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Fulbright supports Veeck's research in China

Dec. 9, 2006

KALAMAZOO--Dr. Gregory Veeck, professor of geography at Western Michigan University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research in rural inland China.

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WMU has state's largest number of Fulbrights

Veeck recently returned from his second in a trio of two-month trips to Inner Mongolia, one of the country's five autonomous regions. He expects to revisit in May or June, as soon as weather permits him to continue his work. Veeck says the primary purpose of his travel is to study the livestock-dependent families of Inner Mongolia and determine causes for the land degradation that has occurred throughout the region.

Working with Dr. Charles "Jay" Emerson, associate professor of geography at WMU, and a team of researchers from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of Rural Development, Veeck combines traditional survey methods with satellite imagery to identify areas without land damage and establish a benchmark for resource management in the area.

"Some families outsmart the elements. They face the same rainfall, the same crummy soil and the same cruel conditions. The difference is, they respond better and somehow make it work. They spend less, sell more and still have healthier land year after year," Veeck says.

It is the mission of Veeck and his team to identify the best practices in hopes of spreading them throughout the region. If the group can use its findings to teach other families how to most effectively invest their resources, it could mean a vast improvement in the quality of life for millions.

While Veeck agrees that the work he and his colleagues are able to do in China is potentially life changing, he believes there is equal value in the impact that Fulbrights and similar grants have on students in the United States.

"Our awards have allowed us to work in the field, collecting real-time information and thousands of dollars worth of current satellite imagery, which we're able to use in the classroom to the benefit of our students," Veeck says. "WMU students will be more prepared and better positioned to get a job when they leave here because of their unique classroom experiences."

Supplementary funding for this project has been provided by a National Science Foundation grant jointly awarded to Veeck and Emerson.

Veeck joined WMU's Department of Geography in 1999. He has lived and worked intermittently in China for 20 years, completing 14 projects in rural East Asia and publishing extensively in several esteemed journals, magazines and reference books. Veeck received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia. He also holds a bachelor of arts degree from Denison University and a master of arts degree from Purdue University.

WMU has the state's largest number of Fulbright Scholars this year, with six out of Michigan's 26 for the 2006-07 academic year. A total of 14 Michigan schools had faculty members awarded Fulbrights, with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University each receiving three awards and the remainder spread out around the state.

Media contact: Tonya Hernandez, (269) 387-8400, tonya.hernandez@wmich.edu

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