Editor’s note: Quentin R. Tyler spoke on a panel at the 2019 Colorado State University AgInnovation Summit with representatives from the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and Land O’Lakes, Inc. The panel was moderated by Kristin Kirkpatrick, executive director of Together We Grow, a consortium of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, universities and nonprofits, focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in the future agricultural workforce, which will be housed at Spur, CSU System’s future campus at the National Western Center in north Denver.
Name: Quentin R. Tyler, Ph.D.
Title: Associate Dean and Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University, and National MANRRS Advisory Board Chair
What is your background and how did you find your way into the ag industry?
I did my B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky in the College of Agriculture (CANR). I also did my Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky in Sociology with an emphasis in rural social inequalities. I was fortunate to have some outstanding mentors along the way. I always had an interest in the agricultural industry, growing up all around agriculture in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. However, it was not until I had a conversation with a close family friend, who was a farmer and directed me to have a conversation with an Agricultural Economics professor upon my arrival at the university, that the dots were connected. The professor provided an opportunity to work in the Agricultural Economics department as a first-year college student. From there, I interned as an agricultural extension agent in my home county, worked with Conagra Foods, John Deere Lesco, Bluegrass Farm Analysis, and then back to the University of Kentucky as an Extension Associate for Recruitment and Retention, Assistant Dean, and now my current role as Associate Dean.
Additionally, as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky, I was invited to a Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) meeting. From there, I went to my first conference, had my first internship, and received my first job offer. I have been forever grateful to the MANRRS organization. 23 years later, I have served as a MANRRS chapter advisor at the University of Kentucky, National President of MANRRS, and am currently in my second and final term as the National MANRRS Advisory Board Chair. MANRRS further introduced me to career avenues in the agricultural industry and always provided additional mentors across the country.
Why is diversity important to you and Michigan State University?
I believe that agriculture is an important component of our everyday lives. Agriculture is directly tied to our quality of life as individuals and communities. It has been my passion and responsibility throughout the years to provide exposure and education to nontraditional audiences on the importance of the industry. I was fortunate to grow up around agriculture and taught the importance of local, fresh, and healthy food. As I transitioned to the University of Kentucky, I started asking questions early on about the lack of diversity in my classes, the lack of diversity in faculty and administrative positions. These conversations were welcomed by leaders and led to the formation of committees, positions, offices, and organizations.
I believe in order to solve many of the world’s problems as they relate to agriculture, food, and the environment, we need the diversity of minds, perspectives, and backgrounds. The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources believes, as part of our land-grant mission, it is our responsibility to serve all, and in order to do that, we need diversity at the forefront and to view our work through an equity, inclusion, and diversity lens that recruits, retains, and develops diverse faculty, staff, and students to be leaders in our global and multicultural society.
What current diversity initiatives do you have planned or ongoing?
In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we have diversity initiatives focused on the following areas: education, learning, and development; acknowledging and highlighting those that are creating an inclusive climate; and diversity recruitment. The CANR “You Belong Here” campaign supports a culture where every member of CANR feels valued, supported, and inspired. We provide educational and learning development seminars and workshops through our CANR Intercultural Awareness Days, a college initiative involving a series of events hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) as a way to make space and explore aspects of our identities that are talked about less in our conversations about inclusion. The first year, we discussed spirituality through a mobile tour and panel, and this year we have our attention focused on being intentional with international faculty and staff and their global perspectives and thoughts on the conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In terms of recruitment, we have the Advancement, Cultivation, and Training Future Faculty Program. This intensive two-day event is for doctoral candidates and post-doctoral scholars interested in academic careers at land-grant universities. Participants travel to East Lansing, Michigan, for an all-expenses-paid weekend focused on preparing for life as a faculty member.
Additionally, participants gain the opportunity to hear presentations and have candid discussions with department heads, deans, and early-career faculty members about life in academe.
Additionally, we have the CANR Inclusion and Leadership Summit. This initiative is a hands-on experience for faculty and staff members in CANR to empower employees with tools to lead and support equity and diversity within this college and beyond.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in the industry currently?
The most exciting thing happening in the industry is the conversations and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the past, these conversations were limited, and now it appears to be a genuine commitment that goes beyond just conversations to action.
What is your vision for the future of agriculture?
My vision for the future of agriculture involves representation across all dimensions of diversity, everyone having an understanding of where their food comes from, and an opportunity to be a part of solving the world’s problems as it relates to food, agriculture, and natural resources.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about your company or the agricultural industry?
In order to have a diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry, it is important to recognize that our industry has historical challenges that prevent access and opportunity. In addition, in order to solve the challenges of diversity, equity and inclusion, we must seek the input and perspective of those communities that are currently not present in the room.
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 food and agriculture building (name TBA). 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.