Xuiniang Wang, left, and SDSU Assistant Dairy Plant Manager Akimoto Ichinomiya observe dairy science student Bethany Chapman making ice cream in the dairy plant last month. Wang, a Chinese businessman, spent two weeks at SDSU this summer, working though an intensive two-week course, to learn how to make ice cream. Courtesy photo
• Businessman travels to SDSU to learn how to start new business from his dairy farm
BROOKINGS – Students are once again occupying the halls of the Dairy Science Building at South Dakota State University, and Howard Bonnemann’s classroom has filled with students. However, before summer break was over, one student had the dairy science instructor’s undivided attention.
Recently, Bonnemann spent two weeks providing Xuiniang Wang, a Chinese businessman and entrepreneur, with one-on-one instruction in the manufacturing process of making ice cream.
“This has been a fun opportunity to have such an engaged student,” said Bonnemann, who consolidated information from several semester-long classes he teaches to provide Wang with useful skills and information in the art and science of ice cream manufacturing.
Wang hopes to utilize this new knowledge to open an ice cream processing plant and parlor in China. Wang currently owns a 700-cow dairy, egg and vegetable farm in the Shandong Province in China.
“I appreciated Howard's instruction. It has been helpful, practical and useful,” Wang said. “Before I came here, I knew nothing about ice cream. After spending this time under Howard's instruction, I now know the history of ice cream and have gained a bigger picture of the ice cream market.”
So, why did an entrepreneur from China contact the SDSU Dairy Science Department for training?
Vikram Mistry, professor and head of the Dairy Science Department, says although the story is long, the answer is simple.
“We are one of only two universities in the nation that has a dairy science program,” Mistry said.
He explains that for more than 100 years, SDSU has manufactured ice cream and trained students in all aspects of the dairy industry: from the science and management of on-farm milk production to the sciences, chemistry, microbiology, engineering and manufacturing involved in production of dairy products.
But this summer’s experience with Wang was the first time the department has hosted someone for a one-on-one condensed course on how to make ice cream, Mistry said.
Wang spent some intense time learning at the university during that two weeks, in the classroom, as well as working in SDSU’s dairy plant and in the lab for analysis. An area producer also took Wang out to a local dairy farm.
Mistry said communication was an issue during the study sessions, as Wang spoke only Mandarin Chinese. A translator was found on campus.
While the translation slowed down the group’s work a bit, Mistry said Wang was clear about why he made the trip all the way to South Dakota.
Dairy is a growing industry in China, and there’s an increased demand for its products, including ice cream. “He said he wanted to learn how to make good ice cream.”
The Chinese businessman also noted some differences between his home country and the Midwest. Wang thought the cows were bigger and produced more milk here, Mistry explained.
Mistry said SDSU’s Dairy Science Department has had some interest from international and non-traditional students before. An individual from India who was looking for some training travelled to Brookings six years ago to sit in on some courses here.
The professor added that the department occasionally gets inquiries about online classes or workshop opportunities. Wang even told his hosts that he’d like to return to Brookings some day for more training.
All of that speaks to the department’s reputation and suggests an international stature, Mistry said.
“That kind of recognition is important, and it’s a two-way street. As we teach our students, faculty have to be aware of what’s going on around world.”
Requests like Wang’s are important, and officials work to accommodate them, because they give the department a sense of accomplishment and even more global exposure and understanding, Mistry added.
Word of mouth
Mistry says word-of-mouth can be attributed to connecting Wang to SDSU. Wang first learned of SDSU from a business development consultant, who asked a South Dakota senator, who then contacted SDSU President David Chicoine.
“This entire experience has been exciting – the fact that someone from the other side of the world would recognize SDSU as the place to learn about ice cream manufacturing,” Mistry said.
The dairy industry itself also recognizes SDSU as an excellent place to learn about dairy science.
“Job opportunities within in the dairy industry are so diverse. And job placement is practically 100 percent,” Mistry said, adding that starting salaries within the industry are above $50,000.
Investing in the future of the dairy science industry, last fall SDSU opened its new $9.3 million dairy plant with support from dairy processors, producers, suppliers and individuals.
"This new dairy plant will help us excel in dairy education in support of the growing dairy industry," Mistry said.
To learn more about the Dairy Science Department at SDSU, visit http://www.sdstate.edu/ds or contact Mistry at 688-4116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.