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G'Day, mate!

HOME: Lansing, Mich.

CURRENT POSITION: Associate Professor, Biosystems and Ag Engineering, Michigan State University Extension

DEGREES: North Carolina State University, B.S.; Clemson, M.Ag; MSU, Ph.D.

LUKE REESE grew up as one of three brothers on a dairy farm in Taylorsville, close to Hickory, N.C. All things agricultural were of interest to the close-knit siblings.

Reese, the first in his family to attend an institution of higher education, began his college career as a math major at North Carolina State University, but a dorm mate who was interested in technological biological engineering influenced his decision to switch to the tech-bio field.

With his undergraduate degree in hand, Reese proceeded to a master's ag program at Clemson University. This next career step was based on friendly information he received at a summer ASABE meeting in Raleigh--graduate assistantships were available at Clemson!

While a graduate student, Reese attended a winter ASABE meeting in Chicago and connected with a Michigan State University (MSU) professor. They remained in touch while Reese sold farm equipment and worked in his brother's sawmill for about a year after receiving his master's degree. Feeling the need to further his education, he applied to MSU and received a fellowship and assistantship for Ph.D. work.

"It was easy to go back to school," said Reese. "After a year of hard work, I was ready, and I'm thankful for the life experiences I gained."

Upon completion of his doctoral work, Reese was hired at MSU and took command of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources' computer services, taught graduate courses in communication strategies, and in 2000 began undergraduate teaching in computer information technology, specializing in integrating software solutions. Web pages, digital portfolios, and spreadsheets are his world.

Reese's trekking adventures across Australia began when his only daughter was in third grade. An MSU professor and organizer of a Down Under study abroad program gave a presentation on Australia at his daughter's school. When the professor was unable to lead the excursion, Reese went in his place. He has since led ten trips and now says, "No worries!"

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Eric Richey (see page 16) traveled with Reese on the latest journey abroad, which focused on the human impact on environment sustainability. Reese can't say enough about the learning opportunities that students receive because of the diverse backgrounds of those traveling in the group. Although TSM majors are encouraged to participate, the travel program is open to all MSU students regardless of major.

"For a month, students are deeply immersed in a culture unlike their home communities in the United States," Reese said. "They learn that all money isn't green. They hear a different English from what we speak. They adjust to driving on the left. And since the program runs from the first part of May until the first part of June, there is enough time left in the summer so that employment is still a possibility."

The travel routes vary from year to year. Itineraries have included stops in Auckland, Wellington, and Queen stown in New Zealand, while Australian stops have included Sydney, Brisbane (the Gold Coast), Canberra (the national capital), Cairns (the Great Barrier Reef), Uluru (Ayres Rock), and Tasmania.

Topics of study vary as well but are apt to include discussions on sugar cane, the rain forest, agri-tourism, tourism development, climate change, and indigenous cultures. Faculty leaders and students have toured processing plants, kiwi fruit packing and storage facilities, agri-tourist agencies, and, of course, the Outback. With an emphasis on all things sustainable, including solar energy, this year's group toured a solar city with green buildings, rode a solar bus, discovered the aesthetics of solar trees, and discussed the social aspects of sustainability. Natural light, heat, and cooling were key topics, and students learned about half-flush toilets as well.

"The overriding benefit of a study abroad experience," says Reese, "is the relationships that are built through traveling. Year after year, I watch students connect with others in their field as part of the learning process.

"TSM has more emphasis than ever on electronics and operations, and it's a degree in its own right--not one that competes with engineers, as once thought. Typically, TSM students are problem solvers, tinkerers, and builders-and-fixers--not mechanics but managers. I've invested classroom time and travel time in preparing students for employment in food processing, equipment dealerships, GPS operations, harvesting/planting precision agriculture, and other areas. MSU's TSM graduates have a diversity of employment options. Last year's graduates work in everything from fire protection to environmental efforts.

"The study abroad experience is an adventure in critical thinking. It's not just a field trip, but an academic experience. Though it's a lot of work to pull it off year after year, it's worth the effort. Experiences abroad are typically seen as a highlight of an academic career. And, best of all, friendships are made that will last a lifetime."

1. When an Aussie tells you, "It's not far," he probably means, "It is only a daylong trip." Eric Richey and traveling companion, Brad Smith, look down the road between Adelaide and Alice Springs for the next roadhouse stop. "Are we there yet?"

2. Students saw Barron Falls near Kuranda, Queensland. Australia, the driest and most weathered continent, offers an extreme range of ecosystems, from desert to rainforest to reef. Students exposed to these extremes can better understand how human activities impact the sustainability of our environment.

3. The "true" Australian Outback is serious business. Between Adelaide, South Australia, and Alice Springs, Northern Territory, overland travelers must be prepared, as indicated by this motorist sign. Did you pack extra gasoline and two jacks?

4. "It's a'roo! It's a'roo!"

5. Tindo, the Aboriginal name for sun, is the first electric bus in the world that is recharged using 100 percent solar energy and is thus carbon-neutral. Tindo offers free rides in Adelaide, South Australia.

6. A prime example of human adaptation and water conservation is the Coober Pedy Golf Club. The course is grassless, thus requiring no water or fertilizer, and the "greens" are oiled to stop the sand from blowing away. Golfers mostly play at night with glowing balls to avoid daytime temperatures and must carry a small piece of artificial turf for tee off.

7. Typical Outback topography between Flinders Range National Park and Coober Pedy.

8. Who said solar panels have to be unsightly? Many times good engineering or technology's designs/practices are hampered by social perceptions. These solar trees, found in an Adelaide plaza, were inspired by the mallee tree, which is indigenous to Australia. Energy harnessed by the trees is directed into the electricity grid and, at night, the trees are a light source for the plaza.
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Title Annotation:Luke Reese interview
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2008
Words:1119
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