Francine Jasper is an expert in the field of international education administration. She develops training programs with faculty and other professional resources for visiting scholars and has trained hundreds of professionals from nearly 90 countries on career development and how to adapt to a new culture in the United States.
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Middle America, the industrial rustbelt, with parents from an urban background. Looking at my upbringing, one would not predict that I would work in the agricultural field, nor with global issues. My black and white contemporaries, especially African Americans, ran away from anything remotely connected to farming and agriculture. The legacy of slavery and disenfranchisement from the land experienced by black people in this country was the ghost in the air.
But I know now what I didn’t then: that work in the agricultural education field is noble, imperative, and must be inclusive for all.
I am an international educator with 40 years of experience, nearly 30 of which have been here at Cornell University. As associate director for professional development in the Department of Global Development, I train professionals through the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, the USDA Borlaug Fellowship Program and the World Food Prize New York Youth Institute for high school students. I have an insatiable sense of curiosity and longing to learn, share and create. I believe in training people to become problem solvers, innovation leaders, and global partners.
It’s my honor to work with talented young people here in the U.S. and scholars leading change in their home countries around the globe. The best part is being able to make connections between the two. It is energizing to be in an environment that empowers the young and the old; from the staff with side hustles to undergraduates with business ideas to change the world. I am a piece of this jigsaw of life here.
Most of my work is with the Humphrey Fellows who come to the U.S. to learn new skills and share their knowledge. The U.S. Department of State sponsors this program for emerging leaders in public service. My role is to organize programs, mentor, counsel and connect visiting scholars to resources. I also organize opportunities for them to learn about U.S. culture: here they engage with small rural communities across New York; they take part in cutting-edge research with faculty across the university; they volunteer with local food pantries in Ithaca; they collaborate with Cornell Cooperative Extension; they visit local farms; they lend a hand with undergraduate students on campus club events.
What they do here changes the world. When I hear from Humphrey Fellow alumni about the many ways our program boosted their careers — as public leaders, founders of organizations, or as people taking on big challenges for international organizations — my heart bursts with pride. I love what we do. We are champions for the future.
It’s with an eye on the future that I helped launch the World Food Prize NY Youth Institute in 2009 with support from CALS, the World Food Prize and a host of supporters. This program offers a platform for New York high school students to develop solutions to end world hunger and address the quality of life in their communities. One of my biggest contributions to this program has been to encourage diversity from large urban to small rural communities and to encourage more boys to participate.
My own journey began when I lived and worked in Tanzania for 10 years. There I received as much as I contributed. I met people with the courage to fight battles for social and economic justice, whether they confronted injustices through their day jobs or in new, creative ways. Many of those I worked with had it all, but risked their lives to help underserved people. Those heroes – and that’s what they were — realized that there is an interconnection between humanity. It’s an interconnection that I see today. It’s an interconnection that stands at the heart of what I do and the change I strive to make in the world.
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