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OSU's Heart Goes out to Mexico

Posted on Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The staff and students of the School of Global Studies and Partnerships are deeply saddened by the loss of life and damage resulting from the earthquake that struck Mexico on September 19. We lift our prayers and our best wishes to OSU students, faculty, and staff who have been deeply impacted by this event and are committed to assisting in any way we can.

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OSU student’s idea for banana fabric could be boon for her homeland

Posted on Thursday, September 14, 2017

When Joyce Nabisaalu taught at Kyambogo University in Uganda and saw her colleague making paper from banana stems, she thought, “Why not more?”

Nabisaalu, now an apparel design and production doctoral student at Oklahoma State University, has taken her idea to the next level by researching how to turn banana fibers into fabric.

“He’d cut them into small pieces and then blend them into a pulp and create new papers,” Nabisaalu said. “So I told him, ‘Why not make fabric?’ Since my background is in textiles, I thought, ‘OK. I think I can pursue this.’”

Nabisaalu first came to OSU in 2014 on a professional fellowship program through the U.S. Department of State, but she had no idea this was where she would pursue a new passion.

“At that point, all I knew was that I was coming here to better my teaching and fashion skills,” Nabisaalu said.

After receiving her doctorate, Nabisaalu hopes to teach at a university again and help other people learn how to transform banana fibers into fabric. In Uganda, she had a business teaching young, single mothers how to make clothing for a living.

“In every way, I want to continue supporting them whenever I can,” Nabisaalu said. “I also encourage them to train someone else, better someone else’s life.”

The program that initially brought her to OSU was designed for entrepreneurs in East and South Africa, including Nabisaalu’s hometown of Luwero, Uganda. During the six-week fellowship, she was placed under the mentorship of Dr. Mary Ruppert-Stroescu, a former associate professor of apparel design and textile science in the College of Human Sciences.

“At every step of the way, from the time I very first met Joyce, I was very impressed by her professionalism and her ability to take an idea and develop it and make it her own and think of all the critical, problem-solving ways to look at it,” Ruppert-Stroescu said.

She visited Nabisaalu in Uganda after the fellowship ended and immediately saw the potential in the banana stem project.

With funds from the RIATA Center for Entrepreneurship, Ruppert-Stroescu took on the role of adviser and brought Nabisaalu back to OSU to pursue a doctoral degree and further her interest in clothing made from banana fibers.

“Turning fiber into fabric instead of paper may seem like a little idea at first,” Rupport-Stroescu said. “Then you realize that it has the potential to completely transform the economic and aesthetic landscape for a country.”

In Uganda, agriculture employs 75 percent of the population, with bananas and plantains being the most popular crop. More than 10 million tons of bananas are harvested each year.

With so many farmers growing bananas and discarding the rest of the plant, the materials to make the fibers would otherwise rot and be of no use.

“The clothes you find in America, if they are sold in Uganda, are really expensive,” Nabisaalu said. “A dress here could be like someone’s salary in Uganda. No one can afford it. So, some people prefer the secondhand clothes from Western countries. However, since merchants realized there was a demand for secondhand clothes, they are also now highly priced in Uganda.”

Ugandan cotton production has been in a steep decline due to the high cost of cotton harvesting and labor, so there is more of a market for natural fibers now than ever.

“So, if we have a fiber that can do basically the same thing (as cotton), why not increase our average household income?” Nabisaalu said.

The banana fibers make the clothing completely sustainable and biodegradable, something Nabisaalu and Ruppert-Stroescu agree is a large part of why it will be successful. The softening, finishing and dyeing products are also natural.

Ruppert-Stroescu said she hopes that work on the project will continue to be successful and help the economic and environmental aspects of life in Uganda.

“I don’t think it’s pie in the sky,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. “It’s a big project, but I don’t think it’s impossible.”

Nabisaalu will spend the 2017-2018 school year researching the properties and physical structures of banana fibers. After defending her dissertation proposal in May 2018, she will spend the rest of her time as a student learning how to turn theory to practice and banana stems to clothes.

“I am just so proud of her and so excited for the future of this project,” Ruppert-Stroescu said. “I have all the confidence in the world that she’s going to be able to do great things with this.”

Watch Nabisaalu’s OSU Graduate College Three Minute Thesis presentation on her study of making fabric from banana fibers:

OSU Professor Charles Abramson inducted into Colombian Academy

Posted on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dr. Charles I. Abramson, Regents Professor of Psychology, Lawrence L. Boger Professor of International Studies and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology and the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology was recently inducted into the Colombian Academy of Mathematics, Physical and Natural Science. The ceremony was held in August in Bogota with approximately fifty people in attendance. The academy, founded in 1933, promotes and encourages the development of science, technology, innovation and education in Colombia. The Academy has a membership of approximately 200 scientists, from a broad range of disciplines. Dr. Abramson is only the second psychologist to be recognized by the Academy and the first North American psychologist to be so recognized.

Dr. Enrique Forero, President of the Academy, detailed Dr. Abramson’s contributions in the United States and internationally, including extensive work in South America. In Colombia, Dr. Abramson has embarked on a project with Colombian researchers to study stingless bees and to introduce comparative psychology to Colombia. In addition to his many research contributions, Dr. Abramson, in the context of his Boger Professorship in International Studies, explores collaborative relations between Oklahoma State University and many international universities, including the Escuela Colombiana de Ingeniería Julio Garavito and the National University of Colombia. One of his contributions is the development of a free behavioral observation app which is being translated into Spanish for distribution.

During the ceremony, Dr. Abramson gave an address on the importance of Colombia for comparative psychology. Colombia has the largest number of endemic species in the world, over 1,800 bird species have been described, and the largest number of amphibians in the world reside in Colombia, making it a perfect location for comparative research.

After the lectures, Dr. Abramson’s wife Zeyna was invited to the podium to present the certificate of membership to Dr. Abramson. Dr. Abramson looks forward to a long and fruitful collaboration with the Academy and ultimately hopes to use his connection to the Academy to deepen the research and student mobilities ties with the nation, including bringing Oklahoma State University students to Colombia.

OSU scholar returns from U.K. for presentation and initiation

Posted on Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Oklahoma State University alumnus Joel Halcomb, who helped put his alma mater in the spotlight by winning the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship, will talk about the experience and his work as a university professor in England on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at 4 p.m. in the Murray Hall Parlor.

His presentation, "From OSU History Major to University of East Anglia Lecturer,” will be followed immediately by his initiation into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society at OSU. Both events are free and open to the public.

Halcomb enrolled in OSU at the age of 21 while working as an electrician. The nontraditional student was completing a double honors college major in history and mathematics in 2005, when he and a fellow student, Ashleigh Hildebrand, learned they had been selected as two of only 40 winners of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship in the U.S. The program, established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, funds a fulltime postgraduate degree at the University of Cambridge in England.

“Joel’s story—starting as a somewhat older ‘newcomer’ to higher education, who went on to earn the coveted Gates Cambridge Scholarship—became one of the most exciting examples of personal achievement and land grant values and opportunities in OSU’s history,” said Dr. Bob Graalman, who was serving as scholar development director at the time.

Halcomb studied the early modern history of Great Britain at Cambridge, with an emphasis on religion. His doctoral work recreated Puritan religious practice and religious politics during Britain’s mid-17th-century “Puritan Revolution.” Since earning his doctorate, he has worked at the universities of St. Andrews, Cambridge, and now serves as a lecturer at East Anglia, in Norwich, England, where he teaches all aspects of early modern British history.

Ashleigh (Hildebrand) Ross went on to earn a master’s degree in environmental policy from Cambridge, and a double masters in chemical engineering and technology policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She currently works as a senior reservoir engineer at ConocoPhillips.

Halcomb’s research focuses on religious practice, culture and politics in Britain and Ireland during the British Civil Wars. He is a founding member of the Dissenting Experience project (, which promotes scholarship on the history, literature and culture of early modern religious nonconformity in England.

Halcomb’s presentation is sponsored by the OSU History Club and the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society at OSU.

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