UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Suzanna Windon, assistant professor in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been appointed director of the college’s Ukrainian Rural and Agricultural Development Program.
Windon, a native of Ukraine, has 16 years of experience in research and teaching at Ukrainian institutions, including several years as an associate professor at Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics.
She joined Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education in 2018 as assistant professor of youth and adult leadership and maintains that focus in her work for Penn State Extension.
The college has a long-standing relationship with partners in Ukraine, thanks in large part to the generosity of real estate developers Helen and Alex Woskob, of State College. The relationship started in 1992 when the Woskobs established the Center of Ukrainian Agriculture at Penn State, enabling collaboration between Penn State and the Ukrainian Agricultural Academy, now the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences, in Kyiv (formerly known as Kiev).
The Woskobs’ philanthropic support, through the Woskob New Century Fund now headed by George and Nina Woskob, has supported a variety of programs focused on the exchange of faculty, researchers and scientists; joint seminars and academic meetings; cultural exchange activities; joint international training courses, programs and projects; joint consultation; and collaborative education, research and extension activities.
The college’s partnership with Ukraine is intended to support agricultural development, which is key to long-term economic health and democracy in Ukraine, said Rick Roush, dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, who added that Windon is the ideal person to take the helm of the program.
“Her professional and academic experiences, her considerable knowledge of Ukrainian culture, and her relationships with key stakeholders will benefit Ukrainian farmers and rural entrepreneurs,” he said. “We believe her contributions will be impactful, and we are pleased to have her guiding this important work.”
As director of the Ukrainian Rural and Agricultural Development Program, Windon will be mentored for the first year by Yurij Bihun, who has served as the college’s Ukraine program adviser for the past three decades. Together, they will help lead Penn State work in Ukraine into its next phase, including a celebration of 30 years of engagement and partnership with the Woskob family in April 2022.
In addition to her knowledge about Ukraine, Windon will bring her expertise in youth and adult leadership and extension to grow programs in support of the land reform process in Ukraine. She will lead the Consortium for Ukraine’s Rural and Agricultural Development — CURAD — a group of U.S. land-grant universities with years of experience in Ukraine. Penn State is a founding member and lead institution of the consortium.
With a focus on land valuation and small and medium-sized enterprises, CURAD has pledged to assist in the development of economically robust and agriculture-led growth for Ukraine. Recent Penn State efforts include a food safety training program and a series of events to bolster the development of the cider industry in Ukraine.
Windon also will manage the CURAD Fellows program, which provides scholars at Ukrainian agricultural universities with the opportunity to study educational methods, to take and co-teach courses, and to establish links with Penn State researchers.
A major goal will be to continue to build relationships with Ukrainian institutions, especially new ones in different regions of Ukraine, noted Windon.
“Equally important will be to foster cooperation with agricultural producer associations and universities’ agricultural consulting units,” she said. “Through our work with universities, we can focus on sharing our knowledge with the young generation so they can be prepared to take on future challenges. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to building on our past successes.”
Windon earned a bachelor’s degree from Poltava University of Consumer Cooperation, Poltava, Ukraine, and a candidate of sciences degree, which is equivalent to a doctorate, in agricultural economics and management from Crimean State Agrarian University, Simferopol, Ukraine.
She also holds master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural and extension education with specialization in leadership and human resource development from Ohio State University. In 2004, Windon visited Penn State as a Faculty Exchange Program participant and was a Fulbright scholar at Ohio State.
Prior to coming to Penn State, she worked for Ohio State University Extension in the Learning and Organizational Development unit.
Currently, she serves as a project director for the AgrAbility for Pennsylvanians program. In 2019, she launched two programs: the leadership program for farmers and natural resources stakeholders and the volunteer management program for community leaders, outreach educators, nonprofit organization leaders and volunteer coordinators.
Windon has published research in such journals as the Journal of Extension, the Journal of Agricultural Education, the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, and the Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. She serves as a reviewer for the Journal of Human Sciences and Extension.
–Amy Duke, Penn State University