Brigette Barbosa

Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture and Finnish Polytechnic University officials finalized an agreement to set up an exchange program between the colleges.

College of Agriculture Dean David Wehner and officials from Seinajoki Polytechnic finished signing a Memorandum of Understanding last Wednesday that will send Cal Poly faculty and students to Finland for research and development projects as well as internships focused on agriculture.

Natural resources management department head and professor Doug Piirto will spend 10 weeks at Seinajoki beginning in September.

“I hope to bring back new ideas and more research projects for our university to work on,” Piirto said. He will be lecturing forestry classes, helping with the development of new forestry graduate programs and working on new research projects regarding biofuels during his stay.

“Biofuels focus fits into my forestry background. It’s about extending the use of our forest,” Piirto said. The goal will be to collect information on how wood can be considered as a source of biofuel.

Piirto visited Finland and the university last summer and returned with a positive report for Wehner. The plans for an exchange program agreement have been expanding ever since.

Along with Cal Poly faculty, students will be conducting research of their own at the overseas university. Animal science sophomore Kari Reina and soil science sophomore Kiana Amiri-Davani will spend next summer in Finland. The two met each other in high school and were reacquainted here at Cal Poly, Reina said.

“I am definitely excited,” Reina said. “I have never been to Europe before. Kiana is the same way. Nervous and excited, but mostly excited.”

The pair will learn about growing crops in a northern region under different types of agricultural conditions. According to the Cal Poly news release Reina and Amiri-Davani will study crops like barley, oats, wheat and rye on small farms of less than 100 acres.

“I’ll get the experience of working with people from a different country and seeing how they approach things, and more experience with farm animal interaction,” Reina said.

Research and development director for Seinajoki Polytechnic Asko Peltola visited Cal Poly recently to help create the exchange program.

“The students will experience a new culture,” Peltola said. “That’s good. You always learn something when you are away from home.” Both Reina and Amiri-Davani met with Peltola during his stay and were able to set up an internship during that time.

Faculty from Seinajoki will visit Cal Poly next year as part of the exchange program, Piirto said. Similar research, teaching and learning experiences will be available to participating visitors in the field of agriculture.

Sabbatical leave is designed to make teachers better at what they do and the knowledge they have, Piirto said. The last time he took sabbatical leave was in 1996, when he spent time working on ecosystem research projects, a hiatus that earned Cal Poly several major research grants.

“I am very excited. It’s new for me,” Piirto said. The research may be new but the Finnish culture is not. Aside from spending time there last summer, Piirto’s grandparents were from that region and he is able to trace his family lineage back to a famous man from Finland who was influential in the 1500s.

This is not the first contact Cal Poly has had with the Finnish university. Cal Poly’s College of Business also has a Memorandum of Understanding with Seinajoki.

Seinajoki Polytechnic of Finland is much like Cal Poly with regards to its programs offered and the wide variety of majors. A few years ago the Finland government tried to implement a system similar to the California State University system. The result was not as widespread, but was successful in uniting several smaller schools to create the modern university Seinajoki, Piirto said.

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