Abigail Chambers: agriculture education ambassador

  • Rising senior hoping to convince others to follow in her footsteps

    Wednesday, May 23, 2018
    Abigail Chambers, UMES class of 2019

    Abigail Chambers is a one-of-a-kind undergraduate at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 

    A candidate to graduate in the spring of 2019, Chambers is an agriculture education major - the lone student at UMES currently pursuing that degree path. 

    She's also keenly aware her gender and race make her stand out in her field, whether it was growing up around a Scotch Bonnet pepper farm in her native Jamaica or in a high school classroom on the lower Eastern Shore. 

    “Agriculture is a way of life for me,” Chambers says, quoting her mother's favorite saying. 

    Chambers' summer of 2018 will be hectic as she focuses on burnishing her credentials for post-graduation life. 

    As exam week wound down, she received word she had been selected one of 12 undergraduates by the National Teach Ag Campaign to serve as a 2018-2019 National Teach Ag Ambassador. 

    “The ambassador program creates unique opportunities to connect those considering teaching agriculture as a career, with those majoring in agricultural education, and current agriculture teachers,” said Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign Project Director. “It is one of our most successful programs as it combines mentoring, recruitment, and pre-service professional development.” 

    After a brief vacation to the Bahamas to “recharge and refresh,” Chambers lined up an internship at the University of Delaware, where she'll be working in a microbiology lab at the land-grant institution. 

    “I'm really excited to be doing all these exciting things,” she said. “It's going to be an intense summer.” 

    Dr. Michael A. Nugent, an education department professor who coordinates placement of student-teachers in field observation assignments, describes Chambers as “an energetic, bubbly personality who has found her niche in life - working with plants, working with animals and who has a passion for teaching.” 

    Chambers spent the spring semester working under the supervision of Corrie Cotton, a research assistant professor in UMES' agriculture, food and resource science program. Chambers also has been known to venture into the on-campus chicken houses. 

    The dean's list student has accepted a second tour of duty as executive secretary for UMES' Student Government Association. She's also been active in the campus chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. 

    “Any accomplishments I have been able to achieve” MANRRS chapter adviser “Karl Binns gets credit,” she said. “He has really been an inspiration.” 

    Chambers initially was unsure what she wanted to study when she enrolled at UMES. It wasn't long, however, before she reflected on her experience on her family's pepper farm in Jamaica's Clarendon parish as well as drawing inspiration from her parents, both of whom were also educators. 

    She is the youngest of five siblings; older sister Shelly Ann earned a general agriculture degree from UMES this year and her mother, Nadine, completed her doctoral studies in food science and technology in 2017. 

    “Our family truly values education,” Chambers said. 

    To fulfill her degree requirements, Chambers has done some classroom observation work at Worcester (County) Technical High School. Her eyes light up describing how one female student she met there told Chambers that UMES is her choice of colleges after graduation. 

    “UMES has been very good to my family and me,” Chambers said. “I'm motivated to do whatever I can to help bring other students here.” 

    That attitude should give her a leg up on ambassador training she'll receive to become ag-education advocates who will attend the 91st National Future Farmers of America Convention in Indianapolis, October 24-27. 

    Chambers and fellow ambassadors will be expected to “engage with the students and teachers” attending the convention by focusing on developing “a cohort of current and future agriculture teachers.” They will be encouraged “to keep in contact with (the people they meet) throughout their year of service to inspire the next generation of leaders, problem solvers, entrepreneurs and agriculturalists.” 

    The ambassadors also “will work with agricultural education leaders in their states to promote the mission of the National Teach Ag Campaign, by encouraging high school and postsecondary students to consider a career in teaching agriculture.” 

    Chambers said “it's something I look forward to doing. 

    “I'm confident," added Nugent, "that she has the potential to be a great teacher. She'll leave a real impact on the kids she works with.”