For our first Food and Resource Economics Faculty Highlight, we introduce Dr. Sharp a lecturer and the department’s undergraduate coordinator. Joining the faculty family in Fall 2016, she has had the opportunity to teach a variety of courses in the department. She has also had the opportunity to teach as part of a study abroad program held in Germany. Get to learn our undergraduate coordinator through the below Q&A!
How did you become involved in Agricultural Economics?
As many students discover during their high school experience, Dr. Sharp began exploring the field in high school by studying agricultural business management through her involvement in the National FFA Association. Through competing in agricultural business and other competitions related to leadership, she attracted the attention of the Agricultural Business department at the University of Arkansas (UA). With a scholarship, she had her sights on studying at UA with the hopes of becoming an agricultural lawyer.
Once in college, Dr. Sharp began to realize her love for economics was more powerful than advocacy. To quote, “I realized I liked economics a lot more because I could see that it was much less one-sided. It was much more holistic. I really liked math as well, so I was drawn to the math in economics.” She eventually went on to pursue graduate degrees in Agricultural Economics and as many would phrase it, “The rest is history.”
With a primary focus in teaching and experience teaching a variety of different levels of courses, what would you say you learned most as an instructor?
Dr. Sharp reflected on her experience teaching AEB2451, Economics and Resource Use, and AEB3550, Agricultural Data Analysis. As AEB2451 and AEB3550 vary quite differently in course content and level, Dr. Sharp has particularly enjoyed using approaches that can reach students at various stages in their academic careers. As AEB2451 is an introductory course for the department and AEB3550 is an upper-division course for the major, she learned it is difficult to teach someone who does not want to learn. Her teaching philosophy centers around teaching useful skills while at the same time getting students excited about all FRE has to offer.
With that in mind, Dr. Sharp continually updates her courses based on student feedback to create a more engaging curriculum. Recently, she also began AEB4325, Contemporary Issues which is the capstone course for students in the major on the Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management track. Dr. Sharp described the course as “Teaching them how to think, using systems thinking so they can look at all of the issues with a framework that is helpful for decision making.” Something extremely important in the field of agricultural economics. “I focused on skills that they’re going to need once they graduate. Those employability skills, communication, teamwork, analytical skills, etc. It is getting students thinking and getting students to practice. Getting them to really engage and be enthusiastic about a topic!”
What is your favorite lesson to teach?
Dr. Sharp was very excited to share her enthusiasm for teaching AEB3550. In Data Analysis, Dr. Sharp has introduced the Excel mapping tool into assignments. She enjoys the concept so much that she presented an Excel Mapping Workshop at the North American College Teachers of Agriculture Conference on June 22nd to show other teachers how to teach students using the mapping tool in Excel. She expressed excitement when explaining the concept: “Whenever students can take data related to Florida (i.e. water rates in Florida was used in a previous semester), and being able to map them and see what is going on in the state is so cool. To be able to do that regional analysis and data visualization, it’s useful for everyone.” She explained Florida is a perfect example as the resources available are so diverse. “We’ve got water resources, environmental resources, agricultural resources. It’s not all citrus, but citrus plays a big part too! Being able to talk about Florida agriculture and gain agricultural literacy while also doing statistics, we can bring those things together and make it fun.”
What are you most excited about as an undergraduate coordinator? Do you have a goal you wish to accomplish?
As our department has a wide diversity of students and many of which are coming into the major at different times in their academic career, Dr. Sharp feels there is a lot of potential for our students. She highlighted many of the incoming international students for the upcoming semester. “The upcoming class has a lot of students who are studying FRE because of the turmoil in their home country, many of which are facing issues related to food and agriculture. These students genuinely care about making the world a better place, and I love that. I think that is amazing. That’s what Food and Resource Economics is – that’s what it always has been to me: It’s an opportunity to make the world better.” She looks forward to working with these students and helping them achieve their dreams about making the world a better place. She also looks forward to our fostering excitement about issues in Florida and the US for domestic students who represent the future of resource allocation. She made a point to highlight her excitement for the potential to recruit more multicultural diversity scholars with funding from our grant recently awarded by the USDA (USDA Multicultural Scholarship Grant).
Dr. Sharp left us with the following statement: “At the end of the day, I look forward to reaching the broad spectrum of students that we have. I look forward to meeting students wherever they’re at and inspiring them to want to be an FRE student not just for convenience, but because it’s the place-to-be to fix real-world problems.”
For a goal, Dr. Sharp really encourages students to become involved in the department, college, and university. “We have some great students involved here in FRE in opportunities such as QuizBowl and the Produce Marketing Association (PMA), but I’d like to see more of that! It’s not what you know, but who you know. I think that is still largely true. I think student organizations are where it is at to have students engage across campus.” She also expressed her hope that students also get involved with other opportunities that broaden their horizons such as organizations in various disciplines (such as Operations Management, Animal Sciences, etc.) and study abroad experiences.
We are so excited to have Dr. Sharp serving as the undergraduate coordinator and cannot wait to see what she and the department will accomplish next!