Katie Mestayer, a junior majoring in plant and soil systems, stands in front of her undergraduate research project at the LSU AgCenter Central Research Station in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mestayer credits her mentor, Tara Smith, director of the AgCenter Central Region, for encouraging her with her research and helping her network with agricultural professionals. Photo by Annabelle Stokes
The LSU College of Agriculture Mentoring Program, which pairs students with alumni and supporters of the college for professional development and networking opportunities, recently completed its fourth year.
Katie Mestayer, a junior majoring in plant and soil systems with a concentration in crop sciences, joined the program to gain professional career advice. Tara Smith, LSU AgCenter Central regional director, served as Mestayer’s mentor.
“Dr. Smith provided me with so much information, advice and hope as to where my career could go and now where my career will go,” Mestayer said. “Dr. Smith invited me to tour with her at several research stations in our state and to meet with other professionals who work there so I could really get a feel of what it’s like to be an employee on a research station.”
Smith said serving as a mentor has been rewarding as a professional, and she has been able to stay connected with the college through the process. She says that she still maintains contact with some of the mentees that she met through the program.
“We are truly working with and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow. They are working in various agricultural segments and are going to be leaders on the cutting edge of the agricultural industry as we move forward,” Smith said.
Mestayer said all students should consider applying to join the mentoring program. “It is such a wonderful experience. Even if you’re just unsure about where your career might go, someone in the agricultural industry can lead you in the right direction,” she said.
Smith said a formal mentoring process is critical to forming foundational relationships that follow students throughout their academic career and as they enter the working world, and she encourages her fellow alumni and college supporters to get involved with the program. Malorey Uzee
This year marked the first time that both of Louisiana’s land-grant institutions jointly celebrated Ag Week 2021, March 15 to 19. Events included virtual speed-networking, a law school open house, an LSU School of Veterinary Medicine open house, and an agriculture alumni speaker.
In-person events on LSU’s campus included reverse tie-dyeing T-shirts and plate smashing, and Southern University hosted the jAg Graffiti Bash on their campus and a Lucky jAgs virtual forum.
Approximately 150 LSU students attended the reverse tie-dyeing T-shirts event during which they received T-shirts and bleaching kits. In addition to the T-shirt, they received a sapling donated by Bartlett Tree Experts.
LSU students met with the college’s diversity and inclusion champions, who are faculty members that engage and advocate for minority and underrepresented student groups.
A virtual speed-networking event connected LSU and Southern University students with employers. There were 77 attendees, including 16 alumni and industry representatives.
To relieve stress, about 120 LSU students participated in a plate smashing event. Students wrote down their worries on a ceramic plate and were allowed to smash the plates, which were secured in zip-close bags in a designated area.
At a law school open house, students heard from LSU and SU alumni and admissions representatives. Law school alumni panelists were A’dair Flynt, P. Ragan Richard and John Simmons, from LSU, and Kenneth W. Blackson Jr. and Ursula T. Ransburg, from Southern University.
About 120 students attended an open house at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine, where they learned about admission requirements and the application process.
The week wrapped up with the final speaker for the LSU Agriculture Alumni Spring Speaker Series, Deacue Fields. Fields is an alumnus of both universities, having earned his bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge and his doctorate from LSU. He is the dean for the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the University of Arkansas.
“We look forward to building on this partnership with the Southern University College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences,” said Amanda Martin, assistant dean of the LSU College of Agriculture. “We are able to do so much more together, and I love to see our phenomenal staff, faculty and administrations on both campuses working with the intention to provide the best opportunities possible to our students.” Annabelle Stokes
Matt Fannin, professor in the LSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, was the co-creator of a class taught jointly at both LSU and Mendel University in the Czech Republic. Photo by Olivia McClure
The LSU College of Agriculture and a university in the Czech Republic offered a joint class for the first time during spring 2021. International Comparative Analysis of Regional Food Systems (AGEC 4700) was developed by both LSU and Mendel University (MendelU) faculty.
Because travel restrictions related to the pandemic limited student and faculty international exchange programs, faculty from both universities took advantage of virtual learning to launch the course.
Matt Fannin, professor in the LSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, and Ivo Zdráhal, Radka Redlichová, and Francois Stefanus Lategan, with the Department of Regional and Business Economics at MendelU, developed the course. The course focused on analyzing food systems and their relations to the agricultural sector, the rest of the region’s economy and the quality of life. The idea for the class emerged from Fannin's participation in several exchanges with European universities over the past decade, which included a summer school program in Ireland, where North American and European university students and faculty engaged through the International Comparative Rural Policy Studies Program. Witnessing the cooperation among these universities sparked the idea to develop the new course.
The college and MendelU have had a robust, strategic partnership since 2014. Students and representatives from each university have organized and participated in many joint opportunities, including summer schools, student and faculty exchanges and joint symposiums. Ivana Tregenza, associate director of the AgCenter Global Network and director of international relations for the college, has worked to build the partnership with MendelU.
The LSU Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness centers much of its research and teaching on the economics of agricultural production for an individual farmer. While in the Department of Regional and Business Economics at MendelU, the curriculum focuses on the economic value of regional development. By creating a course that shares concepts central to both departments, students are able to develop a more comprehensive understanding of economic practices.
"It was an enjoyable experience delivering this course with the Mendel University faculty,” Fannin said. “They brought the strength of teaching using case studies to complement my instruction in system dynamics modeling. The students benefited from this dual teaching strategy."
The course introduced students to case studies that exposed them to thinking about systems in practice, such as the south Moravian wine industry in the Czech Republic. Students constructed system dynamics models to understand challenges in developing sustainable food systems. Students were assigned individual regions of Louisiana and the Czech Republic and evaluated how change from natural growth, in-migration and out-migration of a region's population created changing demand for local food production in the absence of agricultural trade.
In addition to case studies, students presented a comparative analysis of the European Union Common Agricultural Policy and the U.S. Farm Bill. They gained an understanding of the geographic footprint required to meet the caloric requirements of a growing urban population and the challenges faced in these regions to consume local food products.
Feedback to the course has been positive, and plans call for additional shared LSU and MendelU courses. Annabelle Stokes
Emily Watson, Viniana Nguyen, Pamela Rushing, Cole Latiolais, and Valentine Blakeley stand by a horse statue at the LSU Rural Life Museum, where they toured as part of the new Louisiana Land and Culture course taught for the first time spring semester 2021. Students in the class also toured the Old Louisiana State Capitol, LSU Center for River Studies, and Louisiana Arts and Sciences Museum. Photo by Henry Hebert
Louisiana may be known for its colorful culture, unique traditions and spicy cuisine, but the history behind its beloved customs is often untold, and many students graduate from LSU without learning about the state. To correct this, the College of Agriculture offered an elective course in the spring of 2021, Louisiana Land and Culture, taught by Henry Hebert, recruitment manager, and Brandon Guillory, academic coordinator.
“Mr. Guillory and I were thrilled to offer this course to our first-year students in the college, especially in an in-person format,” Hebert said. “Our goal was to develop cultural ambassadors for Louisiana who would leave this course with an understanding and appreciation for all aspects of our diverse and unique state.”
The course takes a deep dive into the lands of Louisiana and its peoples’ heritage, along with exposing students to the wide range of agricultural commodities grown within the state. The course curriculum was guided by the book “The Louisiana Field Guide: Understanding Life in the Pelican State,” written and edited by LSU faculty, who rediscover the state’s shared history and cultural patchwork that has been absorbed into its popular culture. Authors cover the topics of Louisiana geography, history, politics, religion, language, music and film, architecture, cuisine, and art that shape Louisiana. Guest lecturers included contributors to the textbook.
The elective was offered to first-year students as a way for both in-state and out-of-state students to draw a deeper connection to Louisiana. Lillian Dickson, a renewable natural resources major from Illinois, said the course has broadened her knowledge of Louisiana’s agricultural production and practices.
“All I knew about Louisiana was that they had Mardi Gras and crawfish boils,” Lillian said. “We took an in-depth look at the state’s agriculture and how the state addresses issues, like bug infestations in their crops. I used to think that there was just sugarcane in Louisiana, but now I know a lot more about other types of agriculture.” Annabelle Stokes
Plant and soil systems major, David Baudoin, was among the first College of Agriculture students to graduate with a concentration in medicinal plants.
Baudoin said he had an interest in nutrition, botany and alternative forms of medicine. When he found out that the LSU College of Agriculture had a concentration in medicinal plants, he knew that it would be a perfect fit for him and would be a great way to supplement his knowledge of horticulture.
“I’m really interested in the treatment of chronic diseases with herbal medicine as opposed to pharmaceuticals,” Baudoin said.
The medicinal plant sciences concentration aims to prepare students to grow various plant species in highly controlled environments for medicinal uses. The concentration includes courses on plant identification, propagation, growth and processing, coupled with courses in plant pathology, entomology and chemistry.
Ted Gauthier, associate professor in the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, said the medicinal plants concentration focuses not only on compound extraction but also on the the growing conditions of plants to enhance the compounds they produce.
Baudoin had an internship funded by A. Wilbert’s Sons to test how plants respond to drought stress and how that might affect different quantities and qualities of the essential oils they produce.
Baudoin's post-graduation plans are to attend the biotechnology graduate program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, then enter the pharmaceutical industry and focus on drug discovery and development. Malorey Uzee