southwest Minnesota.
Shrubb, recently awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant, is one of five college administrators -- and the only Minnesotan -- to make the 17-day journey to Russia. The group will spend two weeks "in country" as representatives of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Joining Shrubb on the journey are college officials from Florida, California, Texas and New Jersey.
"We go first to Moscow and participate in Department of State functions," Shrubb said of the trip. "About half of the trip can be customized for each participant. That's when we'll separate from the group and do individually specialized goals."
Now in the process of getting his VISA application completed, Shrubb said his goal for the trip is to meet with rural Russian farmers to "amplify education and the exchange of people and equipment."
"My hope is to establish relationships and exchange knowledge and people between southwest Minnesota and rural Russia," he added.
"Ideally, what I would like is to see Russian farmers come here and live with farmers for a week or two and just look at equipment and talk about soil analysis, marketing grain, inoculations for livestock, transportation of livestock -- even (meet) people not directly involved in farming ... that's a huge opportunity for Russian farmers."
Shrubb had applied for a Fulbright Scholar while in graduate school more than 30 years ago, but unlike his application then, this time he had a specific purpose in mind -- one that grew out of a connection he made with a Minnesota West student a year ago.
Brandon Dreesen of Slayton was a student in Jeff Rogers' class at Minnesota West and spoke of the work his dad, Don, was doing to get agricultural equipment to Russian farmers. The family-owned business dismantles farm implements, ships the pieces in containers to Russia, and then has the products assembled there for use by farmers.
"It's just a wonderful service to Russia," said Shrubb. "The market (for implements) is so small, so the really big companies ... it's not a big enough market for them to open a business there. It's really perfect for a family-owned business."
Shrubb visited Dreesen's Russian Ag Export business early last summer with Rogers.
"Jeff was so impressed with this business that he invited our provost and me to go to their family and learn about this business they have in Slayton," Shrubb explained. "We learned about the concept that they have, which was very direct and common sensical. It was successful because of its directness and simplicity."
Within weeks after visiting the Dreesens, Shrubb attended a training for college presidents where he spoke with a college president from Florida who had recently returned from a Fulbright trip. That discussion "connected the dots" for Shrubb, who applied for a Fulbright grant to Russia just days after returning from the summer training.
"The trip (to Russia) is so brief that I could do it without disturbing my presidency here," Shrubb said. "All the participants have to have very specific plans about what we want to do."
Shrubb said his ultimate goal is to share farmers back and forth between southwest Minnesota and Russia in hopes of advancing Russia's farming practices. Most farmers in Russia practice subsistence farming, meaning they use their farm to feed their family.
"Their equipment is very, very old in relation to what we have now," Shrubb said. "We want to promote the business model of agriculture in Russia and the transportation of knowledge back and forth between the United States and Russia for farming and community development that's wrapped around agriculture."
As a requirement of the Fulbright Scholar program, Shrubb will make public presentations about his Russian experience upon his return. He plans to speak at local Kiwanis and Rotary groups, as well as promote the Fulbright program during the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities meeting of presidents.
Shrubb's trip to Russia is completely funded by the Fulbright grant, and he will not get any funds from Minnesota West or the MnSCU program for the mission.
Approximately 1,100 faculty and professionals from across the U.S. will travel abroad in 2013 and 2014 through the Fulbright Scholar Program. Sponsored by the U.S. government, the Fulbright program is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries. The U.S. Congress makes an annual appropriation to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to fund the Fulbright Scholarship Program.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for relationship building and business exchange of agricultural practices," Shrubb said. "If we can achieve that, it would be better for us as global citizens and as agricultural professionals."
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.