Mohamed Ahmedna, Ph.D.

Dear CAES Community, 

Happy holidays to you all! 

As this difficult year draws to a close, I have been reflecting on the tremendous challenges posed by the global pandemic and the remarkable things we’ve accomplished together. 

Our essential workers, like those at the University Farm, continued to come to campus on a daily basis. We salute you. 

Cooperative Extension at N.C. A&T, our outreach arm, responded to this public health crisis with a rapid shift from face-to-face to virtual program delivery, dramatically expanding its online offeringsIn just a few months, Extension created three dozen tip sheets with practical advice to help limited-resource individuals, families and farmers weather this storm 

Geetika Jaiswal and her fashion merchandising colleagues and students sewed more than 100 masks for the community this summer.

The college served the public in other ways, donating thousands of pounds of produce from the University Farm and Reid Greenhouse to local nonprofit organizations. Geetika Jaiswal, Ph.D., along with colleagues, students and alumni in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, made masks to promote public safety and aid a local business.   

4-H Youth Development Specialist Shannon Wiley, Ph.D., launched a Hands to Service face mask sewing project involving 4-H members, volunteers and Extension agents. Volunteers provided 212 masks to grocery store employees in Forsyth, Harnett and Herford counties, bus drivers and cafeteria workers in Gates County, senior citizens in Harnett, Herford and Mitchell counties and food bank employees in Mecklenburg County. 

COVID-19 did not stop us from moving forward with new initiatives. Thanks to new federal funding, we welcomed 23 students as our first class of CAES 1890 Agricultural Scholars. We started the Human Lactation Pathway 2 Certificate, becoming only the second HBCU in the nation to offer such a program. We celebrated milestones, like the 25th anniversary of the Waste Management Institute and the 130th anniversary of the Morrill Act of 1890. 

We continueto be a leader in promoting inclusion. We are proud to graduate more African Americans with degrees in agriculture than any other university in the nation, and we are one of the foremost institutions in preparing Black students for vet school. In August, Kenrett Jefferson-Moore, Ph.D., chairperson of the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education, became chairperson of the Committee on the Opportunities and Status of Blacks in Agricultural Economics, a division of the American Agricultural Economics Association. 

The USDA awarded us a $1.6 million grant to establish the multi-institution Center of Excellence to Motivate and Educate for Achievement. The center is dedicated to encouraging and supporting young people from underrepresented minority groups as they pursue studies and careers in food, agriculture and natural resources. 

We grew our research enterprise. We earned $23.4 million in grant funding, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year. We expanded by emphasizing collaboration across disciplines and aligning our research with the world’s most urgent needs. For instance, Radiah Minor, Ph.D., is leading an interdisciplinary team researching whether the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect pigs, chickens and cattle. 

The excellence of our students, staff, faculty and Extension specialists has been recognized with numerous awards during the past yearTwo of our students – Bobby Brooks, an animal science undergraduate, and Christina Bradshaw, an integrated animal health systems graduate student – were named to USDA’s Future Leaders in Agriculture program. Three of our students  Jasmine McIver, Milosh McAdoo and Tahirah Jones  won awards at the Regions I/II/III Virtual MANRRS Cluster Conference. And McAdoo won the 2020 N.C. Farm Bureau Discussion Meet and will represent the state at the upcoming national competition. 

Jenora Waterman, Ph.D., then an animal sciences faculty member, won the University of North Carolina System’s Board of Governors Award for Excellence in TeachingNelson Brownlee and James Hartsfield, small farm management area agents with Extension, received the state Search for Excellence Award in the young, beginning, or small farmers/ranchers category from the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA). Elizabeth Hopfer, Ph.D., an associate professor of fashion merchandising, received the university’s 2020 Faculty Advising Excellence Award. Sanjun Gu, Ph.D., horticulture specialist with Extensionwas honored with this year’s 1890 Institutions Regional Excellence in Extension Award.  

Arnab Bhowmik, Ph.D., a faculty member in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, was named the university’s Rookie of the Year for Research. And Odile Huchette, a horticulture lecturer, won the university’s 2020 Community Engagement Award for Community Engaged Teaching. These are just a sampling of the awards received by our community members. We congratulate all our award winners. 

It’s this excellence, paired with great dedication, that has enabled our college to overcome the obstacles it has faced this yearBut we have not succeeded on our own, we have been aided by the support of generous partners who share our vision. We have received significant gifts and commitments from the NC Pork Council, N.C. Electric Cooperatives, AgFirst Farm Credit, SunTrust, Syngenta and others too numerous to mention. We also thank our alumni who have set up multiple endowments and other forms of financial support. We appreciate NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler and the member of his team who have shared their expertise with us in a series of lectures. 

The days are short at this time of year, but I know that more sunshine will be here soon. I’m inspired by our accomplishments of the last year. I look forward to the new year with hope and a confidence rooted in our past success.  

Thank you for all you’ve done for our students, our university and the people of North Carolina during this unforgettable year. I wish you all a safe and happy 2021. 

In Aggie Pride, 

Dean Mohamed Ahmedna