Photo of Gertrude Nakekeeto. Photo by Phoenix Best.

As summer semester gives way to fall semester, ABAC is pleased to welcome new staff members to the family in the AgBusiness, AgCommunications, and Forestry departments.

In the Agricultural department, Dr. Gertrude Nakakeeto was hired to fill the position created by expansion in the curriculum. Nakakeeto comes to us from Texas Tech University where she completed her doctorate in Agricultural and Applied Economics. She will teach two sections of Intro to AgroBusiness Computations and two sections of Food & Agricultural Marketing.

The hiring process for AgBusiness was similar to the two other departments. First, a listing was posted on an educational job board, then a committee composed of faculty and one outside person in the industry was formed. Then all the candidates that met the requirements were given phone interviews.

Next came the in-person interview. If the candidate seemed like a good fit, they were asked to give a colloquium. At each colloquium, the prospective candidate taught a mock lecture, and students were allowed to ask questions and give each candidate an evaluation before the committee continued on with the hiring process. The whole process takes about a month. Department Head of Agriculture Ray Smith says that a good professor for ABAC needs to be a good communicator that’s undergraduate student-focused. It’s also preferable if they have real-world job experience.

In Dr. Nakakeeto’s case, she gave a mock lecture about “Price Elasticity of Demand and its Application in Agribusiness Analysis” at her colloquium. Smith says he felt like Dr. Nakakeeto was a good fit because she was well-spoken, well-trained, and had a lot of energy, and she seemed like a really good person. “So many people that come out of their graduate program want to do research, because that’s their main focus for five to nine years.” Dr. Nakakeeto however, says she was drawn to ABAC because of “its core mandate to train Agricultural professionals.” She even has real-world experience as an Agricultural Market Analyst, and as the co-founder of an agribusiness firm called Prime Harvest International.

In the forestry department, the process was very similar. Two candidates gave a colloquium about ecological succession to the forestry students attending the summer session. Even though the topics were exactly the same, each candidate was allowed to present it however they wanted. The first candidate gave the forestry students a very in-depth presentation about ecological succession and made sure the students came away having learned several new vocabulary words. While the second professor lectured half the time before having the students play a game about prescribed burning to get his point across. Ultimately, Dr. Andrew Egan was hired to replace Dr. George Lowerts, who retired this spring. Forestry Department Head Dr. Moore stated that to be a good fit at ABAC, a professor had to love to teach, “which is one of the biggest hurdles. There are not that many people with a Ph.D. in Forestry, and most of the forestry folks that get a Ph.D. are more interested in research — so it’s hard to find someone that’s interested in a teaching job.” This closely mirrors what Dr. Smith said about finding Agriculture professors. He also said a good fit for ABAC had to be flexible. “When you’re at a teaching college, you never know how many classes you’re going to have to teach, or which classes from semester to semester.” Finally, he said a good forestry professor needed to like being outside and in the woods, which not all forestry professors are okay with. He says many Ph.D.s prefer the lab. Dr. Egan however, has spent years in the outdoors as well as years teaching all over the world. He comes to us with a Ph.D. from Penn State and six years of combined work experience as a logger and a forester. From there he became a forestry professor, eventually teaching at three different colleges, and later became the dean at two others. Furthermore, he worked as either a forester or a forestry professor in Liberia, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic. Here at ABAC, he will teach Soils, Forest Policy & Law, and Natural Resource Conservation.

Now as it stands, the Yow Building only has 4 professors with a wildlife background and 4 with a forestry background. The Yow is still down one professor in each department compared to the 10 faculty they had two years ago, but the Yow is unfortunately only allowed to hire one new professor this year. This is due to budget cuts from the state, and the fact that other departments, like AgCommunications, are down by more faculty.

The AgCommunications department did manage to hire two new professors, though the process was a bit slower as it took from March to May. Dr. Austin Moore comes to us with a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University in Agricultural Communications and Education. Before receiving his Master’s and Ph.D., he worked for 10 years as a Communication Specialist for the Texas Agrilife Extension where he spent his time making educational videos, and then he spent another ten years working on television programs including SUNUP, a weekly broadcast for farmers and ranchers. When interviewing at ABAC, he gave a presentation on “Engaging Agricultural Communication Students to be Industry Focused and Work Ready.” Agricultural Education and Communications department head Thoron says Dr. Moore was an attractive candidate because he has good industry experience in agricultural communication, he worked extremely well with the students, and he came in with ideas for getting students in-field experience while they get their bachelor’s. Dr. Moore himself says “ABAC drew my attention as a place I could focus on students and building strong educational programs.” He goes on to say that he was impressed with the “dedication and engagement” of ABAC’s agricultural students.

The second hire in the department was Ms. Jane Anne Veazey, a graduate of ABAC’s AgCommunications program. She will teach Issues in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Writing Specialized in Ag and NRM, and Human Communication. Ms. Veazey says coming from a farming family drew her to ABAC, but communicating with key stakeholders drew her to AgCommunications specifically.  After ABAC she pursued her master’s in Public Administration at Kennesaw State University and served in three legislative sessions (two in Atlanta and one in D.C), where she worked on implementing the U.S Farm Bill. She will teach Issues in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Writing Specialized in Ag and NRM, and Human Communication. When asked about the qualities that made Ms. Veazey an attractive candidate, Thoron said, “Ms. Veazey had great qualities for this position through her work experience in the legislative process in both D.C. and at the state level.  Likewise, her work experience as a lobbyist brings a skill set that is complementary to Dr. Moore as we look to further develop the Agricultural Communication major.”

Overall, both the natural resource management majors and everyone else at the Stallion are excited to welcome these four new professors to ABAC!

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