International Achievers: Kornbluth, Mitcham, Bennett

Group photo
The award recipients: Elizabeth Mitcham, second from left; Kurt Kornbluth, center; and Alan Bennett, second from right. They are flanked by Ralph J. Hexter, interim chancellor, and Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs. (Chanae Allred/UC Davis photo)

Quick Summary

  • Kurt Kornbluth: adjunct assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, and founding director of the Program for International Energy Technologies
  • Elizabeth Mitcham: faculty member and Cooperative Extension postharvest specialist, and director of the Horticulture Innovation Lab
  • Alan Bennett: distinguished professor of plant sciences, and founder and executive director of the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center

Kurt Kornbluth and Elizabeth Mitcham are the recipients of UC Davis’ inaugural Chancellor’s International Engagement Achievement Awards, while Alan Bennett received an honorable mention.

Interim Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter presented the awards during a ceremony in the multipurpose room of the new International Center.

“Our tendency to form strong global connections and think beyond borders is one of the reasons why the Times Higher Education rankings this year rated us the fourth most international public university in the nation,” Hexter said.

Joanna Regulska, vice provost and associate chancellor of Global Affairs, said the new awards program — open to all full-time faculty and staff — aligns with her unit’s efforts to:

  • “Interconnect all at UC Davis by inspiring global curiosity, understanding and engagement.”
  • “Develop and support the capacity of all members of the UC Davis community — faculty, students, scholars, staff and alumni — to successfully engage in building and sustaining partnerships, collaborative research initiatives, and academic and teaching programs with international peer institutions, partners and colleagues.
  • “Expand upon the impact that UC Davis is making toward solving global problems, educating an interculturally competent citizenry and engaging in world-class research.”

Kurt Kornbluth

He is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Engineering, and founding director of the Program for International Energy Technologies, which, through its D-Lab courses, involves students in solving real-life energy problems in developing countries.

His nominator, Jean VanderGheynst, professor, Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, said: “In an era of food, water, energy and climatic uncertainty, it is critical to acknowledge the faculty leaders who are developing roadmaps to climate neutrality, engaging students and scholars in problem-oriented, client focused learning, and sharing ideas and resources with faculty and researchers from UC Davis, the UC and universities abroad.”

Indeed, she said, Kornbluth “has initiated substantial international teaching, research and service efforts in climate neutrality, and for this reason is an ideal candidate for the Chancellor’s International Engagement award.”

She cited as an example the Kornbluth-led Lighting the Way Zambia project. “The economic, health and environmental costs of kerosene, candles and other fuel-based lighting are well documented,” VanderGheynst said. So, with funding from the World Bank, PIET designed, manufactured and distributed portable solar lights.

Elizabeth Mitcham

She is the director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Horticulture (Horticulture Innovation Lab, for short) in the Department of Plant Sciences. Nominated by Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“The lab advances fruit and vegetable research to support the needs of smallholder farmers in developing countries,” Dillard wrote. “As part of this initiative, the Horticulture Innovation Lab has collaborated with more than 18 U.S. universities and 200 organizations in Latin America, Africa and Asia with projects spanning the horticultural value chain.”

“Over the years, many of the projects led by UC Davis faculty with UC Davis graduate students and researchers, have led to national and international collaborations with other universities and research organizations.”

Mitcham has been a faculty member and Cooperative Extension postharvest specialist since 1992. Through her long affiliation with the university’s Postharvest Technology Center (she’s a former director), she has trained agricultural professionals from more than 40 countries.

“She has contributed to long-lasting horticultural science as a way to improve health and nutrition globally, while enhancing the role of women in developing countries,” Dillard wrote. “She has been an inspiration for many students, staff, and faculty for her commitment to international development activities.”

Alan Bennett

He is a distinguished professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, founder and executive director of the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center, and executive director of the Public Intellectual Property Resource for Agriculture, or PIPRA.

“Throughout his career, Dr. Bennett has consistently demonstrated his vision and dedication in driving international programs for domestic and global academic institutions,” wrote his nominator, Pablo Zamora, associate director of the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center.

“By working closely with 60 universities and the Rockefeller Foundation, he was able to structure a public initiative (PIPRA) to drive patented agricultural technologies for international development. …  Furthermore, he used this platform, with the support of the UC Davis School of Law, to found the Licensing Academy whose successful, ongoing mission is to train technology managers in more than 50 developing countries.”

Bennett founded the UC Davis-Chile Life Sciences Innovation Center in 2015, collaborating with the Chilean government in its intent to cultivate international climate through technology and innovation.

“UC Davis-Chile has had profound impact and continues to be a pioneer in the internationalization of UC Davis in Latin America. These highlighted contributions exemplify Alan’s continuous efforts to achieve the university’s land-grant mission at home and abroad.”

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