April 20, 2009

Duram to spend year at university in Ireland

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Leslie Duram, chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is crossing an ocean to promote local foods.

Duram received a Fulbright Scholar Award from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Irish Fulbright Committee. She will spend a sabbatical year at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Duram chose Galway, a county in the west of Ireland, partly because that university’s Department of Geography has a strong focus on agricultural and rural research. Duram is a specialist in organic food production and rural land use, and a proponent of local foods. While in Ireland, she will work with the Irish Centre for Rural Transformation and Sustainability and the Environmental Research Institute at the university, as well as with the Organics Research Unit of Teagasc.

Duram and her family, including her husband and two children, leave for Ireland in August. They will remain there until the end of July 2010. Duram stressed that the visit, intended to promote scholarly research, is also very much a cultural exchange

“In the Fulbright program, you are an ambassador for the United States,” she said. She noted that Fulbright Scholars are expected to participate in a broad range of social and community activities while in their host country, and that learning about the history and culture of that country is essential.

To get a head start on that part of the mission, Duram and her family are studying the Irish language with Alanna Ní Mhíocháin, a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program student studying at SIUC for the 2008-2009 academic year. Though learning Irish is not a requirement, Duram noted that County Galway is home to a relatively large Irish-speaking population. She said that learning Irish will help with some of the more difficult pronunciations -- besides providing a fun and challenging way to prepare for her visit.

In Ireland, Duram will collaborate with Mary Cawley, a faculty member in the Department of Geography at NUI-Galway. Cawley’s expertise, like Duram’s, includes rural land use, as well as rural economy and rural tourism. Duram said agri-tourism will be part of her focus while in Ireland.

“They have a lot of dairy and specialty products there,” she said, noting that county of origin is already an important marketing tool in Ireland. “And in the agri-tourism, people come to Ireland for the Irish countryside experience.”

Duram is the author of “Good Growing: Why Organic Farming Works,” published in 2005. She is the editor of the forthcoming “Encyclopedia of Organic, Sustainable and Local Food.” To complete this project, Duram gathered 85 authors to write 165 terms pertaining to organic foods. Greenwood Press will release the book later this year.

Duram is a Wichita, Kan., native. She completed her undergraduate studies at Wichita State University and Kansas State University, earning her doctoral degree at the University of Colorado.