Name: Ted Wells
Title: Vice President for Client Services, STEMconnector
What is your background and how did you find your way into the agricultural industry?
I began my career as a French and Spanish teacher for six years. Teaching enabled me to travel extensively in Latin America and Europe and build friendships across cultures and geographies. I decided to pursue that line of work, returning to graduate school at the Elliott School at The George Washington University, studying international development and trade. I helped start STEMconnector in 2011 with the vision of creating a national network to expand participation in STEM fields. Early on in STEMconnector, we saw a huge opportunity to help raise the profile of agriculture as a STEM field through a collaborative partnership with industry, higher education, and other NGOs. My newfound collaborators in food and agriculture welcomed our efforts with open arms. After several years working in this space, I have found that food and agriculture align with several personal passions. Advancing continued innovation and broader engagement in food and agriculture across diverse populations has become a personal passion. All cultures and civilizations share a common link to food; it can be a great uniter.
Why is diversity important to you and your organization?
I have always been passionate about expanding economic and social opportunity to all people, and that requires breaking down and reimagining broken structures in our society and workplace. Diversity and inclusion efforts in the workplace represent a mechanism to expand and broaden this opportunity. At STEMconnector and our national mentoring effort, Million Women Mentors, diversity is a primary focus of our work. We support our members’ efforts to access high quality data and frameworks to inform decisions, build consensus around a shared vision, and align their efforts with promising practices. Expanding participation in the STEM workforce among underrepresented populations will help us realize our workforce needs while expanding economic inclusion in the knowledge economy. This paradigm drives many of our research efforts and is a focus area for many of the stories we share through our daily newsletter, the STEMdaily, and our social media feeds.
What current diversity initiatives do you have planned or ongoing?
At STEMconnector and Million Women Mentors our engagement with our members is inherently focused on expanding access to STEM careers by highlighting educational pathways, career exposures, and innovative employer partnerships more generally. Examples of these efforts include our Overlooked Talent Pools Data Series and our recent Innovation Lab, which is focused on expanding equity in K-12 STEM education. Creating an inclusive workplace for our employees is also a priority of our leadership team. As for our own workplace, we are continually finding ways to engage in making our workplace more inclusive and to recruit and retain diverse talent.
In your opinion, what is the most exciting thing happening in the industry currently?
I think that the integration of technology at scale is incredibly exciting across so many levels. This technology will enable producers to use fewer inputs for greater yields. Also, I am encouraged by efforts like urban farming and farmers markets that connect young people to food and agriculture and, consequently, expose them to careers in the field.
What is your vision for the future of agriculture?
My hope is that we are able to continue to advance food security globally in ways that also help reduce the impacts of climate change and advance nutrition to mitigate the proliferation of non-communicable diseases. A diverse food and agricultural workforce is an essential component to advancing this goal. By connecting students to food and agriculture in meaningful ways, careers in agriculture will be more accessible to more students. An innovative food and agriculture workforce is essential to our survival and has lots of amazing career opportunities – particularly in STEM fields!
Is there anything else you would like people to know about your organization or the agricultural industry?
At STEMconnector, we are passionate about helping raise the profile of how food and agriculture are being transformed by STEM talent. Please email me directly if you have any stories you would like to share or if you would like to learn more about our work.
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.