“We are all better off when everyone has opportunity”

Dave Weatherspoon, professor in the Michigan State University Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, shares how his experiences shaped him as a professor, mentor, and leader.

February 21, 2019

Dave Weatherspoon

Dave Weatherspoon, professor in the Michigan State University Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, shares how his experiences shaped him as a professor, mentor, and leader.  

By Dave Weatherspoon

This article is part of the Michigan State University College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR)’s Black History Month series, highlighting how African-American faculty, staff and students in CANR and work to make a difference in the college and their communities.

On values:

My family has lived in a small farming community near Vandalia, Michigan since before Michigan State University (MSU) was established as Michigan Agricultural College in 1855. The community where I grew up heavily influenced my views and values, as did my principled parents. My parents instilled in me the importance of integrity and the willingness to be a trailblazer when there are no trails. My community has a legacy of helping and protecting those who cannot help or protect themselves. It actually played a key role in the Underground Railroad. Community residents of all colors physically stopped slave catchers from Kentucky from recapturing runaway slaves who were aggressively pursuing them during the Kentucky Raid of 1847.

On equality in education:

My family and community helped propel me to attend MSU to learn how to address the issues of access and opportunity of the poor and underserved on a global scale.  While completing my undergraduate education at Michigan State in the mid-1980s, it was clear to me that people of color were not well represented or supported in fields of study related to agriculture and natural resources. I was part of a small group of students who wanted to change this. Under my leadership, we spearheaded the establishment of the national organization for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). Today, more than 65 colleges in the U.S. have a MANRRS chapter. MANRRS members range from middle school students to working professionals. The role that MANRRS plays in providing information, access, role modeling and community support is essential to the education and training of future professionals in these fields of study. 

On moving forward:

There are seasons when the winds of disparity grow stronger, which necessitates intense and persistent movement towards equity. My research on poor and underserved populations, domestically and globally, is grounded by the basic philosophy that we are all better off when everyone has the opportunity to apply their abilities to participate fully in society and without inhibition.  My role as a professor and mentor is to continue to carry the torch by enabling others to be well prepared and highly competitive for the opportunities that present themselves, no matter how unlevel the playing field.  The challenges that food and natural resource systems face require our best efforts from a broad community of dedicated and empowered scholars.

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