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Interview: Deanna Behring

As assistant dean and director of international programs in the college, Deanna Behring works to integrate global perspectives into the fabric of all the college's activities.

Deanna Behring

The travel bug bit me early on. Every summer, my parents took the family on a three-week camping trip across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It set me on a path of appreciating different ways of thinking and doing.

My first job out of grad school was working on a U.S. Agency for International Development project to promote the health and well-being of women and newborn children worldwide. From there, I landed a job at the Central Intelligence Agency, where I was an analyst for political, economic, and international trade issues.

I was selected for a special assignment in the Bill Clinton/Al Gore administration at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. I worked closely, particularly with Vice President Al Gore, to build scientific collaborations with key allies around the world.

I had personal and professional reasons for coming to Penn State. Being able to combine my experience in international development, trade, security, and policy--all in the name of agriculture--was an offer I couldn't turn down. And I had gone through two pregnancies at the White House and wanted to raise my children in a university environment; Happy Valley was the perfect place.

Our office leads a really strong Gender, Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Initiative. We are helping to integrate a gender perspective into multiple global institutions' research and training programs so that women have more of a voice in some of the issues related to agriculture in their countries. We build on the idea that when women are given equal opportunities, everyone can benefit, particularly in the area of food security and agricultural production.

Our students are our proudest accomplishments. When I started this office in the year 2000, we had nine students study abroad, and the past two years, on average, we've had about 280 of our students study abroad.

If people are hungry and don't have access to food and natural resources, oftentimes places can become breeding grounds for security threats and terrorist groups. It's important for the U.S. to stay engaged in these types of issues. Our international programs at Penn State maintain an eye toward building security across the world.

I've been on every continent except Antarctica.

I spent most of my time abroad in China, including a six-week honeymoon backpacking across China in 1988. I speak Chinese and feel very comfortable there, but I would like to go to Morocco and Greece. They're on my bucket list.

It runs in the family. My older daughter is studying at New York University and plans to study abroad next year. My younger daughter spent time this past year in Berlin working in a Syrian refugee center, and started at Penn State this fall.

--Sara LaJeunesse