First Centennial Endowment Project Selected

Aug. 7, 2019

The first project for the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership’s Centennial Endowment has been awarded funding.

Drs. Jera Niewoehner-Green and Mary Rodriguez submitted the selected proposal, which designs a study abroad program to Trinidad and Tobago that will aim to provide experiential international education for both undergraduate and master’s level graduate students that contextualizes leadership and change in the community settings. 

The goal of the Centennial Endowment is to ensure the continued evolution of educational opportunities, programs and curricula that best prepare our graduates for rewarding careers as communicators, educators and agricultural industry leaders. The annual distribution form this fun shall benefit students and faculty of the department by filling discretionary needs.

The selected endowment project will fill a current need for international programs that specifically address ACEL focus areas and create a course wherein students from ACEL majors, as well as across the College can learn how various stakeholders might work together to address community challenges related to the economy, health, agriculture and education. This international experience will fulfill the need for educational and professional development for undergraduate students and master’s students specializing in international development.

“When the Centennial Endowment was created during our centennial celebration in 2017, we looked forward to the opportunities that would be available to our current and future students, in thanks to the many alumni, faculty, staff and stakeholders who have financially contributed to the fund,” said Dr. Tracy Kitchel, professor and chair of ACEL. “The project selected for funding this first year is exactly the kind of educational enrichment opportunity for our students that I envisioned when this process started more than two years ago. It fills an important study abroad gap left in our department due to some faculty transitions. This has the opportunity to be impactful for all of our majors.” 

Academic outcomes of the program will include students being able to describe how healthy communities are built, describe how communities engage in transformative processes, engage in systems thinking to aid in the development of healthy communities and identify how education, communication, and leadership play a role in community change.

“Development of a sound international experience will aid in increasing the cultural competency of our students, making them more prepared for the global workforce,” said Dr. Jera Niewoehner-Green, assistant professor of community leadership.

Program funding will cover a scouting trip in the spring of 2020 for two ACEL faculty members and an international development graduate student to meet with faculty from The University of the West Indies, extension and community practitioners and community leaders. The logistics of the study abroad will be developed and finalized on this trip to ensure a quality experience for the students participating in the inaugural trip in Spring 2021. 

“For the program to be sustainable, established community relationships are needed and we are excited to travel to Trinidad and Tobago this spring to begin those relationships,” said Dr. Mary Rodriguez, assistant professor of community leadership. 

Funding will also support the attendance of the two faculty members and graduate student to attend and present program assessment data at the North Central American Association for Agricultural Education (NCAAAE) in Autumn 2021.

ACEL prepares communicators, educators and leaders in the food, agricultural, and environmental sciences to integrate research-based learning, practice and engagement, in ways that will advance positive changes that strengthen individuals, families and communities. For more information on the academic programs and research available in ACEL, please visit