News in Brief

spotlight logo Don Ely

photo of Marcus Tyler

Photo by Steve Patton

Don Ely, ’66 PhD, has been on the Animal and Food Sciences faculty for more than 46 years. He has two grown sons and six grandchildren. He teaches the freshman animal applications course and the senior sheep science class, and he mentors graduate students. He probably won’t slow down anytime soon.

Q: Tell us about growing up.
A: I grew up on a farm in Comanche, Oklahoma. We raised beef cattle, hogs, and wheat, and we bought and showed lambs. I was in 4-H and then FFA. I thought I wanted to be a basketball coach, then a vocational agriculture teacher, but I ended up a professor, and that was perfect for me.

Q: Why did you choose Kentucky?

A: Growing up, I enjoyed looking at pictures of Kentucky’s green pastures and white fences; I wanted to go there someday. I got a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and a master’s in animal science from Oklahoma State University. They said I couldn’t get three degrees from the same place, so I came to UK for my PhD. I loved my time in graduate school here. After graduation in 1966, I took a beef cattle research position at Kansas State University’s Fort Hays Experiment Station. When I was there, I found out UK was hiring. I wanted to come back. I remember driving here in 1968; I came in on U.S. 68 pulling a U-Haul trailer behind a 1957 Chevrolet. It was two lane roads all the way from the Mississippi River in those days; it took a whole day.

Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen at UK?
A: The campus has changed tremendously; so have the students. We have more urban students who don’t have the agriculture and livestock background. It makes teaching more challenging. I find it encouraging that they want to study agriculture.

Q: Why do you stick around when you could retire?
A: Why not? What else would I be doing? This is what I like, and as long as I can almost keep up with the students—as long as they will have me—I’ll keep going. I have had great relationships with students over the years. I’ve remained friends with many. When they come back to see me, I like to get out my gradebook from when they were in my class. I have all of them. They get a good laugh out of that.

Quiz Bowl title

Alex Trebek has nothing on Erica Flores and Jerrod Penn.

Flores and Penn, UK Agricultural Economics academic coordinator and doctoral student respectively, moderated the department’s first invitational quiz bowl Oct. 17-18. The quiz bowl featured 15 mixed teams of students from six universities in a Jeopardy-like competition with categories pertaining to agricultural economics. UKAg students Nathanial Trull and Marcus Tyler Jr., joined Megan Masters from Western Kentucky University on the 2nd place Team Secretariat. Team Man O'War, which included UKAg student Jason Simon, Evan Snider of Purdue University, and Bekah Brennan of Murray State University took third.

Participants also networked with potential employers, faculty members, and peers. Farm Credit Mid-America and the Barnhart Fund for Excellence sponsored the quiz bowl and a day at Keeneland, which capped off the weekend.
Department chair Leigh Maynard said the event was organized in honor of the department’s centennial anniversary.

“The focus of our centennial celebration is connecting people, and this event was a way to bring a lot of people interested in agricultural economics together,” he said.

—Katie Pratt

A Dominican Perspective

Though no stranger to travel. Sean Hardiman (facing the camera) said his experience visiting
the Dominican Republic was different. In particular, he observed discrimination against those with darker skin color.

Alaysia Radford was the first in her family to travel abroad when she boarded a flight to Santiago, Dominican Republic, but she had no idea how much more the trip would mean. A Cadiz native and UKAg family sciences student, Radford said her family didn’t understand why she wanted to go so far away, but her new perspective intrigued them when she returned.

“I ultimately learned that what Americans think is poverty is nothing compared to what we saw in the Dominican Republic,” she said. “It is normal there for elementary children to drop out of school to help provide for their families. The Dominican children opened my eyes and showed me that I need to work harder to enhance the lives of others.”

Radford traveled with other UKAg students and members of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to gain cultural understanding and to participate in service learning projects. The group stayed with native host families and learned about poverty, capital resources, food availability, and sustainability. They toured local agricultural operations and helped teach positive self-esteem to children at a community center.

“Our students had their own ideas about poverty and discrimination before we left, but they realized how quickly their perspective could change,” said Quentin Tyler, UKAg assistant dean and director for diversity. “We visited a market on the Haiti-Dominican Republic border, and some of our students were stopped coming back across the bridge, because they ‘looked’ Haitian by the color of their skin.”

In a country filled with “beautiful people, beaches, and culture,” Sean Hardiman noted the discrimination that stems from the country’s history. Hardiman, a senior majoring in international studies, is no stranger to traveling abroad. He has served in the military and been to Africa twice on deployment. Even so, he said the Dominican Republic experience was very different.

“When I was deployed in Djibouti and Ethiopia, there seemed to be a sense of pride in being African, while in the Dominican Republic there were some that hid and even denied it,” he said.

Hardiman said the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti is particularly stressed.

“Haiti doesn’t get the assistance it needs to be a profitable and suitable country,” he said. “Markets on the borders are opened only three times a week. Haitians bring clothing from other countries, mainly the United States, to trade for food from the Dominicans. Haitians who remain on the Dominican side when the border closes are arrested. The only guide the Dominican border patrol officials use to know who is Haitian or not is the darker skin color that some Dominicans identify as purely African traits of the Haitians. Though the Dominicans ancestry is African as well, it is oftentimes not acknowledged.”

Tyler believes the students learned that discrimination and poverty plague all cultures in some way.

“Discrimination can be based on skin color, gender, nationality, ethnicity, and so many other things,” he said. “I think our students came home motivated to not take anything for granted.”

—Aimee Nielson

The Numbers Are In

graphic of banners

There’s nothing unlucky about the number 13 for the Department of Retailing and Tourism Management. The Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Education has ranked its master’s degree program in hospitality management and tourism No. 13 in the country, up five notches since 2006.

That’s not all. The website also named the department a top 5 fashion merchandising school in the South and No. 28 in the nation.

“Industries expect certain standards from our graduates, and we work hard to try to meet those expectations,” said Vanessa Jackson, department chair. “Our students deserve the best career opportunities we can provide.”

Retailing and Tourism Management, in the School of Human Environmental Sciences, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in merchandising, apparel and textiles, and hospitality management and tourism.

Homegrown Solutions


In a society where “giant size” has become a verb, the answer to expanding waistlines, increasing health care costs, and feeding the hungry might lie in the not-so-giant realm of local food.
That is the focus of Farms Feed Kentucky, a UK Cooperative Extension pilot program where teams in seven counties are working on solutions for strengthening their communities’ food systems. Each team is made up of a dynamic blend of extension agents, farmers, and local food advocates from health departments, hospitals, schools, and government. Developed by family and consumer sciences extension professor Janet Mullins through the Kentucky Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, the project focuses on the three pillars of sustainability: economics, environment, and community.
“Sustainable food systems are vital in supporting human and environmental health,” Mullins explained. “Such a system could provide new economic opportunities too, giving communities the resilience to survive tougher economic times.”
In Clark County, 14 percent of residents have low access to a supermarket. With almost 1,000 farm operations in the county and countless gardens, the potential is there for Clark County residents to eat well, if only they can get access.
The team is in the process of acquiring authorization for the Clark County Farmers Market to accept vouchers for the SNAP, WIC, and senior nutrition programs. This past summer, area churches encouraged people to plant extra food for the hungry, providing hundreds of pounds of produce to local food banks.
A little farther south, Madison County's team is helping with support for markets and farmers and increasing the demand for local food by educating consumers.
Mullins is excited about the progress the seven teams have made. “When I see these teams’ enthusiasm and ideas to make local, healthy foods available to all Kentuckians, it is easy to be optimistic that their work will have a real effect.”

—Carol Lea Spence

Bee-utiful Blooms

Photo  of bee

Photo by Steve Patton

An old Kentucky agricultural staple could help improve pollinator decline.

Rich Mundell, an agronomist with the Kentucky Tobacco Research and Development Center, has developed a hybrid tobacco line that flowers continuously from mid-July until frost and produces high volumes of nectar. The nectar does not contain nicotine, making it safe for pollinators.

Mundell originally bred the tobacco line specifically for producing plant-made pharmaceuticals. While making field observations in 2007, he noticed he was covered with a clear fluid that, when dried on his skin, resembled crystallized sugar. Further investigation revealed the slightly opaque substance to be nectar with high sugar content.

Mundell is currently working with several beekeepers in the state to evaluate the plant with their bee colonies.

“This plant could be an excellent source of natural nectar that is available when most other spring flowering plants are no longer in bloom,” he said.

—Katie Pratt

Hungry To Serve

hungry to serve

Human Environmental Sciences and pre-med undergraduate Mary Boulanger's trip to conduct clinical research in Cusco, Peru, strengthened her desire to combat public health problems by integrating medicine and nutrition.

Mary Boulanger wants to improve lives.

So the UK pre-med senior majoring in human nutrition jumped at the chance to serve as a medical volunteer and conduct clinical nutrition research in Cusco, Peru.

Her research focused on conducting a detailed evaluation of the diet and health of Peruvians at an orphanage, a retirement home, a medical clinic, and a rural medical campaign.

“Malnutrition in young children stunts physical and mental development and is the greatest single contributor to disease,” Boulanger said. “In Cusco, more than 35 percent of children younger than 5 years old suffer from chronic malnutrition, and more than 45 percent are anemic. The water is contaminated with parasites that contribute to poor health.”

hungry to serve
Through interviews at three orphanages, Boulanger learned the children have a fairly healthy diet but little access to fruits. While water filters have decreased the diarrhea and dehydration the children experience, not all faucets have filters. The children receive a vitamin daily to combat anemia and other health-related problems.

Many of the retirement home residents suffer from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Many of the residents are extremely short, which could be due to several factors including genetics, lack of nutrition earlier in life, and age-related bone diseases. She found that their diets lack protein and fruit and they need more physical activity.

At the medical clinic, Boulanger saw a wide range of health problems including malnutrition, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Many of the patients had poor dental health as a result of minimal dental hygiene and consumption of sugary beverages and foods.

hungry to serve
She traveled to Ocapata, a small rural village outside of Cusco, to assist a rural health campaign that provides checkups and medications to individuals with limited access to health care. While most of their diets were based in healthy homegrown foods, they still lacked essential vitamins and suffered from parasites in the drinking water.

“There is so much disparity in their health due to nutrition,” Boulanger said. “In nutrition class, we learned how vitamins, minerals, and water are necessary for health, but it was eye-opening to see individuals who were actually having problems because they weren’t meeting those requirements.”

To improve the diets of children in orphanages and the retirement home residents, Boulanger recommended starting a community garden at each facility. Another recommendation was for orphanage personnel to educate the children on the importance of drinking only from faucets with filters.

At the nursing home, she suggested that volunteers encourage residents to engage in more physical activity. Her recommendations for the rural community included the installation of a community water filter to reduce the amount of health problems due to parasites. Boulanger discussed the need for education on proper dental hygiene at all locations.

“It is notable to acknowledge that the diet and health of the children in the orphanages and the retirement home residents are significantly better than if they were left in their home situations or on the streets,” she said. “In all of the locations I visited, the volunteers and doctors manage to care for many people with limited resources.”
hungry to serve
For Boulanger, the Peru trip reinforced her desire to go to medical school and work in underserved communities. Her firsthand interviews with people who were knowledgeable about nutrition and its impact on health in their area and the project as a whole helped expand her understanding about nutrition and its applications in medicine.

“I want to integrate medicine and nutrition to erase public health issues,” she said.

—Katie Pratt