Back row from Left: Dr. Wesley Whittaker and Dr. Andra Johnson both from the School of AREAS; Gary Blair, Southern AgCredit; James Harris, ABB Group, Inc.; John White, Sodexo, Inc.; Mike McCormick, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation; Michael Patterson, Patterson Farms; and Dr. Gregory Reed, School of AREAS.

Front row from Left: Dr. Ivory W. Lyles, School of AREAS; Rosario Martinez, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, Inc.; Derrick Sims, Nissan North America, Inc.; Joseph Brandon, Nissan North America, Inc.; Lynn Posey, Mississippi Public Service Commission; Roddric Bell, United States Department of Agriculture; Rashad Delph, Tyson Foods, Inc.; Ivye Allen, Foundation for the Mid-South; and Ola Tucker, Safari Learning Center Day Care.

Dr. Ivory W. Lyles, dean and director of land-grant programs, School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, recently started the Dean’s Leadership Advisory Council. The first meeting took place on Alcorn’s Lorman campus on Friday, September 25, 2015.

The Dean’s Advisory Council that is comprised of influential and noteworthy individuals from a wide range of professions and experiences, some of whom are Alcorn alumni, was welcomed by Alcorn President Alfred Rankins Jr. and Dr. Lyles.

“Your presence here provides the expertise that we need to be engaged with our constituents and offer the programs that are current, so when our graduates leave here they could function effectively in the areas they graduate in,” said Dr. Donzell Lee, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, as he addressed the Council members.

The Council has received a charge to serve as an advisory body to the dean on various issues of the School of AREAS, its mission and programs. The specific purposes of the Advisory Council are to provide advice to the dean, suggest and identify internship and job opportunities for the school of agriculture and applied sciences students, identify areas of research and outreach and study where the expertise of faculty can be utilized, help the School bring industry executives in contact with students and faculty through various media including personal visits on and off campus, and to advocate for and contribute to funding needs in the School to support the academic core.

The primary purpose of the first meeting, per Lyles, was to share with the Council members “the overview of the School of AREAS, discuss the direction that our institution and the land-grant system is going, and to discuss the next steps we need to take.” He stressed the importance of “our students being our first priority” and added, “If we don’t train our students well, there will be a shortage of diverse workforce in the near future.”

The Council received valuable information on degree programs offered at the School of AREAS academic departments, enrollment, activities and future plans from the department chairs Dr. Daniel Collins, Department of Agriculture; Dr. Kwabena Agyepong, Department of Advanced Technologies; Dr. Keith McGee, Department of Graduate Biotechnology, the newest addition to the School of AREAS; and Dr. Carrie Ford, Department of Human Sciences.

The meeting continued with a tour the School of AREAS facilities – Center for Conservation Research, Goat Production Facility, and Experiment Station.

The heads of outreach and research units of the School, Dr. Gregory Reed, assistant director of extension, and Dr. Andra Johnson, assistant director of research, gave a general overview of their programs including outreach and research strategies, accomplishments, and planned positive transformations.

After the information sessions concluded, Dr. Lyles offered the members to share their areas of expertise and thoughts on the ways the Council should operate to offer the support and advice needed.

Gary A. Blair, vice president of Southern AgCredit, said, “This Advisory Council can work to help improve the placement rates. We, also, can have some of our co-workers come to speak to the students.”

“We need to provide the students with good opportunities to get the experience necessary for employment. As Alcorn alumnus, I try to help pass the information to the University on employment in our agencies and industry,” shared USDA Risk Management Agency Deputy Director Roddric L. Bell ’93.

The meeting concluded with the Council agreeing on the future steps, and tentatively scheduling the next meeting for February 2016.