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International Programs

Zahra Debbek

WSU Doctoral Education Student Receives International Honor

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Henri Burns, a doctoral student in the mathematics and science education program at WSU Vancouver’s College of Education, has been chosen by the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) to take part in five-day workshop in Taiwan this summer.

Burns, who is doing her studies at WSU Vancouver, is one of only 36 graduate students worldwide chosen for the Sandra K. Abell Research Institute for Doctoral Students.

Burns’ dissertation advisor Kristen Lesseig said Burns’ research is timely and has potential to make a significant contribution in terms of broadening participation in STEM education.

“Her research is focused on the impact that engineering design lessons, which include a strong emphasis on empathy, can have on the interest middle school girls have in engineering” Lesseig said.

NARST noted in its media release: “This Institute will offer doctoral student participants from around the world opportunities to build a global community of science education scholars, not only among the students, but also with internationally renowned scholars, as well as the NTNU community.”

In addition to acceptance into the program, Burns also receives funding to support her attendance and travel.

Find this news release at WSU News online at

Media Contact:
Brandon Chapman, director of communication, WSU College of Education,, 509-335-6850

Traveling the World of Fashion

By Zahra Debbek, Office of International Programs

“The lifetime of rewards you get from your experience abroad are completely priceless and studying abroad has been a huge career boost. It improved the way I connect with people in the office and in building relationships with my suppliers overseas.” – Kelli Schmitz ’09

Washington State University alumna, Kelli Schmitz, who studied apparel merchandising, design, and textiles, is now the assistant product developer at the clothing company SanMar based in Seattle.

Growing up with both parents who are WSU graduates, Schmitz always knew that she was going to study in Pullman. She attended WSU in 2005 and earned her bachelor’s degree in 2009.

The Schmitz family portrait showing Cougar pride, 1992

Schmitz had always been interested in fashion. As a child, she would draw, design, and create clothes and new outfits out of old scrap materials. Her inspiration comes from her grandmother who taught her how to sew and knit.

“Days at grandma’s house were spent learning to knit, sew, and playing dress-up with scarves, sequin dresses, and high heel shoes,” Schmitz recalled.

She ‘stumbled upon’ Global Learning study abroad table in the CUB and started looking into studying in Europe. In the fall of 2008, she traveled to Italy as part of the Italian Studies and Fashion program. She also traveled to France, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, and Ireland.

Kelli Schmitz at King’s Cross Station in London in 2008

Studying abroad has helped her broaden her knowledge about different textiles and garments from around the world.

Schmitz’s goal has always been to be able to travel while working in the fashion industry. Currently, she holds the position of sourcing and product development at SanMar.

As the assistant product developer, her job is “to determine where that garment will be made, the material, and help facilitating all the details that go into getting it into [the] warehouse,” she explained.

After receiving the designs from designers, Schmitz, alongside with her manager, decides what countries to source fabric from based on the fabric itself.

“For example, if we were handed a beaded top, I would look at India because the sewers are very good at embellishments and intricate details,” Schmitz said.

She has to travel to the places where the factories and fabric mills are located. She strongly believes that having the face-to-face connections make the working relationship stronger.

Kelli Schmitz at the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy in 2008

With the frequent change of fashion trends, Schmitz describes working in the fashion industry as “a roller-coaster.”

“It can be hard to predict where trends are coming from or going towards,” she said.

Kelli Schmitz at a WSU football game with her brother Scott

Schmitz is very grateful for her experience to study abroad, which allowed her to see a variety of styles, garments, design, and fashion trends from different countries. Studying abroad gave her the hands-on experience needed to go into the fashion industry.

Kelli Schmitz on graduation day, 2009

U.S. Trade about More than Selling Commodities


America exports far more than agricultural commodities when it engages in trade relationships around the world. It also spreads freedom of speech and religion, personal opportunity and prosperity, blessings that are cherished and celebrated during the holiday season, according to a former Foreign Agricultural Service officer and ambassador who presented the keynote address at Colorado Farm Bureau’s recent annual convention.

Now vice president of international programs at Washington State University, Asif Chaudhry reflected on his wide-ranging career, the awe he felt the day he was sworn in as U.S. ambassador and his memories growing up poor in rural Pakistan.

“That I am standing in front of you today, it really is a miracle,” he said. “My wife calls me a National Geographic kid. I am one of your charity cases, and you have been very kind to me.”

“It is nothing short of a miracle and that miracle is only possible in the United States,” he continued. “When I came here, I came with nothing – enough money for one semester of college and nothing more. I ate yogurt with bread; that was my dinner. That’s what’s motivated me to go out and do some of the things I’ve done.”

Chaudhry has held a variety of assignments around the world, helping other nations improve their economies and living standards, from Russia to the Middle East.

In post-World War II Poland, he helped establish a farm extension service and a modern grading system, fueling what was to become one of the most vibrant ag sectors in today’s European Union.

In the late 1990s, following the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, he helped distribute U.S. food aid in such a way that it helped to shore up the bankrupt pension system, which had left retirees six months behind on payments. The move altered perceptions of the U.S. among the Soviet people and ultimately led to a personal meeting between Chaudhry and then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

“The U.S. was exporting $1.3 billion worth of products to them at that time. Agriculture was in fact exporting more products there than Boeing Aircraft,” he said. “All of that was shut down (when the economy collapsed.) We proposed giving them economic assistance equal to what we’d lost (in trade), and we got that program approved.”

The most humbling moment of Chaudhry’s career occurred when former President George W. Bush tapped him to be U.S. ambassador to the Eastern European republic of Muldova, a plum appointment that came as a “total surprise.”

At the time, Muldova had been a democracy for 20 years, but was still under Communist rule. Part of Chaudhry’s role was to educate people about the functioning of a true democracy. Within 18 months of landing the assignment, he watched as four new political parties were able to wrest majority control away from the Communists in a free and fair election. Chaudhry emphasized that U.S. trade is about more than selling commodities, and the U.S. military (which he served in an advisory capacity at one point) exists to do much more than fight in world conflicts.

“We assume they are there to fight wars, but really they are there to protect and maintain shipping lanes around the world, to insure peace and security and prosperity around the world. They have democratic values at their heart,” he said.

One concern he did express is the need for the U.S. to take a stronger stand against aggression, such as Russia’s occupation of Crimea and Ukraine and North Korea’s threats to the Korean border, which he described as “the most sobering thing you can see.”

“That we did not have a more of united front against the Ukrainian situation is going to haunt us for a very long time,” he said.

Scrutiny of trade and world relations has intensified following the November election, during which Donald J. Trump pulled off a stunning upset to win the presidency. In fiery campaign rhetoric, Trump vowed to re-negotiate existing trade agreements, pull the plug on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and even went so far as to suggest dismantling the World Trade Organization.

Trade advocates, farmers and many Republican legislators have chosen to remain cautiously optimistic about what a new Trump administration portends.

“We just hope they’ll show support for agriculture, and for what we do, and recognize that trade helps other markets around the world as well as our own,” said Chad Musick, of Longmont, who is vice chairman of CFB’s Young Farmers and Ranchers committee.

“Trade has been our biggest success story,” added Carlyle Currier, a rancher from Molina, who serves on the board of the U.S. Meat Export Federation and is also CFB’s vice president. “I think there’s potential (with the new administration) to keep increasing those opportunities around the world.”

Brent Boydston, CFB’s vice president of public policy, said losing forward momentum on TPP was a blow. Countries that fall within the 12-member pact contribute a quarter of a billion dollars of positive trade impact just in Colorado alone, he said.

The goal of the agreement was to increase market access in countries like Japan and Vietnam, which he said represent important growth potential.

“I was with a group in D.C. this spring that went to visit the Vietnamese embassy, and they made no secret about how much they want U.S. ag products,” said Boydston, who will be leaving the CFB staff in December to take an industry affairs position with Monsanto.