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“Get Out of Your Comfort Zone”: PSSI Words of Wisdom

Alexandra Baughns portrait

Alexandra “Alex” Baughns of Orange Park, FL has some advice for teens thinking about agriculture: “get out of your comfort zone – anybody can be an advocate in agriculture as long as they’re aware of the issues.” Wise words, especially for a rising senior in high school.

Baughns recently made the long drive from Florida to participate in the Poultry Science Summer Institute (PSSI) through the Prestage Department of Poultry Science (PDPS) at NC State. Her parents weren’t sure the trek would be worth it, but Baughns thought it would be – she wanted to learn more about poultry and came across the program while looking for summer ag opportunities.

Baughns “used to have misconceptions about poultry,” in part, she said, because of her city life. Orange Park is near Jacksonville, the largest and most populous city in Florida. Once she took an ag biotech class, though, she got interested in pursuing the intersections between STEM and agriculture.

She’s most interested in the “lab component of poultry science,” Baughns said, and especially enjoyed PSSI’s polymer chain reaction (PCR) lab – students investigated chicken DNA with PDPS graduate student Chelsea Phillips.

When asked to name something new she learned, Baughns immediately cited the poultry industry’s diversity. Rather than thinking of “just production,” PSSI showed her the industry as part of a larger system that could “maybe solve the global food hunger problem.” Lofty thinking for someone who’s just starting to explore agriculture. Baughns also attended her first FFA convention this summer, which made her realize “the potential opportunities in agriculture and how important networking is.”

As she enters her senior year, Alex Baughns is keeping NC State on her radar. She’s looking for a program that will help her continue a journey that, most recently, brought her to Raleigh and left her with a clearer sense of her post-graduation options.

PSSI at NC State

The Poultry Science Summer Institute is a week-long residential camp for rising high school juniors and seniors. With generous support from US Poultry & Egg, students come to NC State and experience poultry science through tours, presentations and hands-on labs. They stay in campus housing and enjoy a week of college life.

PSSI 2018 was coordinated by Assistant Professor Kimberly Livingston. Along with research and industry opportunities, Livingston arranged for some down time: participants enjoyed a barbecue on their first evening and unwound after their first full day at Skyzone Trampoline Park.

As an intensive poultry science experience, PSSI introduces students to the many ways poultry science happens. As an introduction to PDPS, CALS and NC State, the camp shows students how they can directly contribute to one of the largest animal agriculture industries in the US. As it attracts students like Alex from beyond North Carolina, PSSI reflects the national importance of poultry science and NC State’s commitment to bringing its expertise to a wide range of audiences.