Romania figures in work, lives of three UW-River Falls professors

Posted November 2, 2016

Romania might not be the first place people think of when considering countries with links to UW-River Falls, but there are several connections.

Gary Onan, chair of the Animal and Food Science Department, visited the country from February to July on a Fulbright grant to teach as a visiting professor at Banat University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Timisoara, Romania.

“I’m telling all my students they should study abroad, so I should do the same, right?” Onan said.

Onan had made a connection with Ioan Hutu, a professor from Banat University, when Hutu came to UWRF in 2005 through another program to learn more about American swine and dairy cattle industry practices.

The two kept in touch and, in 2006, Onan made his first trip to Romania to present a research paper. After that, he always wanted to go back for a longer period of time.

Ten years later he was able to do just that with the Fulbright grant.

The Fulbright Scholar Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and provides travel money and stipends for students, scholars, teachers and professionals to allow them to go abroad.

Onan applied only to focus on teaching. No research was involved, but he and Hutu have projects in mind for the future.

He also has ideas to start a short-term study abroad experience for students in Romania.

“I’ve had some challenges with finding the right time to do that where our students can go and where there’s actually something for them to do when they get there,” Onan said. “And that a was part of my motivation for spending more time there — to see if I could identify some possibilities or some interesting or useful or service projects they could do if we took some over there. I have a few ideas, (but) we haven’t really fleshed those out.”

Hutu and Onan have already published two textbooks together, one in 2008 and another while Onan was in Romania, which is being used at Banat University in an English-language animal production course.

Onan’s is not the only UWRF connection to Romania: Associate Professor Ioana Ghenciu and Assistant Professor Alexandru Tupan, both of the Mathematics Department, are Romanian natives.

Tupan’s family lived in Timisoara, where Banat University is located, before moving south in the 1940s. He was raised in Strehaia and attended university in Bucharest, Romania’s capital.

Ghenciu and Tupan both attended the same university in Bucharest, both studied math and graduated at the same time, but neither knew each other until working together at UWRF, where now they have offices right next door to each other in North Hall.

After studying mathematics as an undergraduate in Bucharest, Tupan attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for five years. He graduated in 2001 and ended up with a job at UWRF in 2005 after one post-doctoral experience and one assistant professorship at other universities.

Ghenciu said that she ended up in Wisconsin because it’s where she found a job.