Gifts Support Life-Changing Experiences Overseas 

“I will never be the same!” 

That’s how OSU student Jocelyn Stokes sums up her year-long internship in Malaysia studying sun bears: the world’s smallest and the least researched bear. It was an extraordinary hands-on learning experience made possible in part by the Global Experience Fund in the College of Agricultural Sciences

Thanks to growing support from the Oregon State community, more and more students throughout the university likewise are jumping at the chance to participate in research, service, and educational programs around the world.

The Global Experience Fund was established in 2012 by Hiram Larew ’77, ’82, who recently retired as director of the Center for International Programs in the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In this role, and as a policy adviser at U.S. Agency for International Development, he spent years traveling in developing countries, guiding programs in Afghanistan, Armenia, Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Nicaragua, South Africa, and more.

The international bug bit early in Hiram’s professional career, he reflects – with no pun intended. Born in Indiana, he came to Oregon State as a master’s student in botany and plant pathology, going on to earn a doctorate in entomology. He moved to the Washington, D.C., area for his first job with the USDA, where he studied insects that attack ornamental crops. As he searched for solutions, he became aware of insecticides based on neem seeds, a plant native to India.

“I began to appreciate that there might be knowledge and approaches used overseas that are unknown here,” he says. “While the U.S. has a great deal to offer the world, we also have a great deal to learn from our international colleagues, whether in Bolivia, Belgium, or Botswana. It is essential that students enter the world of work with the skill base, the competencies, the overall global awareness to effectively work with colleagues around the world.

“There’s a sense that only the privileged who have resources get to go,” he adds, but that has to change. The Global Experience Fund provides opportunities for students regardless of financial capability.

Recently Hiram made a new gift commitment to create an endowment for the Global Experience Fund, assuring that support will be available perpetually for students and faculty in the College of Agricultural Sciences. His gift was matched with $20,000 from the ER Jackman Enhancement Fund and $5,000 from the college’s Dean’s Fund for Excellence.

A member of the William Jasper Kerr Society, Hiram also helped to establish a travel fund in the College of Science, helping students have experiences like studying endangered corals in Panama and build careers fusing science and policy. It’s hoped that with the contributions of other donors, both endowments will significantly grow.

Among other beneficiaries of the Global Experience Fund, Jocelyn Stokes and 12 additional agricultural sciences students to date have participated in international internships. Stokes can’t emphasize enough the importance of global experiences for students.

“International travel is absolutely essential for creating aware, conscientious individuals – and especially for American citizens. We are so privileged, and with that comes a lot of responsibility,” she says. “Reading and studying are necessary but it isn’t until you’re in the place, talking to the people, eating their food – that’s where the most growth really happens. Even a few weeks can be life-changing.”

It’s been a great pleasure for Hiram Larew to hear back from students like Jocelyn. “They’ll often say, ‘I went over assuming I knew what I’d be doing, that I knew the problem and what the answer would be. But when I got there, all bets were off. Nothing was as I expected,’” he notes. “Then they say, ‘But as a result, I’m a better person. I’m smarter. I found that, yes, I can offer insights, and I also gained insights.’ That’s what I really hope this fund will allow.”

Jocelyn Stokes is a wildlife conservationist and filmmaker. She spent time in South Korea and Southeast Asia before volunteering for a month at the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Malaysia – where she became enthralled by these special little bears. Named for the distinctive crescent mark on their chests, sun bears are the world’s second rarest bear species, following the giant panda.

While determined to use photography to raise awareness of the sun bears and conservation issues, Jocelyn wanted to increase her science background. She became a post-baccalaureate fisheries and wildlife student in OSU’s Ecampus online education program. With help from the Global Experience Fund, she returned to the island of Borneo in 2013-14 – this time as an intern conducting research on sun bear behaviors in their natural rainforest habitat.

Jocelyn still lives in Malaysian Borneo, where she is working on a documentary using footage she recorded during her internship (watch the trailer). “No one else has this kind of behavior on film of the bears,” she says.