Hard Work Has Its Privileges

April 30, 2013

VidalSanezEveryone has a hero and for land grant universities, such as Prairie View A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, the unsung heroes are county agents. Extension is the mode for progressive change, but the budgetary environmental restrictions moved extension to economic stagnation. But that stagnation did not hinder Vidal Saenz, who was recognized by administration and peers for his community involvement, leadership and financial prudence.

The optimistic mindset is the life of a county agent, built with a commitment to serve residents through long work hours and a variety of programs. Thus, Saenz embeds that life as he strategically developed the Small Farm Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Program. Mainly catering to agricultural producers, small business owners, and other members of the public, his dedication to assist is a welcoming relief to the entire community.

His commitment to the Rio Grande Valley community is so much a part of his identity that Saenz garnered nearly five million dollars in loan assistance for over 45 producers. Everything he does, someway, somehow, positively touches the lives of his clients. For instance, he saves producers over $135,000.00, acts as a liaison between producers, USDA and other loan agencies while training the youth on financial literacy. He spearheaded countless workshops for ranchers, farmers, master gardeners and other professions based on need assessment.

Because he represents the entire community in his efforts, he has the reputation as the community resource. As such, he has put his knowledge to paper and published articles for the Rio Grande Valley newspapers and regional magazines, The Gulf Coast Cattlemen and AgriLife Today, respectively.

It does not matter if he receives a call from a 4-H youth that needs help with a livestock project, gardeners that need an expert’s advice, a frustrated rancher with a noxious weed problem or a thousand other issues, Saenz is there to help. His guidance and leadership has helped many learn valuable lessons and achieve success.

Saenz truly enhances the quality of life for residents in the counties he serves and brings a wealth of knowledge of the university to local communities. PVAMU CEP agents help diverse populations of Texas adapt to rapid societal changes and improve their lives and communities with educational activities that uses science based knowledge.

By Staff Writer: Kelley A. Redmon

TX Ag Ed Meeting of the Minds

April 30, 2013

Prairie View, TX—Focus and change. Both can be a noun or a verb and separately can describe a current status or inspire thoughts of a future state of being. However, the two words combined can hold a historical significance as to what occurred Friday, February 22, 2013. It was the first time, Barney McClure, Aaron Alejandro, Tom Maynard and Ron Whitson, four of the top agriculture directors in Texas convened at the same place. And Prairie View A&M University was the hub to bring them all together in an historic meeting to strengthen and enhance agricultural education programs to promote postsecondary and career pathways in an interagency commitment for advancing agricultural education.

photo courtesy: Paul Johnson

Horace Hodge, Alton B. Johnson, Barney McClure, Tom Maynard, Ron Whitson and Aaron Alejandro

Since the beginning of time, agriculture has been the backbone of civilization; therefore agricultural education has a dynamic impact to the future prosperity of America. With agriculture, societies increase the yield of land, produce excess food, start a market and trade and survive. According to Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Debbie Stabenow, 16 million jobs are supported by agriculture and is one of a few industries leading the economic recovery of this country. Therefore, it is imperative to produce agricultural teachers who have the ability to deliver instruction to diverse audiences in diverse settings. Thus, the programs scope should have a global perspective.

As executive directors McClure of the Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas and Maynard of Future Farmers of America Association emphasized the importance of Prairie View becoming the pipeline to transform the lack of minority agriculture teachers and build an accountability system that recognizes unfair treatment and develop a support system needed for success.

Many of the agriculture teachers in the audience concluded that agriculture educators faced unique challenges but Prairie View A&M University has the ability to tap into unique strengths within a tight knit community. However, the curriculum can not be backwards-looking to preserve the past but must focus on integrated instruction of mathematics and sciences to meet the divergent challenges of the future.

Teaching people to be lifelong learners and to stay current on industry practices evaluate science and information for themselves and study how leadership works. For instance, Future Farmers of America Foundation director believes that it is important to have a college FFA chapter for students to feed into because the challenge becomes servicing new interests and the needs of a traditional base. His perception correlates with the statewide coordinator of Texas Educators Association, Whitson’s theory of hands on model. Wherefore, the goal is to make young people better evaluators and enhance their problem-solving skills and FFA development is a flagship for college preparation, skills and training that will guide them back to the family farm and keep the knowledge generating.

Therefore, a curriculum for agriculture educators should envision the value and vitality of agriculture and natural resources in the role of advancing personal and global well-being. Hence, there should be a re-examination and refocus of agriculture literacy to recruit bright young people into the profession and provide a support system to help them become successful educators; then, agricultural education will become more important than ever.

By Staff Writer: Kelley A. Redmon

Collaboration is a True Discipline

April 30, 2013

Jacksonville, FL— Prairie View A&M University’s College of Agriculture and Human Science (CAHS) provided 65 faculty, staff and students a chance to highlight research at the 17th Biennial Research Symposium of Association of Research Directors, Inc. (ARD) April 6-10. The symposium provided a dynamic venue where academics and real-world practitioners, through spirited dialogue, oral and poster presentations, linked theory and practice in a professional environment.

An enriching experience is provided when a student conducts research, is exposed to problem solving and prepared to successfully enter and adapt to society after their college years. Thus, the CAHS researchers instill the importance of exploring issues from multiple disciplines by promoting interdisciplinary research and collaboration because research gives something that the classroom can not completely do.

“Exposure to research at the undergraduate level is essential to students who want to go to graduate school,” says Dr. Godson Osuji. “Or when they get in the real world and have a large project that requires hands-on experience with the collaboration and teamwork required to combine the work of different people in a finished product, our students will have an advantage because we equipped them for discovery and success.”

Hence, CAHS researchers routinely draw on a variety of interdisciplinary majors as a collaborative approach in order to capitalize on rapid advances in basic scientific knowledge and maximize the benefits to science and society through their work. The CAHS researcher’s theory is various majors offer a more complete picture of integrating knowledge across fields and bridge the divides of agriculture and other fields.

Involving undergraduate students in research really goes to the heart of undergraduate education by producing lifelong learners. By learning the process of a research experiment, students gain confidence and are ready for the next step of their future.

Drs. Laura Carson and Osuji have cultivated exploration through mentoring and developing intellectual minds across disciplines. Each researcher had students, Kemar Hibbert and Dwiesha Johnson, to place in poster categories of Renewable Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment and Food Safety, Nutrition and Health, respectively.

As Mr. Hibbert, engineering major, under the tutelage of Dr. Carson presented scientific research on agriculture based polymers to make hybrids used in bone repair, stated, “doing research outside of engineering helped me with my presentation skills and how to convey my thoughts and ideas to a scientific group verses a technical group. And working in a research environment makes you think for yourself a lot and I’ve learned responsibility.”

Whereas, Dr. Osuji’s student presented findings of silencing the mRNA in peanuts that causes the allergen, and aspires to attend medical school sought this research as an opportunity to build relationships with graduate students and faculty, who can become role models. Ms. Johnson said, “the research experience motivated me to high level achievement. I invested myself emotionally in the search for answers to questions nobody else knew and it was a great thrill.”

For many students, the opportunity to work closely with mentors, professors and/or scientists, graduate students and research assistants to conduct research in the growing field of agriculture is an invaluable experience and gives them an edge in the competitive job market.
In the poster presentation competition, winners were—in first and second place—Kemar Hibbert, mechanical engineering, Synthesis of Water Dispersible Carbon Nanotubes Silica Hybrids; and Dwiesha Johnson, biology, Regulation of Allergenic Protein by NAD Dehydrogenase.

Other students who presented in oral and poster competition were: Loveth Emmanuel, Sanique South, Shanoy Anderson, Renae Nicholson, Thy’Asia Nelson, Shallaya Neal, Jennifer East, Rachel Taylor, Paige Phillips, Eudel Dilworth, Conroy Stewart, Rose Somers, Diadrian Clarke, Audrey Bryant, Zamara Thibodeaux, Sherventina Williams, Devesha Lester, Debra Elder, Jalysa Ladmirault, Jeremiah Macaulay, Phane Otenyo, Steven Lewis, Jr, Chevaun Johnson, Ebonee Williams, Charity Woodard, and Theo Reed

The CAHS is making the improvement of teaching and learning a major emphasis. Creating a niche for doing that is to take the strengths of a research university and apply them.

By Staff Writer: Kelley A. Redmon