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AHS Published Research for Summer 2023

The dedicated faculty members of the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences have contributed to the academic landscape by authoring a multitude of insightful articles throughout this past quarter. Their commitment to research has led to the creation of a diverse body of work that showcases their expertise and furthers the collective understanding of agricultural, extension, and human sciences domains. We invite you to review the comprehensive list below, which highlights the titles and abstracts of their publications. Additionally, for a deeper dive into their research, we encourage you to click on the provided links to access their respective studies.

Joseph Donaldson

A summer agricultural research program enlarges community college students’ perceptions of agricultural careers

Authors: Joseph Donaldson, Kimberly D. Gwinn, Carrie Stephens, Stephen C. Chmely and Tess Moody


This study examined the REACH program, a Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates (REEU) program, aimed at improving agricultural literacy and career development among community college students. This study employed a one-group pretest-posttest design using the Perceptions of Agriculture and Agricultural Careers questionnaire (quantitative) and participants’ written responses to an open-ended question about agricultural career and academic plans (qualitative). Data were collected on the first and last day of the program to compare benchmarks to student achievement. The scaled responses were analyzed using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test, a nonparametric test. The open-ended responses were analyzed using content analysis. REACH Scholars developed more specific career plans and more favorable perceptions of personal job opportunities and their own capabilities in agriculture during the program. Regarding occupational requirements, the scholars’ perception that many agricultural leaders had a college education significantly improved over the course of the REACH program. Despite these improvements, their views about agricultural occupations in general, including food processing, food inspection, forestry, and natural resources management, were not significantly different from pretest to posttest. This study demonstrated an effective evaluation strategy for evaluating undergraduate research programs in agriculture and the allied sciences. Recommendations include strategies for greater outcome evaluation of REEU programs.

Misty Lambert

What is in it for me: Reasons to Join the Teachers’ Professional Association

Authors: Jillian Ford and Misty Lambert


Agricultural Education relies heavily on national and state professional associations to serve School Based Agricultural Education (SBAE) teachers. Because there is not 100% membership in these organizations across the country, it is vital to learn what is holding teachers back from joining and identify the needs of current members to encourage continued membership. The purpose of this descriptive survey study was to determine teacher motivations to join their state ag teacher professional association and identify priority areas for initiatives. Data were collected from 245 SBAE teachers through a Qualtrics survey using skip logic to gather information from members and non-members. Results indicated most members were joining for networking opportunities and professional savvy. Cost and communication were indicated as limiting factors for non-members. Current members identified that curriculum resource sharing, new teacher resources, and teacher retention efforts should be very high on the list of priorities for the association. State association leaders should utilize this research to focus on networking and professional development initiatives as well as opening the lines of communication with stakeholders. Future research investigating demographic differences in the decision to join and qualitative follow-up with members who have left may also be warranted.

Debunking Foundational SAE Misconceptions

Authors: Jillian Ford and Misty Lambert

Article in Agricultural Education Magazine

Joy Morgan and Wendy Warner

Home Demonstration Work in North Carolina: Leading the Way for Rural Women

Authors: Daniel Raeford, Joy Morgan, Barbara Kirby and Wendy Warner


Canning and home demonstration clubs played an important role in improving agriculture and home life shortly after the turn of the 20th century. Organized in local communities, these clubs for young girls and their mothers provided the opportunity for females to engage in experiential learning through the growth and canning of vegetables. Club work and activities allowed the involved individuals to learn important home life concepts including incorporating more nutritious meals, record keeping, maintaining the family garden, and other duties surrounding the home. In addition, clubs promoted cooperation among various groups, fostered friendships, and provided entrepreneurial opportunities for farm women. Movements such as these increased the demand for agricultural and extension education and many of the strategies developed through these clubs can be implemented in both formal and non-formal education today.

Virginia Stage and Jocelyn Dixon

Let’s Talk: Linking Science and Language Learning in the Preschool Classroom

Authors: Lucía Méndez, Tammy Lee, Archana Hegde, Valerie Jarvis McMillan, Jocelyn Dixon, L. Suzanne Goodell, Virginia Stage


This article provides valuable information about how to engage preschool children in Science Talk by engaging their natural scientific curiosity and developing language skills. Talking about science, or “Science Talk”, is a two-way conversation that happens when engaging in science activities. Science Talk includes four evidence-based strategies: 1) modeling descriptive words; 2) activation of prior knowledge; 3) asking WH (e.g., why, what, when, where, how) and open-ended questions; and 4) using child-friendly definitions. Science Talk supports children’s language and science learning simultaneously. In this article, authors discuss the concepts underlying Science Talk and illustrate its implementation through engaging science activities in the preschool classroom.

Associations between food and beverage purchases and skin carotenoids among diverse small food retail store customers

Authors: Jocelyn Dixon, Virginia Stage, Kimberly Truesdale, Qiang Wu, Kathryn Kolasa, Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Jared McGuirt and Stephanie Jilcott Pitts


Objective: To determine if customer purchases at small food stores are associated with healthfulness of the diet as approximated by skin carotenoids.

Design: This is a cross-sectional survey of customers in small food stores regarding demographics and food purchases. Food and beverage purchases were classified as ‘healthy’ or ‘non-healthy’ and ‘carotenoid’ v. ‘non-carotenoid’ using a systematic classification scheme. Fruit and vegetable intake was objectively assessed using a non-invasive device to measure skin carotenoids. Associations between variables of interest were examined using Pearson’s correlation coefficients, t tests and multiple linear regression analyses.

Setting: Twenty-two small food retail stores in rural (n 7 stores) and urban (n 15) areas of North Carolina.

Participants: Customers of small food stores

Results: Of study participants (n 1086), 55·1 % were male, 60·0 % were African American/Black and 4·2 % were Hispanic, with a mean age of 43·5 years. Overall, 36 % purchased at least one healthy item, and 7·6 % of participants purchased a carotenoid-containing food/beverage. Healthy foods and beverages purchased included produce, lean meats, 100 % juices, plain popcorn, plain nuts, milk and yogurt. Unhealthy items included non-100 % juices, crackers, chips, candy, cakes and donuts. Purchase of a healthy or carotenoid-containing item was positively associated with skin carotenoid scores (P = 0·002 and 0·006, respectively).

Conclusions: A relatively small proportion of customers purchased any healthy or carotenoid-containing foods and beverages, and those who did purchase healthy options had higher skin carotenoid scores. Future research should confirm these findings in different populations.

Karly Anderson

Design Principles for Sustainable Leadership Learning: A Complex Analysis of Learner Experiences

Authors: Summer Felton Odom, Jonan Phillip Donaldson, Karly McKenna Anderson, Hang Gui, Jewell Glover, Ainsley Burns, Viviana Armenta 


Many institutions of higher education claim to produce leaders and many assume that graduating from a university equates to someone naturally growing in their ability to lead. Developing leaders is considered a worthwhile endeavor in society today and developing a leadership identity is considered foundational to leadership development in college. While colleges and universities purport to develop leaders, little is known about how best to help students develop sustainable leadership learning. Utilizing design-based research, this study examined the learning experiences of college students in three different semesters of a personal leadership course through their reflections about course activities designed to help them develop their leadership identity. Using network maps from student reflections, we analyzed the complexity of learner experiences and developed a set of design principles anchored in the relationships between learning experiences concerning strengths, weaknesses, and theoretical foundations. The following design principles emerged from this study: framing for authentic learning, scaffolding for learner agency, social and collaborative learning, and multimodal engagement. By using these principles in designing leadership experiences, college leadership educators will be empowered to create opportunities that are sustainable and inclusive and that promote lifelong learning in regard to students’ authentic and personal leadership development practices.