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Ag Statistician Goes from NCAA to NASS

Posted by King Whetstone, National Agricultural Statistics Service in Research and Science
Oct 29, 2013

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

Growing up in Texas, you’re never far removed from agriculture. Even though I grew up in Houston, my grandparents had a beef operation and I’ve always believed that agriculture is simply in my blood. I also knew that I had a passion for numbers, so when time came for me to pick a college major, Agricultural Economics seemed like a great combination of my two passions.

I earned my degree from Prairie View A&M University in Texas. During my junior year, I joined USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Texas Field Office as an intern, which ended up transforming into a full time position with the agency’s Arkansas office after my graduation.

In my 16 years with NASS, I have worked in many states, ranging from Hawaii to New York, until I finally ended up in my current position as the Director of NASS’ Northeastern Regional Field Office. I now get to guide and oversee all activities of the regional office as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and the New England state offices, ensuring that the survey and estimating programs meet mission requirement.

My college experience largely shaped my leadership ambitions and skills. In addition to focusing on my economics and statistics studies, I was also the captain of my college’s basketball team during my senior year in 1998, and under my captaincy, Prairie View basketball team made the only NCAA appearance in the school’s history. Going through this experience showed me that I truly enjoy being a leader. I loved building up teamwork, developing game plans, and strategically planning the team’s tactics. These were all the skills that I still use today in my current position.

I also enjoy the ability to connect with folks across all sectors and levels in agriculture. Not only do I get the chance to establish and maintain relationships with top government and private sector officials who are involved in my region’s agricultural economy, but I also have an opportunity to closely work with local farmers and ranchers. I’m also a very active participant in the Ag in the Classroom program. I have visited many schools, especially during my stint at the New York Field Office, speaking to kids about careers in agriculture. I hope to inspire more children to see that agriculture industry is extremely diverse, and that if you have a passion for numbers and agriculture, like I did, there can be a bright future for you as an agricultural statistician or economist.

Category/Topic: Research and Science