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Published August 29, 2019
A dozen University of Wyoming students spent part of their summer in rural Scotland to learn about the cultural and economic histories of communities in that European country.
The students, ranging from freshmen to graduate students, took part in a summer course, titled “Scottish Rural Spaces: From Ancient Fields and Forests to Modern Food Systems,” that was through the UW Honors College. The 22-day program in June was taught by Mariah Ehmke, a UW associate professor; and Cole Ehmke, a senior extension specialist, both in UW’s Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.
The class was the latest offering from the UW in Scotland effort, which was created by a group of UW faculty who find a common connection to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. The Ehmkes organized the study tour after attending the International Farm Management Association Congress in 2017, which was organized by the Institute of Agricultural Management and hosted by the Scottish Rural College (SRUC) in Edinburgh, Scotland.
“We strived to have the students engage with a wide range of experts about the cultural and economic histories of Scotland -- and where Scotland is going -- with an emphasis on what is happening in rural areas,” Cole Ehmke explains. “Part of the motivation for the class was that, in 2017, for the first time, more of the world’s population lived in urban rather than rural areas.
“Yet, while there are fewer rural people on-site to manage environmental and natural resources, the need for these resources is greater than ever. Our aim was to better understand these changing dynamics by visiting Scotland to see the importance of them for national culture, the environment, economic development (tourism, for instance) and food production.”
Students represented various majors, ranging from veterinary medicine to English literature to agricultural economics. During their visit, they entered their thoughts and daily observations in their journals, and all were required to write a research paper.
Emily Zavorka, a UW junior from Yoder, says the study-abroad experience provided a great opportunity to connect with many different people in Scotland who are related to agriculture in many different ways.
“It was so awesome to learn about differences in such similar agriculture practices that we see in Wyoming,” says Callie Klinghagen, a senior from Worland. “I loved all of the diversity that Scotland had to offer. Their rich history, kind-hearted people and incredible landscape made for an unforgettable trip.”
Danielle Freels, a junior from Aurora, Colo., says the trip solidified her path in animal science and wanting to continue her education on livestock.
“I learned so much about the cattle industry in Scotland and how it differs from the U.S. system,” she says. “I will forever cherish this trip and all the great people that I met because of this opportunity.”
Dana Jorgensen, a junior from Castle Rock, Colo., describes the trip as “absolutely amazing” and focused on landscapes and agriculture.
“We were given the opportunity to visit more touristy areas, such as castles and museums. However, because our trip was ag-based, we had the privilege of meeting farmers and learning about their impact on society and the economy,” Jorgensen says. “I loved traveling across the country with a great group of people to see all the beauty Scotland has to offer.”
“The students took on a number of different research projects. I was very impressed with the initiative many of them showed as they interviewed experts and contacted different sources,” Mariah Ehmke says. “The research projects included a broad range of topics, from the future of forest management to the role of landscapes in Scottish cinema.”
Cole and Mariah Ehmke organized the tour, partnering with the SRUC to identify which farms would be most interesting to visit.
“The stops that SRUC organized were wonderful,” Cole Ehmke says. “The students were tremendously impressed with the way in which land was managed; crops and animals were selected and managed; and the many considerations that affect them. These include government policy; heritage features like stone fences; and ways farms are earning additional money.”
Many of the UW students come from rural backgrounds and had the opportunity to visit the home of the Angus and Clydesdales; visited the Royal Highland Show; and even ran into some of the people whose farms the SRUC had organized as tour stops earlier in the tour.
Students who took the course and traveled to Scotland were:
Albuquerque, N.M. -- Carol Miller, master’s student, English literature.
Aurora, Colo. -- Danielle Freels, junior, rangeland ecology and watershed management, ecosystem science and management, and animal and veterinary sciences.
Castle Rock, Colo. -- Dana Jorgensen, junior, zoology.
Crowheart -- Riley Rux, sophomore, animal and veterinary sciences.
Littleton, Colo. -- Andrew Pray, junior, economics and finance.
Pavillion -- Sydney Davis, senior, animal and veterinary sciences.
Rock Springs -- Ceejay Berg, sophomore, accounting and economics.
Sebastopol, Calif. -- Zach Davis, senior, agriculture education and animal science.
Taylorstown, Va. -- Brant Lindsey, senior, history; and Josef Lindsey, graduate student in agricultural and applied economics.
Worland -- Callie Klinghagen, senior, animal and veterinary sciences.
Yoder -- Emily Zavorka, junior, animal and veterinary sciences.
“We didn’t just cover a lot of ground in three weeks. We also made a lot of personal connections,” Mariah Ehmke says. “One of the greatest, but unexpected outcomes of the course was the sense of community the group developed with agricultural consultants, agricultural researchers and farmers during our time there. As we went around and visited the different sites and experts around Scotland, we gained a sense of connection among all of them.”