Friday, September 30

More than 200 students from EBR and surrounding parishes to Explore Drones in World’s Largest Youth-Led STEM Challenge

Event Flyer

SU Ag Center introduces youth to the world of drones through hands-on experience during 4-H National Youth Science Day

Baton Rouge, LA – More than 200 students from East Baton Rouge Parish and surrounding areas will join approximately a 100,000 youth across the world in leading the 9th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day (4-H NYSD) challenge. This year’s challenge, called Drone Discovery, introduces youth to the burgeoning field of drones in a hands-on, interactive design challenge.

The Drone Discovery challenge will be held on October 5, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. in the Cotillion Ballroom of the Smith-Brown Student Union on the Southern University Baton Rouge campus. The challenge will teach youth a wide variety of topics related to unmanned flight including flight dynamics, aircraft types, safety and regulations, remote sensing and flight control. Designed by Cornell University Cooperative Extension, the hands-on, three part engineering design challenge will allow students to experiment with fixed and rotary wing designs, explore the concept of remote sensing and dive into the world of coding for real-world drone applications.

The event will feature a drone demonstration, performances by the Scotlandville Pre-Engineering Magnet Academy’s Choir and the J.K. Haynes Drama Department. Students will also have an opportunity to visit several interactive display stations.

Comedian and radio personality Howard Hall will serve as host of the event. Hall is an on-air personality for Max 94.1 FM. He has been a stand-up comedian for 10 years and has performed on Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza and was one of the featured comedians for the 2013 Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage Cruise.

4-H NYSD is the world’s largest youth-led engineering design challenge, drawing nearly 100,000 participants in 2015. This year’s event will involve students in all 50 states and countries around the world. The National 4-H Council will host a flagship national event, with hundreds of students participating in the challenge on October 5 in Washington, D.C.

The 2016 4-H NYSD national partners are HughesNet®, Lockheed Martin and U.S. Cellular. DJI, the world’s largest maker of consumer drones, is the national sponsor.

For additional information, contact at Dr. Tiffany W. Franklin at, 225.771.2242.


Urban Forestry Campus Tree Pruning Techniques Demonstrated to Students

Different aspects of the pruning demonstration

Baton Rouge, La. - The Southern University Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Department conducted a tree pruning demonstration in collaboration with the LSU Licensed Arborists. SU graduate Kevin Drye, who is now a professional licensed Arborist and Urban Forester, provided up to date scientific information about pruning and Arboricultural requirements.
Urban forestry students observed the pruning demonstration to prepare for a two-day hands-on practice scheduled for October.

The Urban Forestry Department faculty and Dr. Fred Fellner, a graduate of SU Urban Forestry currently Assistant Director of landscape at LSU coordinated the collaborative effort.

According to the International Society of Arboriculture, "the main reasons for pruning urban trees include safety, health, and aesthetics.”

Pruning for safety involves removing branches that could fall and cause injury or property damage, trimming branches that interfere with lines of sight on streets or driveways, and removing branches that grow into utility lines. Safety pruning can be largely avoided by carefully choosing species that will not grow beyond the space available to them, and have strength and form characteristics that are suited to the site. 

Pruning for health, involves removing diseased or insect-infested wood, thinning the crown to increase airflow and reduce some pest problems, and removing crossing and rubbing branches. Pruning can best be used to encourage trees to develop a strong structure and reduce the likelihood of damage during severe weather. Removing broken or damaged limbs encourages wound closure. 

Pruning for aesthetics involves enhancing the natural form and character of trees or stimulating flower production. Pruning for form can be especially important for open-grown trees that do very little self-pruning. 

For additional information about the SU Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Degree Programs, please contact Dr. Kamran Abdollahi, Department Head at 225-324-8206225-771-3535 or via the following web sites: and


USDA Announces $8.4 Million to Support Minority & Veteran Farmers & Ranchers

 Baton Rouge, La. - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced $8.4 million in grants that will be used by organizations in 24 states to provide training, outreach and technical assistance for socially disadvantaged, tribal and veteran farmers and ranchers.

"USDA was created to be 'The People's Department,' and in the past eight years we have made tremendous progress in correcting past mistakes and creating a more inclusive culture within our organization. Part of that legacy includes supporting farmers and ranchers with diverse backgrounds and experience levels," said Vilsack. "The grants announced today will be leveraged by local partners and help bring traditionally underserved people into farming, as well as veterans who want to return home to rural areas."

Louisiana is listed among the states benefiting from the funding.   Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College, Louisiana; also serving Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, $199,999.

These grants are provided through USDA's Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program and administered by USDA's Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO). Since 2010, more than $83.8 million has been invested through the 2501 Program to leverage the work of local partners. The 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized the program and expanded the program mandate to include military Veterans.
Full details are available at USDA portal  -


Wednesday, September 28

SU Ag Center releases video on 2016 Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Cats and Dogs

SU Ag Center's Dr. Renita W. Marshall, DVM, Associate Professor of Animal Science, exams a dog during the Sept. 12th Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Cats and Dogs.

Baton Rouge, LA – A video on the SU Ag Center’s 2016 Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Cats and Dogs is available on the Center’s YouTube Channel at

The clinic, which was held on Sept. 12, provided more than 300 cats and dogs with free physical exams, as well as, annual and rabies vaccinations. The animals also received heartworm, flea and tick prevention medication, nail clipping and food samples. Nearly 200 of the animals also received a free microchip implant that will assist owners in locating their pets if they are lost or separated from them during another natural disaster.

For additional information, contact Dr. Renita W. Marshall, DVM, Associate Professor of Animal Science and Veterinarian at 225-771-2242.


Tuesday, September 27

Nearly 500 students attend annual Back-to-School Summit

Rev. Craig Gregory encourages students to stand on the stage during the 2016 Back-to-School Summit on Sept. 15 at the Cade Community Center in St. Martinville, La. Rev. Gregory served as the keynote speaker for the Summit.
Baton Rouge, LA – Almost 500 8th grade students from St. Martin Parish schools attended the Southwest Center for Rural Initiatives’ annual Back-to-School Summit on Sept. 15 at the Cade Community Center in St. Martinville, La.

The summit, which was themed, “Go for the Gold! Everyone can be a Champion,” was held to encourage the students to make better life choices, build character, think before becoming sexually active and abstain from drug use.

Newly appointed Southern University Ag Center Chancellor-Dean of the College of Agriculture, Bobby R. Phills, Ph.D., addressed the youth asking them, “Did any of you use agriculture this morning?”

Many of the young students looked puzzled and answered, “No.”

“Sure you did,” replied Phills. “Did you eat cereal for breakfast? What are the clothes you’re wearing made of. That’s agriculture.” 

Phills went on to explain that agriculture touches every part of life and encouraged the students to attend college and study agriculture; even if they did not go to Southern University.

The students were also greeted by St. Martin Parish President Guy Cormier and St. Martin Parish Superintendent Lottie Beebe, Ph.D.

Shonda Garner Brooks, Loren Carriere and Min. Darren Benoit served as presenters for the summit. Each shared their personal stories of how they made the wrong choices in life at an early age but through the help of God, family and friends they were able to get their lives back on track.

SU Ag Center's Research Associate for Animal Science Antonio Harris provided the students with information on how to apply for college.

Rev. Craig Gregory, Pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and public servant, was the keynote speaker for the event.

Gregory told the students that each of them was born for a purpose and emphasized the importance of them fulfilling that purpose.

“The summit taught me that our younger siblings see what we are doing and we have to be an example for them,” said St. Martinville Jr. High student Querrea Savoy. “Knowing that I have six other siblings I have to be an example for them,” she added.

Savoy also said she enjoyed the obstacle course and learned that everybody can be a champion.

Model and small business owner Morgan Pete served as the hostess for the event and provided one of the students with a free photo shoot and modeling lessons. 

The Southwest Center for Rural Initiatives is a satellite campus of the Southern University Ag Center.

Photos from the event are available here.

Television stations KLAF/Fox 15, KATC 3 and KWBJ TV 22 aired stories on the event. The videos can be viewed at: and


Wednesday, September 21

SU Ag Center provides vaccinations, microchips to more than 300 dogs and cats affected by the flood

David Bailey said he heard about the Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Dogs and Cats on the news and brought his dog Achillies to the event to be vaccinated and receive a microchip implant.

SU animal science student Jennifer Brown vaccinates a dog while professor Gary Simon, DVM, and research scientist Janana Snowden, Ph.D, hold the animal during the SU Ag Center's Sept. 12 Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Dogs and Cats.

Baton Rouge, LA – More than 300 cats and dogs received free physical exams, as well as, annual and rabies vaccines during the Southern University Ag Center’s Disaster Relief Wellness Clinic for Dogs and Cats on Sept. 12.

While the majority of the initial relief from the August flood was focused on providing the basic necessities to human flood victims, many of our four legged family members also suffered from the after effects of the disaster.

“When an unfortunate event occurs, such as a disaster, there is an abundance of emotional and physical stress to all involved including animals,” said Renita Marshall, DVM, and associate professor at the SU Ag Center. 

Marshall and Tyra Davis Brown, DVM, an SU Alumnus and Veterinarian, came up with the idea to provide a wellness clinic for pets to fill an often over looked need within the Baton Rouge community and surrounding areas.

“As a veterinarian, you take an oath to use scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. That is exactly what Dr. Brown and I set out to do with the disaster wellness clinic,” added Marshall.

In addition to the vaccinations and exams, the animals were also provided with heartworm, flea and tick prevention medication, nail clipping and food samples. Nearly 200 of the animals also received a free microchip implant that will assist owners in locating their pets if they are lost or separated from them during another natural disaster.

Event partaker David Bailey, who brought his dog Achillies, expressed appreciation for the clinic stating that he first heard about it on the news and followed up with a visit to the SU Ag Center website for full details. Another beneficiary from the event was Charles Herndon who reported that the flood had impacted their finances and he was happy to get assistance for his four dogs, which he has rescued over the years.

“The SU Ag Center, being a pillar in many communities around Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas, is poised to strategically implement programs and events to assist where and when it is needed the most,” said Marshall.

SU Baton Rouge campus professor Gary Simon, DVM,  several animal science students from Southern University’s College of Agriculture and several SU Ag Center staff members assisted in the event.

Photos from the event are available here.


USDA Designates 11 Parishes in Louisiana as Primary Natural Disaster Areas with Assistance to Producers in Texas

Baton Rouge, LA — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 11 parishes in Louisiana as primary natural disaster areas due to losses caused by severe storms and flooding that occurred from Aug. 11, 2016, through Aug. 31, 2016. Those parishes are:  
Acadia; Evangeline; Lafayette; St. Martin; Ascension; Iberia; St. James; Vermilion; Cameron; Jefferson Davis; and St. Landry.  

“Our hearts go out to those Louisiana farmers and ranchers affected by recent natural disasters,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “President Obama and I are committed to ensuring that agriculture remains a bright spot in our nation’s economy by sustaining the successes of America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities through these difficult times. We’re also telling Louisiana producers that USDA stands with you and your communities when severe weather and natural disasters threaten to disrupt your livelihood.”

Farmers and ranchers in the following parishes in Louisiana also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous. Those parishes are:  
East Baton Rouge
St. John the Baptist
Pointe Coupee
St. Mary

Farmers and ranchers in Jefferson and Orange counties in Texas also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous.

All parishes and counties listed above are designated natural disaster areas effective Sept. 22, 2016, making all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible parishes and counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers recover from adversity.

Louisiana FSA State Office contact:
3737 Government Street
Alexandria, LA  71302

Other FSA programs that can provide assistance, but do not require a disaster declaration, include the Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program; and the Tree Assistance Program. Interested farmers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs.
Additional information is also available online at
If you have questions about USDA activities, please visit our Ask the Expert page. This feature is designed to assist you in obtaining the information you are seeking.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).


Tuesday, September 20

Mentoring College Students is Premier in the new Land-Grant Campus

Dr. Janana Snowden, left, and Dr. Christopher Chappell, team up and mentor Urban Forestry senior student Khadijah Neal, right, as she plans for her future
Baton Rouge, La. – Southern University Ag Center and College of Agriculture faculty and staff are aligned with the land-grant mission, consistent with the university's tripartite mission of teaching, research, and public service. Faculty and staff are committed to recruiting, teaching and mentoring students in the agricultural and food sciences. The academic arm of the new Land-grant Campus prepares students for professional careers in food, fiber, natural resources, family and consumer sciences, and agricultural sciences using innovative strategies, state-of-the-art technologies, and current information. The overarching mission of the Land-grant Campus is to improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through quality teaching and research; scholarly activity that is relevant to the needs of the state's citizenry; and pre-eminent outreach techniques locally, nationally, and globally. The new Land-Grant Campus encompasses the Southern University Ag Center and College of Agriculture at Southern University and A&M College.


Monday, September 19

Southern University Ag Center staff lends a helping hand in Response to Historic Flood

SU Ag Center Nutrition Educator Kiyana Kelly, standing on the  right, distributes toys and clothing to East Baton Rouge Parish residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center.

East Baton Rouge Parish Extension Office Chair Marquetta Anderson, standing on left, distributes supplies and clothing to flood victims.

Baton Rouge, LA – On August 13, 2016 prolonged rainfall in the southern region of Louisiana resulted in catastrophic flooding that submerged thousands of homes and businesses. According to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, roughly 110,000 (31%) homes in East Baton Rouge (EBR) Parish were affected.

SU Ag Center’s Families First – Nutrition Education and Wellness System (FF-NEWS) Nutrition Educators Marquetta Anderson and Kiyana Kelly, along with Family and Human Development Parent Educator, Jasmine Thomas, went out into the community to assist local social services sites where they regularly provide educational programming.

On Thursday, August 25, 2016 the SU Ag Center staff distributed supplies to over 300 EBR residents at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center. The Convoy of Care from Atlanta, Ga. sent six tractor trailers of supplies to assist the residents affected. The convoy was organized by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (N.O.B.L.E). Additionally, on August 26, 2016, SU Ag Center staff volunteered at the Jewel J. Newman Community Center and distributed supplies to residents in need.

Anderson, who is also the Chair of the East Baton Rouge Parish Extension Office, stated “It is important that the EBR community knows that the SU Ag Center’s staff is here to serve during this devastating time. Both SU and LSU Ag Center’s are committed to assisting our clientele through programmatic efforts.”


Friday, September 9

SU Ag Center Researcher Janana Snowden receives International Fellowship Award

Dr. Janana Snowden was the recipient of the international 2016 Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship.

Baton Rouge, LA – Dr. Janana Snowden, Research Scientist at the Southern University Ag Center, was a 2016 recipient of the Carl Storm Underrepresented Minority (CSURM) Fellowship; making her the only African American selected from 188 participants, internationally.

The award allowed Snowden to attend and present at the annual Gordon Research Conference for Natural Products and Bioactive Compounds. The conference, which focused on exploring the therapeutic potential of natural products and biologically active compounds through emerging chemical and biological technologies, was held July 31- August 5, 2016 at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire.

Snowden presented on the, “Antimicrobial Efficacy of Roselle Hibiscus Extracts against Escherichia coli.” Roselle (Hibiscus Sabdariffa L.) is a niche market crop that has been studied for over a decade at the Southern University Ag Center.

Her research focuses on the medicinal benefits of natural compounds found in plants/crops and their potential to treat various diseases and disorders such as cancer and high blood pressure.

For more information, contact Dr. Janana Snowden at 225-771-2242 or visit


Thursday, September 8

SU Ag Center Holds Focus Group with Waterproof, La. Residents

Study seeks to assist rural communities with economic wealth creation
Tiffany Franklin, Ph.D., hands information to attendees during a Sept. 1 focus group meeting in the town hall of Waterproof, La.  

Baton Rouge, LA – Extension and research professionals from the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SU Ag Center) hosted a focus group with the concerned citizens of Waterproof, La. on September 1, 2016, in the cities town hall.

The meeting, which sought to gather a range of ideas, insights or solutions to support economic development of communities throughout the state of Louisiana, is a new University-Community Engagement project to improve the quality of life of residents. The SU Ag Center has named this project, ‘Integrated Methods of Economic Development Analysis in Economically Distressed Communities in Louisiana.’

The Town of Waterproof was selected for the project because of its dire need for additional resources to revive its housing, education, employment, and community engagement.  The town is located in Tensas parish, along the Mississippi River. The parish is also home for some historic sites, which include Winter Quarters in Newellton, La. and Lake Bruin State Park in St. Joseph, La. 

The meeting was facilitated by SU Ag Center’s Ben Lukongo, Ph.D., the Project’s Director, with assistance from Co-Project Directors Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, Ph.D. and Tiffany Franklin, Ph.D., who is also a native of Waterproof. Eual Hall, Business Development Specialist at the SU Ag’s Center for Rural and Small Business Development, also provided valuable handouts to attendees that will assist them with small business development.

“Our team is excited to obtain ideas from you, listen to your stories and experiences, take into consideration your input, discuss and co-create the future vision of your community, collaborate to improve your community, identify issues that need more research and actions, and discuss alternative solutions, realistic plans, resources, and assets needed to better your community,” said Lukongo during the meeting.

The group, which included the town’s Mayor Caldwell Flood; Chief of Police Valerie Clark; Alderwoman Veronica Stacker and retired educator Mary Frances Earl, was eager to share their personal experiences about living in Waterproof and how they can make improvements that will bring attention to the town and attract tourist.  Alderwoman Stacker noted that this will require assistance from outside entities such as local, state, and federal agencies.

As an incentive for attending, eligible participants will receive a $25 gift card.  Lukongo will review the focus group responses and provide a detailed report of the findings. 

This project provides an excellent opportunity for citizens in rural areas across the state to share their vision of restoration for their small communities that once thrived with a larger population and business owners. 

For more information on how to get your community involved with this study, contact Ben Lukongo at 225-771-5385, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith at 225-771-5598 or Tiffany Wilkerson-Franklin at 225-771-2775.


Wednesday, September 7

President Belton formally introduces new SU Ag Center Chancellor/COA Dean

L-r: Hon. Smith and President Belton welcome Chancellor-Dean Phills
Baton Rouge, La. - Southern University System President-Chancellor Dr. Ray Belton officially introduced the newly appointed Dr. Bobby R. Phills as Ag Center Chancellor/College of Agriculture Dean on September 6, 2016. Dr. Phills, who assumed duty on September 1, was presented to the faculty, staff and students of the SU Agricultural Research and Extension Center and College of Agriculture.  Also in attendance to welcome Dr. Phills and address the audience was SU Board member and Chair of the Academic Committee Hon. Ann A. Smith. The extension field staff in more than 33 Louisiana parishes attended the event via remote access. Earlier in the day, Dr. Phills toured the facilities of the SU Agricultural Research and Extension Center and College of Agriculture and met with faculty, staff and students. During his speech, Dr. Phills emphasized the importance of team work. “I need your help, you need my help, and we need to work as a team if we must succeed,” said Dr. Phills.


Thursday, September 1

SU Ag Center to host Seminar on Specialty Mushroom Production

Dr. Chin, seminar organizer
Mr. Paul Lai, owner and proprietor of CePaul Mushroom Nursery in Malaysia will give a seminar on "Specialty Mushroom Production Potential for Small Farm Farmers in Louisiana" at the Southern University Ag Center, Room 138 on Friday, September 2 at 11:00 am.  Mr. Paul Lai has more than 30 years of experience in mushroom cultivation, teaching and training.  He is a collaborator and consultant for the SU Ag Center’s Specialty Mushroom Project funded by USDA/NIFA.  He will emphasize sustainable production methods in his presentation.  

Dr. Kit Chin, professor of Plant Science, serves as project director of the Specialty Mushroom Project, and can be reached at (225) 771-0068 or via email at


Wednesday, August 31

SU Ag Center to host disaster relief wellness clinic for dogs, cats affected by the flood

Baton Rouge, LA – The Southern University Ag Center will host a disaster relief wellness clinic for dogs and cats on Sept. 12 from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. in the Center’s parking lot located on 181 B. A. Little Drive.

The clinic, which will be operated by Renita Woods-Marshall, DVM, SU Ag Center; Gary Simon, SU Baton Rouge campus; SU Agricultural Science students and SU Alum Tyra Davis Brown, DVM, is being held to ensure the health of animals affected by the recent historic flood. According to, more than 600 animals were rescued from the Louisiana flood waters.

The event will provide free physical exams, annual and rabies vaccines, information on flea and tick prevention, deworming and food samples. Microchip implants will also be available for a minimal cost.

This event is sponsored by the SU Ag Center, SU College of Agriculture, Hammond Animal Hospital and Pet Lodge, Merial, Zoetis, Ceva Animal Health, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Virbac.

For additional information, contact the Southern University Ag Center at 225-771-2242.


Friday, August 26

Bobby Phills named Chancellor of the SU Ag Center/ Dean of the College of Ag

Bobby R. Phills

Baton Rouge, LAThe Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SU Ag Center) has a new leader for the second time since it was established in 2001. The Southern University Board of Supervisors today named Bobby R. Phills as Chancellor/Dean of the SU Ag Center and College of Agriculture.

Phills was one of three finalists selected by a search committee chaired by Kirkland Mellad, Vice Chancellor for Research, Emeritus, SU Ag Center, and former dean for the College of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, SU Baton Rouge, to replace Leodrey Williams, who retired June, 2015 after more than 40 years of service, and as chancellor since the SU Ag Center campus was established. The committee was co-chaired by Gina Eubanks, Vice Chancellor for Extension, SU Ag Center.

“I asked stakeholders across the state and those in the Ag Center and College of Agriculture to engage in a process to seek three candidates for consideration. These were three very qualified candidates, who have each enjoyed tremendous careers in agriculture and I believe that each would do an outstanding job in this role,” said SU System President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton.

Phills' position will be historic as well. The Southern University Board of Supervisors voted in April to combine the Southern University College of Agriculture with the SU Ag Center. The move aligns the academic unit located on the SU Baton Rouge campus with the Ag Center, allowing the operating functions of the three land-grant units (teaching, research, and cooperative extension) to be managed by the Chancellor/Dean.

SU Board of Supervisors Chairman Leon R. Tarver II offered congratulations as well to the Chancellor/Dean-elect who will lead the SU Ag Center and College of Agriculture.

Phills is a graduate of Southern University in horticultural sciences.  He also received his MS and Ph.D. degrees from Louisiana State University in horticulture with emphasis in plant breeding, and a post doctorate from Cornell University in plant breeding and genetics. 

Phills recently retired from Florida A&M University where he served for six years as Dean and Director of Land-Grant Programs with administrative responsibilities for teaching, research, extension and international programs from 1997 to 2003. Prior to his Florida A&M University post, he was Dean and Research Director of the SU College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences from 1985-1997. Phills also served as Director of the Small Fruit Research program in the Center for Viticulture and Small Fruit Research for 11 years. During his professional career, he has served in numerous capacities including: Scientist, Program Leader, Teaching Faculty, Project Director, Principal Investigator, Research Director, Director, George W. Carver Experiment Station, and Associate Director - Carver Research Foundation (Tuskegee University), Dean and Director of land-grant programs (Florida A&M University), and numerous board/committee chairmanships/memberships.

While his overall achievements have been and continue to be significant, he cites the impact that he has had on student recruitment, graduation, and professional development as his greatest pride and joy. Phills says that more than 200 students that graduated under his watch have gone on to become great leaders in their chosen professions which include agricultural and family and consumer scientists, biological engineers, food scientists, plant breeders, and academic educators, just to name a few.  He boasts that more than 50 of his students have worked or are working for USDA agencies, many of which are in senior level administrative positions.

Phills is an avid grants writer and fundraiser with more than 50 grants and contracts written and more than $30 million secured during his career.  Under his leadership, a number of research and extension centers and academic programs have been established for student development and small farm clientele assistance.  Having served as chairman of the 1890 Presidents and Chancellors’ Legislative and Budget Committee for 10 years, afforded him national experience in working with other land-grant administrators on congressional legislation and farm bill development. He served on the 1985 and 1990 farm bills and played a major role in securing more than $70 million in annual appropriations for the 1890 land-grant universities. 

“This is the happiest day of my life,” said Phills. “I am happy to be here to serve my alma mater and land-grant constituents of this state. I assure you I won’t disappoint you.”


Thursday, August 25

SU Ag Center Partners with Red Cross Relief Center in St. Helena Parish for Temp After-School Program

American Red Cross location sign.

Baton Rouge, LA – Roughly two days into the start of a new school year, classes were abruptly canceled from what many south Louisiana natives are calling, “One of the worst natural disasters in Louisiana’s history.”  As the Great Flood of 2016 vastly inundated many homes throughout St. Helena Parish, some residents are faced with a new reality of temporarily living in a shelter.  A local Red Cross representative stated that there are no immediate plans to move flood victims from the Multi-purpose Center that sits right on the Tangipahoa Parish line, but is in St. Helena Parish’s Fifth District.  The representative also stated that they have explored the option of hotel vouchers, but did not want to create other obstacles for those who do not have access to transportation to get to work and school.

The shelters population consist of youth who will undoubtedly begin to have homework, and could potentially have other stressors due to their lack of resources or homelessness.  Through the use of the Southern University Ag Center’s Youth Educational Support Program (Y.E.S.), displaced families can be assured that the SU Ag Center has Youth Development Agents to meet their educational needs.     

“I’ve actually been in talks with Police Jurors and School Board Officials prior to the natural disaster about starting an after-school program at the Multi-purpose Center…Under these extenuating circumstances the YES Program can definitely address some of the immediate needs, like assisting with homework and providing ancillary activities to keep their minds off their temporary living arrangement,” said SU Ag Center, Assistant Area Agent, Nicolette Gordon. 

Gordon will conduct a needs assessment, and will begin building a team of volunteers who will help throughout the duration of the temporary after-school program.

For more information on volunteer opportunities, please contact Nicolette Gordon in the St. Helena Parish Extension office on Tuesday & Thursday at 225.222.4136 or via email at



Southern University student shines among 2016 HBCU All-Stars Scholars

SU System President Ray Belton, left, congratulates 2016 HBCU All-Star Scholar
Kalaia Tripeaux 

L-r: Renita Marshall (mentor),  Kalaia Tripeaux, President Belton
Baton Rouge, La. - Kalaia Tripeaux, a Southern University Agricultural and Mechanical College junior, is one of 73 students from across 63 HBCUs who have been named the 2016 White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCU All-Stars. The All-Stars, comprised of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, are being recognized for their accomplishments in academics, leadership, and civic engagement.

“During the course of one academic school year, the 73 All-Stars will distinguish themselves as exemplars of the talent that HBCUs cultivate and as noble ambassadors of their respective institutions,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. “The Initiative is looking forward to working with this third class of All-Stars and is confident this opportunity will allow the Initiative to meaningfully connect with HBCU students and advance academic excellence at their schools.”

Twenty-year old Tripeaux is a Baton Rouge native and a 2014 graduate of Baton Rouge Magnet High School. Kalaia admits she had her eyes set on attending Southern University but was unsure of a major.  However, through conversations with Southern University Ag Center’s Renita Marshall, DVM, who doubles as a student recruiter, the field of agriculture began to really become intriguing to Tripeaux.  She consequently participated in the Summer 2014 “Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (BAYOU) Program,” and acquired a wealth of knowledge about majors offered in the agricultural and family & consumer sciences areas. 

“I decided that my interests aligned with urban forestry.  I could see where my love for science and the outdoors, interaction with people, problem-solving, writing, and researching could be used in this field.” 

Now an Urban Forestry major, Tripeaux was awarded scholarships by the SU Agriculture Department, Taylor Opportunity Program (TOPS), Mu Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, and the USDA’s 1890 Scholar Program to attend Southern University in Baton Rouge.

In the spring of 2016, Tripeaux was one of 11 SU Baton Rouge urban forestry students selected to receive a Global Scholar Award through the Global Research Experience for Students Program launched by the Urban Forestry and Natural Resources Program. 

When the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities HBCU All-Stars opportunity was announced, Tripeaux states that many of her agriculture professors said that she would be a good candidate and was encouraged to apply.

“So, in other words, I was encouraged by the faculty and staff of the Agriculture Department to apply for this honor,” she said.

Tripeaux was selected from a national pool of 300 candidates. 

“I am very humbled and honored to represent Southern University and network with other HBCU All-Stars across the country to promote the endless educational opportunities that are possible with an HBCU education. When I got the phone call, I was almost in tears because I knew that winners would be notified that day (August 18), and I had yet to receive a phone call so for the longest I was thinking that I did not win.” 

In addition to serving as an ambassador with 72 other students, Tripeaux will participate in the White House HBCU Week Conference, and national and regional events, during the year. 

During this year, Tripeaux says she hopes to highlight the wonderful opportunities that are possible with an HBCU education, promote student life on the campus of an HBCU, and inspire students to focus on leadership, scholarship, and community service in order to gain success in life. The guidance and support that have been showered upon me at Southern University and A&M College has allowed me to sow my seeds in knowledge, leadership, and community service. 

“I want to be able to share my experiences of how I found success and self-fulfillment at Southern University and encourage more students to consider attending an HBCU.  I am excited about my future and know that the education I am receiving will allow me to compete globally.  An HBCU education is one that goes beyond expectations.  At Southern University, I have been able to partake in meaningful activities that have enhanced my understanding of education, campus life, and community needs.  I know that I will be prepared for all of life’s challenges.”

As an undergraduate student, Tripeaux engages in other academic and personal achievements and campus and civic engagement. She has maintained a 3.5 cumulative grade point average and made the Chancellor’s List several times. She also participated in a summer internship with the USDA Forestry Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I have served as an officer of the Urban Forestry Club for two years.  I am also a member of JAGS in AG and Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANNRS).  I am a 2016 initiate of the Beta Alpha Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and represent the sorority on the campus Pan-Hellenic Council.  I speak regularly to local high school classes to promote Southern University and urban forestry.”   

Although Dr. Marshall serves as her advisor in the JAGS in AG program, Tripeaux says she admires the entire faculty and staff of the Agriculture Department who are always there to motivate and give support, for having set high expectations for her and really pushing her to achieve high goals, particularly ag researcher Marlon Ford.

“Mrs. Dawn Ventress Kight who works in the library has been very inspiring to me as well.  She is always willing to be of assistance and I can count on her to give me encouraging words.”

Tripeaux’s future plans include obtaining a Ph.D. in Urban Forestry.

“I am elated to be an HBCU All-Star and represent SU.  I hope I will be an inspiration to many generations that follow.  I have been given the opportunity to represent these brilliant individuals and become a part of a unique legacy that gets a chance to show the world that great educational opportunities are available at HBCUs.”

This is the third consecutive year a student from SU was selected as an HBCU All-Star. In 2014, SU student Robert Chambers was honored with the same award. He has earned a doctoral degree in Urban Forestry and is employed by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. Sally Ross, received the award in 2015. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Urban Forestry and was the College Marshal, the student with the highest grade point average in her College, for the 2015 Spring semester graduating class. After gaining research experience at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, she is on her way to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.