FSE becomes full-scale research center

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The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) announced that it plans to celebrate the launch of the Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) at its fall conference on Nov. 10.

FSE expanded this fall from a program to a full-scale research center. FSE was established in 2006 and was previously a joint program of the FSI and the Woods Institute for the Environment.

FSE Director Rosamond Naylor Ph.D. ’89, professor in environmental earth system science, will continue in her post.

The Center for Food Security and the Environment works to bring issues of hunger, poverty and the environment into a global setting. The University selected FSE, which conducts research on aquaculture, biofuels and the evolving U.S. energy policies, among other topics, to expand its impact on and off campus.

“It’s this set of efforts in terms of publications, policy advice [and] outreach that catches people’s attention,” said Walter “Wally” Falcon, deputy director of FSE. “We think it’s the main reason why we are able to go from one level in the hierarchy to one higher level.”

Falcon was the former director of FSI and is an emeritus professor in international agricultural policy.

The Center on Food Security and the Environment offers classes on world food economy, China’s economic development and society, sustainable agriculture and global change. With the transition from a program to a research center this year, both academic offerings and the research opportunities will increase, Falcon said.

“We’re going to be a larger, more self-sustaining operation that has a longer outlook on life,” he added. “We will have some more faculty involved with us.”

FSE recently evaluated its funding, personnel and scholarly growth and determined that the transition to a full-fledged research hub would allow the center to be endowed and recruit new faculty. The center hopes to increase its core team of affiliated researchers at Stanford and collaborators outside of the University in the near future.

The Center on Food Security and the Environment is linked to both FSI and the Woods Institute. By spanning multiple departments, the program has been able to apply for and receive grants from each institute.

“Funding comes from Stanford, from endowments that underwrite some of our faculty, from gifts and from competitive grants,” Falcon said.

Government grants from organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy also subsidize FSE’s activities.

In 2007, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $3.8 million to the program.

Food research has long been a major interest at the University. The now-defunct Food Research Institute (FRI) was first established in 1921 by an agreement between the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Stanford University, with strong support from then-Secretary of Commerce and alumnus Herbert Hoover ‘95. Though FRI closed its doors in 1996-including Naylor, who received her Ph.D. there in 1989, and Falcon, who served as its director from 1972 until 1991-several alumni of the program went on to serve at FSI.

Researchers are also conscious of the successful work they have completed since the program’s inception and use these trends to inform their current developments.

“One can hardly pick up the paper and not be concerned about a whole series of issues on food,” Falcon said. “I think over the past decade we’ve done some really creative work in this field. The University recognized that food as an applied topic is very visible and, I think, very huge at the time.”

 

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