PSU professor takes research on the road

Portland State University professor Dr. Gil Lutz has followed his research project down a very long road. Thanks in part to a Fulbright Scholarship, Lutz can now be found on a farm in Italy, far away from his PSU classroom.

An international studies and geography professor, Lutz will be studying agricultural and forest management practices over a period of 9 months, returning to Portland in June, 2002. He is based just out side of Sienna, which is in the Tuscan region of central Italy.

Lutz’s journey began with an interest in agriculture, which he developed while performing graduate work at the University of Chicago. After writing a dissertation based upon Japanese agricultural development, he began to study forest management practices and agricultural development in Europe more closely.

He credits his sons and his PSU students for inspiration along the way. “It was my two sons and their concern about the environment that prompted me to think about this question of ‘sustainability’,” Lutz stated in an e-mailed interview with the Vanguard. I’d also like to think the fruits of my research will be of interest to students at PSU who study environmental issues.”

A visit to Italy in 1999 gave him the idea to choose this country as the site for the development of his thesis.

Lutz applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, and after several failed grant proposals, was admitted to the program.

The Fulbright Scholarship is an international research grant that is given to both professors and students to perform studies on various topics in foreign countries. Applicants develop research projects, apply to the program and are then reviewed by the proposed countries review board.

The actual title of the proposal submitted by Lutz is “Comparative International Research on Agricultural Land-Use History and forest Management Practices: the Tuscan Estate of Castello di Spannocchia and Vermont’s Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park.”

Lutz is comparing land use maps from the Tuscan site over the past three centuries to determine why certain elements in the landscape changed, while others didn’t.

“In the geography department, there is a common interest among many of us to make links between local and international issues,” Lutz said.

“The research is my attempt to make a small contribution to the current fascination in the U.S. and elsewhere with the idea of sustainable development or sustainable management.”

Aside from his research, Lutz is gaining an appreciation for the variances in culture that he is learning from his Italian hosts. “Italy is a beautiful country, the food is excellent and the people are friendly.”

While content with his location, Lutz has had to adjust to a different pace of life in Italy. “The bureaucracy is frustrating, and by American standards it is much harder to be efficient. Yet I am sure my Italian hosts would be quick to point out that efficiency is not the key to a happy and contented life.”