Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
Additional reporting by Sara Landis | Center of Excellence for Poultry Science
Paula Johnson, a May 2016 graduate of animal science at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, recently became the first student awarded the 3-Plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science. The program allows senior UAPB animal science majors to take classes at the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, a unit of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
Completion of the program at the University of Arkansas requires students to earn 26 to 28 hours of poultry science credit. The classes Johnson completed counted both toward her agriculture degree from the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences and her certificate in poultry science from the University of Arkansas.
“UAPB is extremely proud of Paula for her achievements at UAPB and for reaching out for a new experience that will lead the way for others seeking this opportunity,” Dr. Linda L. Okiror, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and student success, said. “UAPB’s long relationship with the poultry industry is now stronger with well-trained graduates to employ in significant roles.”
Dr. Ondieki Gekara, associate professor of animal science at UAPB, said the 3-plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science program enables animal science students to complete their studies in a timely manner and graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to find well-paying jobs in the poultry industry.
“The partnership between the two universities comes at a good time, as demand for skilled graduates in the poultry industry is at an all time high in Arkansas and across the U.S.,” he said.
Apart from providing career training, the program can help prepare students interested in graduate and professional or veterinary schools for continued studies and advanced degrees, he said.
“At UAPB, the program has been an excellent recruitment and retention magnate and has enhanced the visibility of the animal science program,” Dr. Gekara said.
Johnson said the program’s main benefit was its “best of both worlds” approach.
“The certificate program allowed me to take the information learned in animal science at UAPB and apply it to my courses in poultry sciences,” she said. “Being able to study both disciplines makes students more marketable for careers. Most of all, having previous knowledge in animal science helped a lot in understanding animals and ways to further improve their well being.”
Johnson said the twofold advantages of the program also benefited her overall collegiate experience.
“The University of Arkansas was a new and wonderful place to be,” she said. “The staff were very helpful and friendly, and I gained new friends and learned many new things about myself.”
Johnson said the foundation she gained at UAPB helped her tremendously in her transition to the University of Arkansas.
“The people at UAPB were and will always remain my family,” she said. “The teachers and staff worked diligently with me and believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.”
Being active in clubs and organizations within the agriculture department helped open her outlook on life and the things she was capable of doing, she said.
“UAPB will always have a place in my heart for giving me the foundation I needed to succeed,” Johnson said. “I loved every second spent at UAPB and wouldn’t trade the experience or family gained.”
Johnson is a native of Pine Bluff. Her parents are Paul and Lyna Johnson. She is a 2012 honors graduate of Pine Bluff High School.
Following her graduation, Johnson said she now plans to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas for a master’s degree in poultry sciences.
“Eventually, I would like to pursue a career in quality and assurance within the poultry industry,” she said. “Through this, I hope to help and reach out to many people of all ages and to simply see them smile and be happy.”
In addition to being the pioneer student of the 3-plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science program, Johnson was an honor student who also excelled in other student enrichment activities at UAPB, Dr. Gekara said. She was very active in volunteer activities and student organizations and served as president of the animal science club.
“I met Paula three years ago when she was a freshman at UAPB,” said Michael Kidd, director of the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science and head of the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “At that time we were preparing the agreement for a 3-plus-1 program between University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, with a Certificate in Poultry Science. We look forward to tracking her career progress.”
Dr. Edmund Buckner, interim dean/director for the School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, said Johnson is an outstanding student with an outstanding work ethic.
“I am excited about all her success and her bright future in the poultry industry,” he said. “We are looking for more bright students to take advantage of the path that Paula has blazed.”
Any student seeking to participate in the 3-plus-1 Certificate of Poultry Science program may contact Patrice Sims, administrative manager for the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science, at firstname.lastname@example.org.