Enriching students with international agriculture development opportunities has been just one of several important aspects of learning for Kim Dooley, Ph.D., professor at Texas A&M University’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications.
She engages in international development work herself and brings those experiences back to Texas A&M to share with her students and inspire them to think globally to solve pressing issues in the agriculture industry.
Most recently, Dooley traveled to Greece to provide leadership to the American Farm School and build connections to create study abroad opportunities for students within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Dooley’s ties to Greece began about a decade ago with the study abroad program involving Survey of Leadership Theory students from various majors, including sociology and engineering. The Greece academia experience was elevated when she later presented a paper at an association meeting, leading her to connect with the American Farm School in Thessaloniki, Greece, for the first time in her career. That opened the opportunity for a leadership teaching experience.
“It was really exciting to teach leadership there and go through those experiences,” Dooley said. “Those experiences opened even more doors as I was later asked to join the Board of Trustees for the American Farm School.”
Last year, during her Greece stay from August through November, Dooley resided on campus and assisted with Perrotis College of Agriculture, working to help them gain accreditation status. She also assisted on the European Green Deal Commission “Horizon Next Food” project geared toward getting farmers to become more entrepreneurial.
While carrying out administrative duties, she fulfilled research and extension outreach needs. Dooley developed a comprehensive research project to help evaluate the adoption of agroecology.
“All the while, I was housed on campus, and it was very affordable for me to do faculty development leave,” she said. “I worked closely with the dean there regarding accreditation, policies and intellectual property. I also worked with the special projects office, which is much like the traditional grants office. They used my EVAL (research) model, which is part of a Hatch project used in advancing health through food choices and decreasing the cost of health care.”
The Extension education component of her work involved investigating the Greece fires around Athens, looking at the cause and future prevention methods that could be implemented.
“The research also looked at the effects of those fires on the economy, supply chain and event gathering places such as coffee shops,” she said. “The research overall was very community-driven.”
Expanding on that research, Dooley co-authored a journal article that has been accepted by the Journal of Agricultural Extension Education. The paper addresses the impacts of COVID-19 on agricultural production, secondary food processing and agricultural supply chain issues in Greece.
She also moderated a panel on career options for students, focusing on a variety of career pathways in addition to leading a coffee conversations seminar series on work-life balance.
“Overall, it was a very productive experience,” she said. “I tried to immerse myself as much as possible into the culture there. I took a pottery class, worked on learning the Greek language and attended church services. I also participated in Hamman, the traditional Greek bath, as well as attended several of the religious parades.”
Dooley shared about her experiences this past semester and hopes to return to Greece in the future with students in tow on a study abroad that would introduce them to the culture and expand their knowledge of international agricultural development and the impacts they can have as global leaders.
While her last visit to Greece was brief, Dooley said the experience was beyond rewarding, both personally and professionally.
“Anytime you can bring back those experiences, it makes it great,” she said. “It enriched me as a professor, but also in ways that can be used in classes and research.”