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Journey to Excellence: Jillian Ford’s Path in Agricultural Education at NC State

Growing up around her family’s wholesale plant nursery in eastern North Carolina, Jillian Ford developed an appreciation for agriculture. Her parents encouraged her to take horticulture classes in high school, leading her to discover the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and her passion for agriculture.

Throughout her time in FFA, Ford developed a strong interest in agricultural education. She chose to attend NC State, where she earned a bachelor of science in agricultural education and a master’s of education in agricultural and extension education (AEE). After teaching high school agriculture for eight years in eastern North Carolina, Ford returned to NC State to pursue a doctoral in AEE. She desires to train pre-service and in-service agricultural teachers and positively impact the profession on a larger scale. This May she will be graduating with her EdD in AEE with a focus on teacher education.

Reflecting on her experience at NC State, Ford acknowledges the university’s significant role in shaping her professional life. She reflects, “I would not have become the high school educator that I was without the influence of my undergraduate and masters studies and experiences while at NC State. I was also positively impacted by professional development led by the outstanding faculty in the department and was entrusted with three NC State student teachers during my time in the high school classroom. This allowed current and retired faculty to encourage me to pursue a doctoral degree, which has been one of the best career decisions I have made so far!”

Ford with her advisor, Misty Lambert

In addition to NC State’s impact on her journey, several faculty members have also had a large impact on Ford. She highlights her advisor, Misty Lambert as one of those individuals and states “She has been a fabulous mentor and has poured so much into me over the last two and a half years. I can’t imagine what this experience would be like without her. I am beyond grateful for her knowledge, patience, and guidance in preparing me for all aspects of becoming a future faculty member”. 

In addition to her academic pursuits, Ford is actively involved in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. She serves as the graduate student advisor for the FFA Alumni and Supporters Club and works as a graduate assistant, assisting with course content delivery within four courses and various research projects. 

Collaborating closely with Lambert, Ford has contributed to research on topics such as agriculture teacher professional association needs and the implementation of Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE) for All for agriculture teachers in North Carolina. They have also worked on larger teams to research the needs of new agriculture teachers in an induction program as well as Agriscience Fair implementation in middle school agriculture classrooms. 

Members of the AHS Department at the 2023 AAAE Conference

She just completed her dissertation, which focuses on agricultural teacher perceptions and implementation of SAE in their programs. When asked about the importance of her work, Ford answers, “Each of the research projects can have practical implications for the profession. For the research that we have finished, we have not only been able to share our findings and recommendations with the stakeholders that are directly involved in the area, but also with the profession at large through research posters, presentations, and peer-reviewed journal articles”. 

When Ford looks back on the individuals who have inspired her throughout her educational and professional journey, she is thankful for what seems like a mile-long list. Out of everyone, Jim Flowers stands out as a particularly influential figure in her journey. She credits him as the person who helped guide her through beginning as an agricultural educator and a catalyst for her pursuit of a doctoral degree.“Through the many years I have known him, I have seen how consistent support from a phenomenal faculty member can have a lifelong impact. I hope to be able to make even a small portion of the impact that he has on me on others in our profession throughout my career.”

Looking ahead, Ford aims to secure a faculty position in teacher education at a land grant university, where she can continue teaching and conducting research in agricultural education. She expresses enthusiasm for contributing to the development of future agriculture teachers and making a lasting impact on the profession.