UAPB alumna reflects on opportunities
Allison Jackson, a December 2023 graduate of agricultural business at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, says graduating and taking her first steps into “the real world” has been an exciting and emotional experience. She is thrilled about the future and grateful for the opportunities taken and memories made at her alma mater.
Jackson graduates as the recipient of the Chancellor’s Medallion award for the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS). The award — the highest honor presented during the commencement ceremony — is given to graduates with the highest grade-point average in their academic school. She is also the first graduate to complete UAPB’s 1890 Scholarship Program.
“I feel so many emotions now as I realize that I have managed to graduate from college debt-free,” she said. “I also think of the people who have helped me along the way.”
Jackson originally started attending UAPB during a summer session and was paying for her education out of pocket. At the time, she was considering majoring in business because several family members, including her mother, had strong backgrounds in the field.
Further guidance came when Charles R. Colen, chair of the UAPB Industrial Technology, Management and Applied Engineering Department, introduced Jackson to Doze Y. Butler, former dean for the SAFHS.
Butler told Jackson about the 1890 Scholarship Program, which is offered to first-time entering freshmen earning a degree at SAFHS. Soon after applying, Jackson was informed by Butler that she had been awarded the scholarship.
“After accepting the scholarship, I met with Dr. Tomekia White, Ph.D, coordinator for the 1890 Scholarship Program, who explained the expectations for scholarship recipients. She also told me about all the areas I could major in, including agricultural business,” Jackson said. “Back then, all I knew about agriculture was that it involved farming, but Dr. White went on to explain how broad a major agriculture is. Successfully obtaining the scholarship has allowed me to complete my undergraduate education with no loan to my name.”
Jackson recommends undecided students consider majoring in agriculture because of the diverse number of career options for graduates of agriculture. She found her niche in the business side of agriculture, but others might find their calling in animal science, agricultural regulations, plant science, agricultural economics or agricultural engineering.
“For students new to agriculture, I recommend being open to new things,” she said. “I remember how when I was starting out in the major, I was scared of animals. And then one day in animal science class we had to trim goat hooves — I was so scared. But in the end, it turned out to be a really fun activity. That was a lesson that showed me it’s always worth trying new things.”
One of the most profound experiences during her education was an internship for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Nacogdoches, Texas, at the end of her junior year.
“I was responsible for helping farmers obtain loans that would allow them to get the resources they needed to be successful in their operations,” she said. “I would advise them on the different types of loans available, help them apply for the loans and eventually approve them. The work was very meaningful to me because of the difference it made in people’s lives.”
Jackson recalls a particular situation from her internship that showed her how helpful loans can be for their recipients.
“I was working with a father who was trying to help his sons obtain FSA youth loans, which allow young people to start and operate income-producing projects,” she said. “Both his sons were interested in livestock and wanted to purchase cattle. In the end, I was able to get them approved for two loans at the maximum amount, which allowed them to purchase the cattle and start showing them off at livestock shows. Eventually, these two young men will be able to make a profit off their cattle.”
The insightful internship helped Jackson better understand some of her hopes and dreams for her future career.
“I now see myself as capable of being a leader,” she said. “I want to work in a position that allows me to make change and give back to the community.”
As she looks toward the future, Jackson has been having interviews with agricultural companies and agencies. She recently accepted an offer with Kubota Tractor Corp. as a KPath trainee. The corporation’s KPath Trainee Program gives new employees exposure to business areas such as marketing, sales, product lines, dealerships, finance, service and supply chain.
Over the course of the two-year program, participants work in six-month stints at four different Kubota locations in the U.S. Jackson will start in her new role at Kubota’s U.S. headquarters in Grapevine, Texas.
She has also made plans to start attending graduate school at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La., in the fall semester of 2024. She wants to obtain a master’s degree in either business administration or human resources.
Thinking back on her education, she says that the SAFHS frequently provided meaningful development opportunities such as travel to conferences and the chance to hear successful people from different agencies speak about exciting and impactful career opportunities. Most of all, she appreciated the support she received from professors and administrators.
“My adviser and agriculture department chair, Dr. Tracy Dunbar, Ph.D, gave me lots of support and encouragement,” she said. “Dr. White always checked in with me about my grades, helping me ensure I was on track to graduate.”
Dunbar said she is proud of Jackson for all she has accomplished during her time at UAPB.
“I have been doing this job for over 25 years, and I know we have some excellent students, good students and even some not so good students. Allison Jackson is an excellent student. She is polite and knows how to take initiative. She is also constantly smiling — I have never seen her when she is not smiling.”
Will Hehemann is an extension specialist-communications at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.