Make The Connection

July 2, 2024 | By Cole Hatcher

Ohio Wesleyan students (from left) Ellie Dodds '25, Lily Bechina '26, Auzlynd Katterhenrich '25, and Frankie Nuss '27 stand outside Tokachi Plaza in Obihiro, Japan, where they attended the 7th annual International Soil Classification Congress. (Photo by K.C. Crosby)

Digging Into Learning

Ohio Wesleyan Students Visit Japan, Participate in International Soil Classification Congress

Ellie Dodds inspects an Andisol soil (created from volcanic ash) in a pedon, a 1-meter hole used to see the horizons of the soil. This natural pedon, located within a windbreak forest, was not disrupted by farming or other human practices. (Photo by K.C. Crosby)

Name: Ellie Dodds '25
Hometown: Denham Springs, Louisiana
High School: Denham Springs High School
Major: Environmental Science
Minor: History

Name: Frankie Nuss '27
Hometown: Gahanna, Ohio
High School: Lincoln High School
Majors: Data Analytics and Management Economics
Minor: Biology

OWU Connection Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant-supported trip to Japan to attend the 7th annual International Soil Classification Congress from June 3-9 in Hokkaido, Japan.

Along with Dodds and Nuss, students Lily Bechina '26 of Chicago, Illinois, and Auzlynd Katterhenrich '25 of Lancaster, Ohio, attended the soil classification congress. They traveled with Craig Jackson, Ph.D., professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, and Kristin "K.C." Crosby, director of international admission, as part of a spring semester an OWU Connection Travel-Learning Course. The semester-long courses conclude with a short-term trip to add hands-on experience to classroom learning.

"At this conference," Nuss said, "we met with soil classification experts from many different countries, including Japan, Hungary, Korea, Germany, Poland, South Africa, the USA, and more. During the first two days of the congress, we learned about updates and conflicts within various soil classification systems and listened to presentations about the soil classification research conducted by attendees. During the last three days of the congress, we visited nine soil profiles across the Hokkaido prefecture. The soils in this region are unique due to the high prevalence of volcanic material, mountainous topography, and extensive agricultural use."

Dodds added, "The field experience included several experts in different classification methods from around the world classifying the same soil to identify differences, shortcomings, and future improvements to the current classification criteria. The hands-on field experience allowed us to befriend and witness international experts while they worked."

Auzlynd Katterhenrich '25 (left) and Frankie Nuss '27 look at a piece of clay that shows iron accumulation in soil that has rusted due to plant roots carrying oxygen and the soil's natural water content. (Photo by K.C. Crosby)

Lessons Learned

Dodds: "The unique opportunity to witness the international soil congress's proceedings allowed me to see professional soil scientists and the culture of science and research. I enjoyed the nitty-gritty aspects of the congress such as learning the pros and cons of soil classification methods.

"Many of these scientists are world-class leaders for their country's classification method and hold strong opinions on which method reigns supreme. The professionals, despite disagreeing, remained kind and respectful. This made me feel more welcomed not only at the congress but to the scientific community during my future endeavors. I would like to work as a park ranger and eventually an environmental scientist and will be interacting with the scientific community closely."

Nuss: "One of the largest lessons I learned from this congress is the importance of effective communication and mediation about scientific topics, especially among experts from different backgrounds. Even though many soil classification systems used today have been around for decades, there were many situations during the congress where classification criteria were disputed. Resolving these disputes is extremely important because misleading classification can impact agriculture and topography, in turn, impacting lives. This experience has increased my motivation to pursue a career in which I facilitate scientific discussions among diverse groups. Also, it provided me with exposure to effective mediation among professionals.

"Additionally, experiencing the hospitality of the Japanese toward foreigners like myself, especially in low-tourism areas, was very eye-opening. I do not speak any Japanese, but was easily able to shop, order food, and navigate. I was surprised by how many signs had English as the primary text and Japanese as the subtitle. While I already knew that the U.S. is less accommodating to foreigners than other countries are, my visit to Japan showed me the magnitude of the discrepancy. With this new perspective, I now feel significantly motivated to promote an accommodating mindset in communities to which I belong."

I never imagined I would be on the other side of the globe, learning about Japanese soils in the middle of a forest on a mountain in Japan, while simultaneously watching out for bears! When I chose to attend OWU, I was told I would gain a life-changing education. This moment affirmed that OWU students do things beyond their wildest dreams.

Frankie Nuss '27

Favorite Moments

Dodds: "My favorite experience was meeting Cornie (van Huyssteen), a retired South African soil scientist who took us under his wing and helped us with the more advanced discussions. He took the time to teach us and introduce us to the other scientists, which made this trip so much more impactful."

Nuss: "My favorite moment of this experience was visiting a soil profile in The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest on Mount Higashiyama. We had to switch to a smaller bus and walk a portion of the Jinjayama trail to reach the remote location while wearing protective helmets and coated in bear spray due to the threat of a bear attack. I never imagined I would be on the other side of the globe, learning about Japanese soils in the middle of a forest on a mountain in Japan, while simultaneously watching out for bears! When I chose to attend OWU, I was told I would gain a life-changing education. This moment affirmed that OWU students do things beyond their wildest dreams."

Ohio Wesleyan's OWU Connection travelers wear the bear helmets required while visiting a soil profile in The University of Tokyo Hokkaido Forest on Mt. Higashiyama. (Photo courtesy of Frankie Nuss '27)

Sharing Knowledge

Dodds: "We are collaborating on a presentation to be presented in front of students and faculty upon returning to campus. I plan to personally share my experiences with a large amount of the OWU campus, using my effective word-of-mouth communication skills."

Nuss: "Utilizing the connections we made with soil experts at the conference, we hope to start a soil classification club or form a soil judging team on campus. Soil classification is a niche subject with immense impact, so we hope to raise awareness about its importance among our peers. After attending the conference, we now all have the background to solidly advocate for increased participation."

Campus Involvements

Dodds: "I am a senior member of Kappa Alpha Theta after joining my freshman year. I am also involved with the music department through marching band, wind ensemble, and the jazz band!"

Nuss: "I am a member of OWU's varsity women's tennis team, vice president of finance for Campus Programming Board, and PR director for Circle K on campus. I am also a member of the Delta Gamma sorority, Residential Life Programming Committee, and Honors Program at OWU.

"I am also a Choose Ohio First Scholar and Woltemade Economics and Business Fellow. These two programs have greatly allowed me to tailor my OWU education to fit my career aspirations. In the upcoming semester, I will serve as a Career Connection ambassador and a Nancy Bihl Rutkowski Leadership Fellow. I am also a Girl Scout."

Ohio Wesleyan's Professor Craig Jackson (from left), Auzlynd Katterhenrich '25, Lily '26, Frankie Nuss '27, Ellie Dodds '25, and staff member Kristen Crosby stand with Professor Cornie van Huyssteen in a paddy field in Iwamizawa. 'He mentored our group during the conference and greatly contributed to the life-changing experience we all had in Japan,' Nuss said. (Photo courtesy of K.C. Crosby)

Why Ohio Wesleyan?

Dodds: "After touring OWU, I fell in love with the small quiet campus. As an Environmental Science student, I did not want to feel like I was in the middle of a huge city because of my school. OWU provided a warm and inviting community as well as an amazing ENVS Department.

Nuss: "I chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because they were the only university that could guarantee I would receive excellent instruction in my courses while also experiencing world-class learning outside of the classroom. Students at OWU graduate with meaningful degrees and have a track record of thinking big, doing good, going global, and getting real, which permanently sets them apart in the job market. Students at OWU develop both the knowledge and the skills to be successful changemakers."

Plans After Graduation

Dodds: "I would like to be a park ranger in a national park when I graduate. After a few years, I would like to plan on going back for my master's in soil science or entomology."

Nuss: "After graduation, I plan to expand my education at graduate school. Ultimately, I aspire to utilize my knowledge of the sciences, understanding of businesses, and strong interpersonal skillset to make scientific discoveries applicable and accessible to a wider and more diverse audience. OWU is preparing me to achieve my goals by providing me with a holistic and interdisciplinary education that continues outside of the classroom. At OWU I'm not only earning two majors and a minor, but am also leading several clubs, playing a varsity sport, doing field research, volunteering in my community, and serving in various campus leadership positions. With my OWU experience, I know I will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to make an impact."