U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue speaks to TSU students, faculty and administrators.

By Lucas Johnson

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — During a visit to Tennessee State University on Monday, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue lauded the land-grant institution’s innovative research, and challenged students to “invest in yourselves.”

Perdue toured the College of Agriculture and gave a presentation to Ag students in the Farrell Westbrook Complex on the main campus.

Following the presentation, the College gave Perdue a gift, and TSU President Glenda Glover thanked him for visiting TSU and for his support.

“We’re pleased to have you on our campus, and in our corner,” said Dr. Glover. “We’re so appreciative of all you’ve done for 1890s; you’ve taken land grants to heart.”

Including Tennessee State, the 1890 land-grant system consists of 19 universities.

In his discussion, Perdue emphasized the importance of such institutions, and encouraged students to take advantage of what they offer. He also challenged them to “stand, “ be “steadfast,” and “persevere.”

“As you stand, as you’re steadfast to your vision, and persevere for the next cause, I know that you’ll be successful,” said Perdue, who also took questions from the students.

“TSU has invested in you, USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) has invested in you, now I want you to invest in yourselves. You are provided an opportunity that many people in this life do not get.”

Emmanuel Wallace, a sophomore from Memphis majoring in agricultural sciences, was inspired by what Perdue said.

“I learned to definitely stay steadfast, be confident in what you’re doing, and continue to strive for excellence,” said Wallace.

Dr. Chandra Reddy, dean of TSU’s College of Agriculture, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is very supportive of the university, so he’s pleased that the department’s top official visited TSU.

“This is awesome, because USDA supports a number of USDA scholars for us, as well as research and extension facilities at TSU,” said Reddy. “This is an opportunity for the Secretary to see firsthand how we are stewarding those resources they are providing.”

During his visit, Perdue noted TSU’s research in hemp, food safety, as well as its New Farmer Academy, the only one of its kind in Tennessee.

“You’ve got major research here,” said Perdue. “The research dollars … are being well-utilized.”

Kristin Day is among numerous TSU students who have benefitted from USDA. The junior from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, received a full-ride with an 1890 land-grant scholarship, which also guarantees an internship with a federal agency.

Before Perdue’s visit, Day, who is majoring in agricultural sciences with a concentration in agribusiness, said she looked forward to seeing him again. She said she first met Perdue last month during a visit to Washington, D.C.

“It’s an honor that he’s coming to TSU, and he wants to sit down with us and have an intimate discussion,” said Day, who hopes to one day work with USDA.

Last year, USDA awarded more than $2 million in teaching, research and extension capacity building grants to seven TSU professors in the College of Ag.

The College was also awarded a $450,000 grant from the USDA’s Agricultural Food and Research Initiative. It’s being used to pursue an integrated approach to mitigate antimicrobial resistance in cattle and poultry, and help establish stewardship programs for small and medium-sized ranchers.

For more information about TSU’s College of Agriculture, visit https://www.tnstate.edu/agriculture/.