published on January 8, 2021 - 2:27 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

Cheese is the glue holding together a new study abroad program being offered at Fresno State.

Carmen Licon Cano, a Fresno State food science and nutrition professor, is heading up the new partnership with Universidad Panamericana in Aguascalientes in Central Mexico called “From Cows to Neurons: A Binational Student-Faculty Study Abroad Program.”

The two-week intensive study experience will connect faculty and experts in each location, with six students and one faculty member from each campus engaging in hands-on learning, cheesemaking and industry networking, according to a Fresno State news release.

Originally planned for summer, the program may be delayed until summer 2022 if Covid-19 pandemic restrictions affect campus-sponsored or international travel.

The program will showcase all elements of the dairy production chain, including food chemistry, marketing, processing, production, quality, safety, sensory analysis and technology.

The program is made possible by a $25,000 grant announced by the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund. Fresno State was included as one of 11 United States and Mexican university partnerships, and it was the only American university selected from the West Coast.

The program is supported by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Embassy in Mexico, Fundación Banorte and Fundación Gruma to create new models of academic exchange and workforce development. Fresno State was selected in the category related to economic inclusion, agricultural sustainability and inequality reduction.

“This is a great opportunity for students from various backgrounds to learn and work closely with professionals in all aspects of food and dairy, with several topics focused specifically on cheese,” Licon Cano said. “They can gain important cultural experiences while learning about product development, sustainability and other topics.”

Students will work within the Jordan Agricultural Research Center, the campus creamery and the campus dairy, which milks about 150 Holstein and Jersey cows twice daily. Students work at these campus farm units year-round and process fresh ice cream, milk and cheese products sold at the Gibson Farm Market on campus.

Licon Cano was connected to the Central Mexican university and her organizing faculty counterpart, Dr. Julieta Dominguez Soberanes, thanks to prior connections between the Fresno State Lyles College of Engineering and the Universidad Panamericana.

Campus staff and faculty from both universities hope the one-year grant leads to future collaborations with other commodities such as corn, tomatoes, grapes or wine.

“Cheese has a special place in my heart, so this is a meaningful way for me to share that passion with students, both here and in Mexico,” Licon Cano said. “When I meet with our local industry members, they emphasize potential needs for training their workers, so I hope this is the first step of many towards increasing our opportunities and facilities for the cheese and dairy processing industry in the Central Valley and beyond.”

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