Q&A with Dr. Kourtney Hollingsworth

Kourtney Hollingsworth headshotName: Dr. Kourtney Hollingsworth, MBA, EdS, Ph.D

Title: National Youth Coordinator, STEM Lead, Office of the Secretary, Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Agriculture

What is your background and how did you find your way into the ag industry?

I completed a Specialist in Higher Education Administration and a Ph.D in Advanced Statistical Analysis and Technology Education at William Carey University while also completing a Specialist in Diversity and Inclusion from Mississippi State University (three degrees from two different universities in two years). I have a long history in youth development, and I have trained youth in three different countries. I realized at a very young age that creating opportunities for youth is the key to a prosperous future. I am from Laurel, Miss., home to Sanderson Farms, Wayne Farms, Masonite, and Howard Industries. I remember, from my childhood, seeing these organizations sponsor events in my schools. When I went to college at Mississippi State University — a land-grant institution — again, I saw Sanderson Farms at work. They built the Sanderson Center; it was the largest and most advanced building on campus. I was very proud to see my hometown agricultural company being such a huge contributor to education. While at MSU, I took a class focusing on youth organizations in agriculture, and it sparked my interest in careers in agriculture.

Why is diversity important to you and your organization?

I am multi-racial, and I come from a very diverse community. Diversity is important to me because no two people are the same. Diversity opens the door for us to celebrate our unique differences and our similarities. Having lived in other countries, I realize the impact each culture, life, organization, idea, and perspective can have on the lives of so many. I value diversity and know that diversity brings value.

What current diversity initiatives do you have planned or ongoing?

I work in the special initiative division in the Office of the Secretary at the USDA. We work with various partners on faith-based initiatives, women’s initiatives, youth initiatives, and veteran initiatives. With youth programs as my specialty, I am honored to work with programs that do outreach to Native American, Asian-Pacific Islander, African American, Hispanic, and other minority students, communities, and universities.

In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in the industry currently? 

The most exciting thing happening in the industry is STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)!  The younger generations are taking agriculture to a new and technological level. They are creating new inventions, researching deep questions, and contributing to the solution development of the industry with efficiency and sustainability at the forefront. I am extremely proud and eager to see where the future generations will lead agriculture!

What is your vision for the future of agriculture?

My vision is not to limit my view of agriculture because it could change daily, and to be open to all possibilities and changes!

Is there anything else you would like people to know about your organization or the agricultural industry?

During this pandemic, the people in the agriculture industry saved lives. It is an industry spanning every item of food on your table and every fiber surrounding your home and life. Agriculture is a necessity. You cannot go one day with touching something or doing something that is impacted by agriculture. Your life depends on agriculture. Yes, it is that important!

About Together We Grow

Together We Grow is an agribusiness consortium with members that include major agricultural commodities companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and others committed to improving and expanding diversity in agribusiness. The consortium sponsors research and provides a platform to share best practices for building future workforce capacity; it will have its permanent home at the Spur Hydro building. For more information, visit twg.csusystem.edu.

About Spur: CSU System at the National Western Center

Coming in 2022: CSU System will open Spur, where innovative ideas and unforgettable experiences come to life at the National Western Center. Spur’s three buildings at the center of the landmark project in north Denver will ignite and fuel new ideas around water, food, and health and their impact on our lives and our world. Spur is where learning is open and accessible to all. Where researchers tackle the world’s most pressing problems around water, food, and health. Where art and culture challenge and surround you. Where rural and urban, local and global intersect. Learn more at csuspur.org.