The University of Illinois, like most of its Land Grant University peers, got involved in international agriculture in the 1950s. This was the dawn of the age of institution-building in developing countries. Through the auspices of the Agency for International Development (AID), the United States government mobilized American colleges of agriculture to create similar colleges in Asian, African, and South American countries. Illinois got involved in 1952 and was among the first American universities that were awarded large contracts to develop such institutions.
Tom McCowen, then director of the campus Overseas Projects Office, said that the motivation for participating in such grand-scale projects by faculty in the college could be explained by World War II. "World War II opened the eyes of the American people outside their state. They saw that people lived differently than we did. Most came back with a feeling that we should share our ideals and knowledge with those interested," McCowen said.
The College instituted an Office of International Agriculture in the late 1960s to coordinate these affairs, with a director placed at the associate dean level. Hundreds of foreign students arrived on campus during this time through the 1980s to receive advanced degree training through this program, and thousands of others arrived to participate in short courses.
Today, we continue to host international students and researchers to participate in degree programs, short courses, and fellowships.
Illinois history of capacity building