A Message from Dean Akridge

The Culture of Agriculture

Published May 18, 2015

Dean Jay Akridge
Dean Jay Akridge

There is a reason this magazine is called Agricultures. "Culture" in many senses of that word is an important component of our efforts.

A Purdue University team of agronomy researchers has identified a genetic blueprint to convert white corn to orange corn, which is unusually high in vitamin A carotenoids. Vitamin A deficiency is a major health concern in the developing world. Previous attempts to introduce GMO crops high in vitamin A, such as yellow rice, have encountered resistance. Produced using traditional plant-breeding methods, orange corn is a promising alternative. Scientific innovation alone doesn't ensure food security; crops must also be accepted by consumers and fit within their culture.

The link between science and culture is also evident in our story about the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership, a joint program between the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a consortium of universities led by Purdue. The scholarships that make it possible for American Indian and indigenous students to pursue graduate degrees in STEM fields is just the start. Mentors and support networks are just as crucial to help them adapt to a different environment, one often without role models. A program goal is to create a new generation of Native American scholars who will serve as role models for future students.

Biochemistry major Emily Erickson's selection as one of 14 students nationwide to receive the Churchill Scholarship illustrates how students' academic strengths are complemented by challenging programs and a mentoring faculty and staff. Erickson credits her achievements in large part to Purdue Ag's culture of encouraging students to realize their full potential.

Along with our other stories about Purdue's partnership with Indiana zoos to help improve hellbender salamanders' chances for survival, and the many ways big data can help farmers around the world be more productive, this issue illustrates how agriculture is more than the business and science of cultivating crops and raising livestock.

Jay Akridge

Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture