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STARKVILLE, Miss. (Press Release) –Mississippi State President Mark E. Keenum will serve as keynote speaker this week at a Universities Fighting World Hunger high level dialogue for key stakeholders who are pioneering solutions to one of the world’s greatest challenges.

Titled “Shaping the Collective Role of Universities as a Partner in Ending Hunger,” the meeting for university presidents and provosts is hosted by Auburn University’s Hunger Solutions Institute. The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization are co-sponsors.

In addition to a select group of university leaders, officials from organizations such as the U.N. World Food Program, U.N. Foundation, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Howard G. Buffett Foundation and Gates Foundation are expected to participate.

Keenum’s speech will take place at noon Friday [Feb. 28] at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center. The inaugural event for the university leaders immediately precedes the 9th annual Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit, to be held in the same location Feb. 28-March 2.

Among pre-summit conference topics will be the state of global and domestic hunger and food security, and how universities can best mobilize for collective action. Keenum and other university leaders will discuss food security challenges, activities and innovations, as well as partnerships that are forming on the frontlines of the fight against hunger.

Keenum, who served as Under Secretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture before returning to MSU as president in 2009, has heavily focused on utilizing the research capabilities of the land-grant institution to address the serious global challenges of hunger and malnutrition. An agricultural economics alumnus of the university, Keenum said MSU has expertise pertinent to every aspect of the food chain, including crop production, post-harvest processing, livestock, aquaculture, food policy, water resources, geospatial technologies and biofuels.

Additionally, MSU includes globalization and international development as focus areas of its State of Excellence strategic plan. Specifically, the university is committed to “international partnerships and impact on a global scale,” and is emphasizing research in areas to include increased food production and security, among other key issues.

MSU’s International Institute plays a key role in fostering global partnerships which can lead to scholarly exchange programs, research collaboration and study abroad opportunities.

Representatives of the institute traveled with Keenum in January to Rome, Italy to formally broaden a 2010 agreement to work with the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization on initiatives to address world hunger and poverty. The institute regularly encourages globalization initiatives on campus also, such as an upcoming Global Engagement Forum series, including sessions focusing on India on Feb. 27, Africa on March 27, and Brazil on April 24.

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