“My favorite plant would have to be an aloe vera plant, which is a succulent plant species. It’s my favorite mostly due to the fact that I can’t kill it, and it’s the plant that keeps on helping; it’s so multifunctional,” says Danielle Barber. “ I personally use it for its healing properties if I ever get a cut or a burn. I’m big on anything that is able to help someone in need.” Just like her favorite plant, Danielle is committed to helping others.
Dr. Jeanette Danielle Barber works as a researcher, but she also considers herself a change agent in the agricultural field. She strives to impact the lives of others, especially underrepresented minorities.
“My doctoral research sought to understand how to improve feelings of inclusion for minorities when entering agricultural careers,” says Danielle. “Outcomes of the study were intended to influence senior leaders within agricultural organizations to develop policies that may lead to more satisfying work environments, greater productivity, and retention among minorities within the agricultural profession.”
Danielle notes the shortage of African Americans in agriculture, and recognizes her own experience as atypical. “From a young age, I was surrounded by leaders within the field of agriculture.” Both her grandfather and grandmother graduated from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NCATSU) where they majored in Agriculture Education and went on to serve as Cooperative Extension agents in Trenton, North Carolina. Her father would later follow in his parents’ footsteps, graduating from NCATSU, and working for over thirty years as director of the Orange County Cooperative Extension Service - then becoming an Associate Administrator at NCATSU’s Cooperative Extension Service Program. They all encouraged her to study at NCATSU as well.
As a newly minted, third generation NCATSU Agriculture Education graduate, Danielle began her career as a Continuous Improvement Engineer with Kraft Foods. Her research insights led to significant cost savings, a reduction in equipment down time, and an increase in quality control for several marquee Kraft products. During this time, she also trained others and galvanized her passion for both research and education, which led her back to NCATSU to pursue her Master’s degree, also in Agricultural Education. A Ph.D. in Agricultural & Extension Education from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT) quickly followed. Her outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion within her academic department was recognized at VT when she was named as a Bouchet Honor Society Scholar - an esteemed distinction awarded to graduate students who promote diversity and excellence (Virginia Tech is one of 18 university partners with Bouchet Society chapters.)
Danielle leads by example. In addition to her research work, Danielle volunteers her time with the Looking Forward with STEM program, a program that provides underrepresented minority students in middle school access to tutors and mentors who help expose them to STEM careers. She feels that, “...mentorship is a critical factor for professional success, mostly due to its ability to serve as a source of information, guidance, and support…”
Her work is helping to change the perception of what it means to work with plants and inspiring the next generation to pursue their plant passion.
“My favorite thing about my work would probably have to be the positive impact I get to make on issues that I am passionate about. It is my hope that my experience could expand the views of others, as well as inspire their involvement in this field.”
It is our hope as well, and for that reason, we’ve named Dr. Jeanette Danielle Barber as our latest Plant Champion.