PETERSBURG, Va. — Virginia State University is pleased to announce the addition of three new personnel who have joined Cooperative Extension and the College of Agriculture. Chantel Wilson, Ph.D., has joined as 4-H STEAM Extension specialist, Jerry Bettis Sr., Ph.D., has joined as forestry Extension specialist, and Ronald Howell has rejoined the College of Agriculture as director of Operations Management reporting to Dean M. Ray McKinnie.
“We are thrilled to welcome two new specialists to our Extension family. The addition of Dr. Chantel Wilson will enable us to enhance our capacity to engage youth in agriculture through our 4-H program. Dr. Jerry Bettis will provide expertise to foresters and Virginians interested in trees and forests,” said Dr. McKinnie. “And we are pleased to welcome back Ronald Howell to VSU. He will provide guidance and direction for College of Agriculture strategic operating plans, projects and initiatives.”
“I’m excited for the chance to ‘give back’ by developing programming to help prepare young people for success in a changing world,” said Dr. Wilson. “Programs such as 4-H can have a tremendous positive influence on the lives of young people. I believe that my participation in a youth agricultural program helped me to develop career aspirations and the skills needed for my success, eventually leading me to become the first person in my family to graduate from college.”
Dr. Wilson earned a Ph.D. in crop and soil environmental sciences from Virginia Tech, and an M.S. in plant pathology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She intends to work with stakeholders to determine community needs and the skills young people need for success in STEAM fields. STEAM in this instance stands for science, technology, engineering, agriculture and math.
“I hope to channel my creativity and passion to develop fun, informative and useful programming based on current research,” she said. “My ultimate goals are to generate interest in STEAM fields, strengthen scientific literacy and to empower youth by showing them how to reach their career goals.”
Dr. Wilson is also a Virginia certified turf and landscape nutrient management planner. Before joining VSU, she served as urban nutrient management Specialist at Virginia Tech contracted to the Virginia Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, and as a graduate research assistant/teaching scholar at Virginia Tech. Dr. Wilson joins VSU’s 4-H Extension specialist Dr. Maurice Smith, who specializes in youth development, citizenship and leadership development.
Dr. Bettis Sr. expressed his enthusiasm for becoming part of Cooperative Extension’s rich history of educating and training Virginia landowners.
“I hope my first accomplishments are to teach and train underserved landowners to seek the services of a consulting forester and use a written contract prepared by a consulting forester when selling timber,” he said. “If each landowner in Virginia does this when selling timber, I would consider my tenure at VSU stellar.”
Dr. Bettis holds a Ph.D. in forestry from North Carolina State University. Before joining VSU, he served as forestry-natural resources Specialist at Tuskegee University, and as early rotation forester and raw materials representative at the Weyerhaeuser Company in New Bern, N.C., where he was responsible for fire, vegetation and pest control on approximately 500,000 acres of timberland.
“I am excited about my new position and to give back to my alma mater and the college that has made a huge impact on my life personally and professionally,” said Ronald Howell, a USDA scholar and VSU alum. “Being back at Virginia State University and a part of the College of Agriculture allows me to share my passion for agricultural sciences and work with the faculty members and staff who afforded me so many opportunities as a student and who helped launch my career.”
Howell, who earned his master’s degree in agriculture and Extension education-community development from Virginia Tech, will be integral to the administration of budgets, developing management procedures and implementing new business processes. He will also provide administrative leadership to Randolph Farm and have oversight for the 1890 Facilities Grant Program.
And through a partnership agreement, he will serve as a special advisor to the Office of the Secretariat of Agriculture and Forestry to increase land-grant capacity for outreach, student development and build strategic partnerships and initiatives that improve the stability and sustainability of farm and forestland owners in Virginia. Howell has held several positions with USDA and with the Commonwealth of Virginia, each time at a greater level of responsibility.
— Virginia State University