Daney Jackson came to Ohio State to obtain a doctorate in agricultural and extension education. Graduating in 1994 with that degree, he moved on to work for a number of extension services, the United States Department of Agriculture and now with the Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture. Jackson now resides in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania.
[ACEL]: Hi Daney! Why did you decide to get a Ph.D. at Ohio State?
[Jackson]: Having already started a career in Extension, deciding to get a Ph.D. was a commitment down that path. I did examine some other routes but the Ph.D. in Agricultural and Extension Education was the best fit for my professional path.
It was OSU’s reputation, and the school’s focus on leadership development—which I have found to be particularly valuable. I was later able to build on a strong foundation of leadership skills as the responsibilities associated with successive positions I have held during my career grew over time. This proved true whether I was working in an academic setting, making decisions on the ground in international development overseas, or coordinating agricultural programs across federal agencies—including USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Defense Department.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
More than influencing my career choice, it confirmed my direction and gave me the preparation and confidence to succeed. I cannot over-stress the importance of preparation and confidence, especially in the field of international agricultural development, where challenges can change at a rapid pace, and where these two traits are closely connected. I see them in action on a near daily basis in my role as director and technical lead of agricultural extension at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture—an international non-profit that promotes international agricultural development. CNFA’s detailed preparation for the projects we undertake allows us to proceed with a high level of confidence that we can accomplish our program objectives and fulfill our mission. And it’s a critical mission: To sustainably grow the food we will need to feed the world’s growing population—9 billion people 50 years from now.
Were you involved in a student organization?
During my time at Ohio State, I was a member of the Graduate Student Association and served as program chair.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State?
Research series was one that challenged and interested me the most. I learned a lot from it. Overall, I enjoyed classes relations to my work in Extension.
What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How?
It is hard to name just a few as each one of them played a very important role in shaping my career and life. Jo Jones, Nikki Conklin, Richard Clark, Mac McCaslin, Kirby Barrick, and many others became colleagues, lifelong friends and mentors.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
Graduation Day. The day I received my degree is still a very important day to me.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State?
I returned to Mississippi State University as an extension agent, but my first job after completing my doctorate was to become District Director for Ohio’s South District for OSU Extension.
For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career? Mississippi State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, CNFA (Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture).
What advice would you give to a current student?
Never let things under your control limit your possibilities. Focus on where you want to be in five and 10 years, and work toward those goals. You may be surprised how far you are able to go. I am fortunate that I have been able to pursue my career in agriculture in a multitude of ways—in different roles, diverse work environments, and many nations. My career path has led to my current position in international development, which is perhaps the best of all worlds because it serves so many positive functions. CNFA’s USAID-funded projects, for example, help to feed people in underdeveloped regions of the world, bolster U.S. national security by increasing prosperity in fragile nations, and often even create U.S. jobs that support our efforts.
What did ACEL cultivate in you? How?
ACEL gave me the confidence to take an administrative role where I could build leadership capacities in others. Knowing that your work helps make a difference is truly a wonderful experience.