Dr. Jack Dekkers
Dr. Jack Dekkers, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Animal Science has led 2 two-week study abroad programs to the Netherlands. The first program was in 2013, focusing on dairy science and horticulture, and the second program in 2017, focusing on animal science. Below are some questions that we asked Dr. Dekkers about leading a faculty-led study abroad program.
Why do you lead study abroad programs?
- I am originally from the Netherlands and enjoy the opportunity to show our students my home country. In addition, the Netherlands provides some unique perspectives in agriculture, that are very educational for our students. The Netherlands is very strong in agriculture (# 2 exporter of agricultural products, after the US), which is remarkable, considering that fact that the Netherlands is 1/3 the size of Iowa and has 16 million people. Having so much agriculture production, including animal agriculture, in such a small country with so many people obviously brings some unique challenges with it, including issues related to odor, manure, water quality, and animal disease and welfare related issues. Although these issues are also relevant in Iowa, they are much more at the forefront in the Netherlands. In addition, the Netherlands is also at the forefront of the use of mechanization and technology in livestock production (e.g. milk robots), and in agriculture in general.
What is most memorable about leading a study abroad program?
- Going on bike rides with the students through the beautiful Dutch landscape.
Why should other faculty and staff consider leading a program?
- It’s a unique experience to interact with our students on a one-on-one basis and give them a unique and important educational and life experience. In addition, it is an opportunity to visit, learn, and build or maintain connections with another country (or show students about your home country, as in my case).
Why should students study abroad?
- Study abroad programs provide unique educational experiences that you can’t get on campus. They open your eyes, not only to what you will see and experience in the country you visit in terms of agricultural production methods, challenges, and culture, but also, by contrast, the insight it provides you on practices and culture in your home state or country; it’s not until you see how something can be done differently that you realize why things work the way they do in your home state or country.
What do you like to do in your free time?
- Gardening, projects on and around our lake home, biking (RAGBRAI), and being a grandfather (Opa in Dutch) to our 20-month-old grandson.