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Feature   | Winter 2011

A Culture of Leadership

To mentor and serve

Joan Fulton
Agricultural economist Joan Fulton leads Purdue economic development projects and currently chairs the Purdue Faculty Senate.

Joan Fulton stood before the Purdue University Board of Trustees last July to deliver her inaugural address as the 2010-11 Faculty Senate chair. She outlined a case for collaborative decision-making on important issues that affect faculty and staff.

Fulton, a professor of agricultural economics and a Purdue Extension specialist, drew parallels from her research with cooperatives and her Extension work to illustrate her point. In many ways, she said, it would be more efficient to sit in her office and read the latest news and market reports, survey the literature and then determine the most pressing needs for Extension programming. Instead, Fulton told the trustees, she favors a model that engages clientele and lets the direction and specifics of the programming come out of the collaborative process. “The long-term benefits are multifold,” she said. “We end up with more relevant programming that can truly be targeted to the most appropriate clientele.”

“Leaders Lead”
Fulton’s work with clients—whether they’re in West Lafayette or West Africa—and her collaborative approach to program development demonstrates a leadership philosophy that Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Agriculture, says is fundamental to Purdue Agriculture. “Because leadership is part of our culture, we have a mandate to step up, lead and help address the challenges our society has in front of it. One expression that I like is ‘leaders lead,’ and that is reflected in our approach,” he said. “We do everything we can to help prepare our students to take leadership roles wherever their career path takes them. The same can be said in terms of faculty and staff in our research and Extension missions.”

It’s this ”culture of leadership” that helped Fulton when she joined the Purdue Agriculture faculty in 1997. Wally Tyner, then department head of agricultural economics, encouraged her to become involved in a leadership activity. She was elected the departmental representative to the College of Agriculture’s Curriculum Relations Committee and eventually chaired the group. When the committee began a review of the core curriculum—courses common to all agriculture majors—Fulton, a relatively new assistant professor, was faced with getting buy-in from faculty across 11 academic departments. Encouragement came again—this time from Karl Brandt, the former director of academic affairs in agriculture, who mentored her through the process.

Other achievements followed: co-chair of the New Ventures Team, which aids citizens who want to start a food- or agriculture-related business; director of the Agricultural Innovation and Commercialization Center, which helps entrepreneurs assess the viability of value-added businesses; and a principal investigator in an $11 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help African farmers better protect cowpeas, an important food and cash crop.



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