As the global population continues to grow, new methods of agricultural sustainability and production are needed to feed and fuel the world. Diane Hawks, a 1980 graduate of the University of Mississippi, established an endowment at Mississippi State to support education in precision agriculture, a farm management concept that uses advanced technology to optimize field-level operations to more closely match inputs to crop needs, reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, and boost competitiveness through more efficient practices.
As a premier land-grant institution, Mississippi State is proactive in research, education, and outreach related to newly emerging agricultural technologies. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences currently offers a precision-agriculture concentration in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. In the upcoming academic year, a full precision-agriculture certificate program will be added, pending approval by the faculty.
"Through this program, students will garner a well-rounded capacity for understanding precision agriculture as it applies to their major and across the entire agricultural landscape," said Dr. Scott Willard, CALS associate dean.
The Diane Hawks Precision Agriculture Curriculum Endowment will help establish the certificate program. Hawks was raised on a farm in rural DeSoto County and continued working in agriculture into her adult life before pursuing an influential career in the political sector. Even after leaving the farm, her passion for advocacy in agriculture was evident through her professional and civic involvement in leading and serving the industry.
"My heart has always been in agriculture," Hawks said. "I was raised on a farm, and I raised my children on a farm. I will do anything I can to promote agriculture for the next generations."
Nearly 25 years ago, during her time on the farm, Hawks participated in some of the early development and implementation processes of precision agriculture. She recalls the first laptop she ever owned, which spent most of its time with her in the cab of a combine. When Mississippi State presented the idea of a precision-agriculture program, she knew she wanted to be involved.
"The greatest gift anyone can give to someone, besides spiritual guidance, is an education," Hawks said. "By giving people behind us the tools to better equip and feed the world, we are raising the standard of living for society as a whole. It's a ripple effect that is all positive."