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Emeritus Dean Honored in Former Soviet Republic


Retired UCR Scientist Honored by Moldovan National Academy of Sciences

Seymour Van Gundy’s long-standing work with Moldovan colleagues has resulted in the former Soviet republic’s bestowing of its highest scientific honor.

(June 13, 2006)

Seymour Van Gundy

Seymour Van Gundy

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — For the University of California, Riverside’s Seymour Van Gundy, the gently sloping plains of Moldova, a former Soviet republic sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine, are as productive as they have been to the nation’s farmers.

Van Gundy, the former dean of the UCR College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, with 36 years at UCR, has carried on a relationship with Moldova after retirement, which has yielded great friendships, productive collegial partnerships and research exchanges for both faculty and students. And now, Van Gundy can count his induction into Moldova’s National Academy of Sciences — that country’s highest academic body, as another symbol of that relationship.

Van Gundy will be inducted during a ceremony, June 12, in the nation’s capital, Chisinau. The ceremony corresponds with the academy’s 60th anniversary celebration.

Although retired from the Department of Nematology at UCR since 1993, Van Gundy has continued working as an agricultural consultant for the University Extension’s Natural Sciences Division, coordinating the Extension’s Environmental Education Partnership (EEP), which established ties between UCR and Moldova State University. EEP is part of a larger effort by the University Extension to build educational and research alliances in Russia and the newly formed independent states of the former Soviet Union.

Over the past five years, Moldova has sent 47 academics to UCR, who attended UCR and University Extension courses, use the campus Science Library and write joint scientific publications with UCR colleagues. During that time, UCR has sent 20 academics to Moldova, 13 science faculty, one administrator and six students. They have given workshops and lectures to colleagues and members of the ministries of Ecology, Construction and Territorial Development. They also engaged in scientific discussions with 16 other Moldovan institutions and organizations dealing with environmental issues.

During that period, the UCR-Moldova partnership has leveraged about $235,000 from the University of California, UCR and MSU. Federal sources such as the National Science Foundation, National Academies of Science and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation, have contributed another $220,000. UCR gave an additional $150,000 in the form of part-time student work experience, office and laboratory space, library privileges and Internet services to Moldovan faculty and student researchers.

Since its independence in 1991, Moldova, a landlocked nation of 4.4 million about the size of Maryland, has struggled with poverty — it is the poorest nation in Europe, according to the CIA World Factbook. It is also struggling with environmental problems caused by decades of Soviet farming practices in the mostly agrarian republic.

Higher education reform is just one of the many items on the agenda of Moldova’s leaders. The republic’s higher education system has followed the Soviet model of keeping teaching and research separated and under the control of separate government ministries, Van Gundy said.

“I think this honor from the National Academy (of Moldova) will offer some real opportunities for us to work together and make more progress in their reforms,” he added. “For me, the best part about my involvement with Moldova’s science community has been the ability to help the people of that country, and that’s what I get from the students who make these exchanges.”

“Maybe with this appointment to the academy, we can have a bigger voice in how they organize their higher education system,” Van Gundy said.
From left: Seymour D. Van Gundy and the President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Gheorghe Duca.

From left: Seymour D. Van Gundy and the President of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, Gheorghe Duca.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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