Award for Global Engagement

2018 Recipient

Brian Steffenson
Lieberman-Okinow Endowed Chair of Cereal Disease Resistance, Department of Plant Pathology
College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences

Dr. Brian Steffenson is not only renowned for his ground-breaking research leading to international discoveries of plant disease resistance, but for his commitment to training future crop scientists, and to ensuring that the University of Minnesota remains at the forefront of plant pathology.

Dr. Steffenson is credited with establishing and providing the initial funding to launch the Norman E. Borlaug Graduate Fellowship in International Agriculture at the U of M. In addition, he established and co-directs the Stakman Borlaug Center for Sustainable Plant Health, which has helped facilitate research projects in Ethiopia, Kenya, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.

Throughout his impressive career at the University, Dr. Steffenson has mentored numerous international students—including undergrads in the Minnesota Agriculture Student Training program—and published more 163 refereed journals, 112 of which are from his tenure at the U of M. He has been published in leading publications including Phytopathology, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, Crop Science, the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology, and Plant Diseases among others.

Not satisfied to remain sequestered in a lab, Dr. Steffenson reaches out and helps others in times of need. He was a key contributor to Minnesota’s lawsuit in federal court against the executive order barring visas for people from seven primarily Muslim countries, inspired to act when an Iraqi researcher in his lab was unable to return to the U.S. to continue his work. He was actively involved in negotiations with the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas when they were forced to relocate from Syria to Morocco in 2016. And his collaborative research with colleagues in Israel, Turkey, Russia, Syria, and elsewhere have resulted in germplasm collections that provide key genetic resources for global food security.

With a body of work spanning the globe, Dr. Steffenson remains collaborative and respectful of cultural differences in his approach to finding solutions for the collective goal of improving agriculture worldwide. As a world leader in plant pathology and genetics, he inspires his colleagues and students to join him in engaging globally.