Exploring Prairie View A&M Universityâ€™s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences
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Students in the Goat Research program (L-R): Cameron Gordon, Jared Bolton, Helenia Hogan and Sr. Research Associate Dwight Rhodes lead goats to their pasture on the campus of Prairie View A&M University.
Real-World Experience Students benefit from agricultural internships
tudents at Prairie View A&M University learn plenty of lessons in the classroom. But many students also receive on-the-job education through agricultural internships. “Internships provide them the platform to apply what they learn in class to real-life situations,” says Horace Hodge, who serves as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Liaison Officer for the university. Through internships, Hodge says, students are able to better understand what field they’re in and see what they really want to do. “We recruit students from high school into the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, and then try to get them into the employment ranks of USDA or a private agribusiness company,” he says. As many as 60 students per year take part in the ag internship program, for which students receive up to six hours of college credit. They also document what they’ve learned and write about their internship experience. Keith Lewis, who majored in agriculture with an animal science focus, interned with the Soysambu Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya through ELI Abroad. “I was exposed to new ways of thinking and living,
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which encouraged growth and independence,” Lewis says. “I was able to immerse myself in a new culture, mastering the challenges of learning in a different academic environment.” Joshua Allen, who studies agronomy, secured a research internship with Monsanto in Iowa. “I’ve learned not only what Monsanto does to decrease world hunger on a global level, but also how they’re impacting local communities,” Allen says. “I actually hope to continue my research with this company in the future.” Two students per year take part in the USDA/1890 National Scholars program. This 1890 land grant university scholarship not only covers the full tuition, books, fees and laptop for the student, but it also provides an internship with the USDA during the summer. From USDA to Monsanto to Kenya, internships also help students when they return after a summer of work. “Professors can tell,” Hodge says. “The application of what they learn in the field is apparent with their interaction in the class.” And employers can tell, too – a better prepared agricultural workforce helps enhance the overall agricultural economy.
Have a Field Day
Goat Research Center event expands to educate on urban agriculture
bout 200 Alpine dairy goats and another 200 meat goats (predominantly Spanish and Boer breeds) reside at PVAMU’s International Goat Research Center, which was founded in 1983. The following year, the IGRC hosted its first Goat Field Day. In 2008, it combined with a College of Agriculture Field Day to focus not only on goats but also other types of farming. In 2013, the IGRC launched the Urban Agriculture Summit in conjunction with the field day and the city of Prairie View’s birthday celebration. “PVAMU is located at the edge of a rapidly expanding urban area where agriculture is still a major economic force,” says Dr. Gary Newton, IGRC research leader. “Our goal was to bring together organizations that are interested in promoting locally grown foods and good nutrition.” The program included talks on marketing, nutrition and legislative issues that may affect small farmers. Dr. Alton Johnson, dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, also discussed plans for the fall 2014 ground breaking on the college’s new academic building. The 2014 Agricultural Field Day, Community Celebration and Goat Festival are slated for the last weekend in April. Throughout the year, the IGRC offers workshops relating to goat production and management, and conducts research on breeding, grazing strategies and profitable dairy production. They work with other departments, universities and 4-H clubs throughout Texas, as well as the Waller County Farmers Market. They also market goat dairy products – from soap and lotion to milk and cheese – made by student-led organizations on the university farm. Goat milk is easy to digest, doesn’t cause lactose intolerance and is often a healthy substitute for children allergic to cow’s milk.
Bottom L-R: Prairie View A&M International Goat Research Director and Research Leader Gary Newton, Senior Research Scientist Lou Nuti and Research Scientist Bill Foxworth.
A Legacy Lives On
Feeding the Food Deserts
“Our tradition. Your opportunity.”
Thanks to PVAMU, many Texans living in food deserts now have access to healthy foods. The term “food desert” refers to an area with minimal access to healthy food, according to Dawn Burton, health coordinator. “The barriers to access nutritionally dense foods include distance, physical and financial constraints. Burton works with the Last Organic Outpost in Houston’s Fifth Ward, an extreme food desert, to increase access to and education of fresh produce, with the goal of changing eating habits. “The Last Organic Outpost is 2 acres of opportunity for the community to improve health, individual economics and agricultural knowledge,” she says. Researchers have identified those food deserts through GIS mapping. “Geographical Information Systems [GIS] is the ability to use compiled data to impose an image onto a map,” says Christopher Cotton with the PVAMU Cooperative Extension. To show food deserts, GIS combines food source locations with census data to show low-income areas. The Extension utilizes the information to target places that most need their help. “I use GIS quite a bit to validate the areas and the people we serve,” Cotton says. Dr. Noel Estwick in the PVAMU College of Agriculture & Human Sciences, notes the importance of collaborative research between university departments. “The land management information system and other GIS-related activities will also be used to expose students to technology applications in agriculture,” he says.
That’s the Prairie View A&M University slogan, one exemplified by the school’s veterinary clinic through the legacy of Dr. Alfred Poindexter. For almost 60 years, Poindexter worked as a renowned veterinarian and beloved professor. He taught a number of animal sciences classes and trained future vets at the university farm. One of those students was Dr. Wendell Baker, who worked on the farm before opening his own practice. Baker’s protege, Dr. Kellye Thompson, now serves as the university farm vet, bringing the tradition of caring for animals to the next generation of PVAMU students.
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CAHS faculty Front L-R: Dr. Adela Mora, Dr. Milton Daley, Dr. Rahmat Attaie, Dr. Ali Fares, Dr. Eric Risch, Dr. Godson Osuji. Back L-R: Dr. Velva McWhinney, Dr. Ming Gao, Dr. Aruna Weerasooriya, Dr. Yoosung Jung, Dr. Laura Carson, Dr. Shaye Lewis.
A World of Education
College attracts students and faculty from around the globe
t PVAMU’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences (CAHS), faculty, students and staff come from all over the world – Africa, South America, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean. Dr. Milton Daley, who hails from Jamaica, completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at PVAMU in animal science. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Guelph. “PVAMU takes the responsibility of providing competitive, affordable and quality higher education within its industry in order to attract not only nationals but also international students,” says Dr. Daley, now an assistant professor and program specialist at the university. Dr. Godson Osuji, a research specialist from Nigeria, says many of his graduate students return to Nigeria with their master’s degrees from the college. He also notes that many visitors from his home country come to PVAMU because of his leadership in developing the agricultural global experience. “CAHS has a unique opportunity
to enhance the economic opportunity, foster academic excellence and improve the health and well-being of individuals and families locally, nationally and internationally through the delivery of programs in the agricultural and life sciences,” says CAHS Dean, Dr. Alton Johnson, who is from Monrovia, Liberia. No matter their country of origin, many professors find joy in the simple act of teaching. “It is a joy to see the happy faces of the students when harvesting the plants that the students help to grow,” says Ming Goa, a senior research scientist from northwestern China. “The opportunities exist here to contribute to the education of young people and make an impact in their lives,” says Dr. Ali Fares, an associate director for research and professor from Tunisia. Dr. Daley agrees. “Prairie View’s faculty not only teaches,” he says, “but we consider ourselves facilitators, mentors, advisors and even extended family to our students.”
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When Dr. Alton Johnson went to India in 2010, he brought back more than souvenirs. The dean of PVAMU’s College of Agriculture and Human Sciences, Johnson returned with a plan to collaborate with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. During his trip, Johnson connected with Dr. Kiran Kokate, who runs ICAR’s extension program and its 11,000 employees. PVAMU also has an extension service, which delivers practical research-based knowledge to farmers in 34 counties. Johnson invited Kokate to a conference in Texas to discuss India’s successful extension model – and to learn how it works in the United States. “He was quite interested in our land grant system and how our research and extension worked together to come up with solutions,” Johnson says. The CAHS and ICAR are developing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to identify areas of common interest, such as natural products, nutrition and medicine, particularly India’s research of medicinal plants. PVAMU’s International Goat Research Center also plays a role. India has a population of 1.24 billion – a lot of mouths to feed. “Beef is not a source of protein in India,” Johnson explains. Texas ranks first nationally for meat goats and second for dairy goats, and PVAMU is renowned for its research in goat genetics and production. The MoU, still in progress, must comply with university and federal guidelines. In the meantime, Johnson is proud to partner with ICAR. “They have students who want to come to the United States,” he says, “and we want them to come to PVAMU to study.”