Dr. Steffenson’s ground-breaking research focuses on diseases affecting wild cereals such as wheat and barley that feed much of the world. His work centers on collecting, preserving, and studying wild varieties of cereals. Over the past several decades, domestication and modern breeding have led to the erosion of genetic diversity in commonly used cereal crops – increasing their vulnerability to pathogens and pests. The wild varieties Dr. Steffenson studies carry genes that can reverse this trend. His work has led to new approaches to use wild cereals’ hidden genes to make global food production more secure.
“Dr. Steffenson’s work stands as a powerful example of the value of international collaboration,” said APLU President Peter McPherson. “He has worked not only to reach new discoveries that can improve lives across the globe today, but to help sow the seeds of the next generation of crop scientists who will tackle tomorrow’s most pressing problems as well.”
His collaborative research with colleagues in Israel, Turkey, Russia, Syria, and elsewhere has resulted in key genetic resources for global food security. Dr. Steffenson and his lab have worked with 55 different collaborators worldwide since 2013, embracing a philosophy of scientific sharing and collaborating that he instills in his students, post-docs, and colleagues.
He has also worked to cultivate the next generation of crop scientists. Dr. Steffenson has collaborated with students and researchers across the globe, especially with underrepresented regions such as the Middle East and Africa. He and his former mentees created a 12-week training course at the University of Minnesota on cereal rust disease methodology, hosting more than 20 international scientists from Asia and Africa.
Professor Steffenson also helped establish and is the current co-director of Stakman-Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health at the University of Minnesota. The center raises the international visibility and stature of plant disease research, bringing together more than 70 faculty spanning 10 different departments. The center now leads collaborative research projects between Minnesota and groups in Ethiopia, Kenya, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, and beyond.
APLU’s Office of International Programs leads the association’s diverse array of international initiatives. These initiatives help support campus internationalization, enhance and expand study abroad opportunities, strengthen engagement with the developing world, and support members’ efforts to engage with partners worldwide to address global challenges.
The Malone Award honors the legacy of the late Michael P. Malone, a champion of international education and one-time chair of the APLU Commission on International Education. Malone served as president of Montana State University from 1991 until his death in 1999.