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Agricultural and Applied Economics

Cultural Diversity in Texas Beef Marketing

A variety of nations join forces to study the importance of Texas branding within the United States beef market. Texas Tech is fueling the fire of curiosity by potentially providing for beef markets outside of the U.S. Our country is known for our beef products, specifically Texas, but is the beef demand just as high in other countries?

A culturally diverse group contributes their hard work and passion to the research project studying how much the branding of Texas beef affects the preferences of Mexico and China consumers. Named left to right: Manuel Garcia, Qi Kang, Chenggang Wang, Tullaya Boonsaeng, Dr. Carlos Carpio and Dr. Darren Hudson.

Dr. Carpio, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, partnered with Dr. Darren Hudson, professor and Combest Chair of the department, as well as 2 other faculty and 2 graduate students. This research team brings a unique cultural aspect to the table.

A generous amount of hard work and dedication goes into every research project, but this specific project demonstrates a higher level of difficulty, due to the range of communication being international.

One of the most unique things about Texas Tech University is the cultural diversity. The research team within the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics showcases that characteristic.

The team is comprised of 5 different nationalities including Ecuador, Guatemala, Thailand, China and the United States. These ethnic backgrounds are helpful to the project because data is being collected from Mexico and China.

“You have to adapt to the culture.”

Luckily for the department, there are a few bilingual team members that are helping conduct this research study. Research assistant, Manuel Garcia, is familiar with the Spanish language, and Chenggang Wang is familiar with the Chinese language.

Without these bilingual research assistants, Dr. Hudson and Dr. Carpio would have hired a translator in order to communicate questions and answers between countries.

The purpose of this research study is to answer the question, “Will the Texas brand in beef marketing encourage outside countries such as Mexico and China to buy from the United States?”

In order to answer this question as accurate as possible, the research team put together a survey for Mexico and China consumers. This survey is managed by Qualtrics Survey Software allowing the team to distribute this survey to a panel of consumers in outside countries. However, Qualtrics does not translate the survey questions and answers on its own. That is why our culturally diverse team is so unique to this process.

Team project researcher, Manuel Garcia, presents the statistics received from research data.

Research assistant Tullaya Boonsaeng says, “You have to adapt to the culture.” When putting together a list of questions for the survey, team members have to later translate those questions to Spanish and Chinese, and you cannot use google translate.

Assistant Wang mentions the importance of knowing the culture as questions are often asked in different ways. It is not just the translation of words, but the understanding of a completely different communication process. Not only do the questions have to be translated, but so do the answers once they receive the completed surveys.

William Raftis

Agricultural and Applied Economics

A quick trip through Lubbock, Texas, made the decision to attend Texas Tech University rather easy for William Raftis. His passion for agriculture led him to pursue a degree which would allow him to interact in the industry daily.

“I respect the common values agriculturists share.”

William Raftis

“I have a deep passion and love for those that feed, fuel and clothe this nation,” Raftis said. “I respect the common values agriculturists share.”

Raftis, form Springfield, Illinois, is a senior agribusiness major and political science minor at Texas Tech. Having always been involved in agriculture, Raftis said the opportunity to participate in a College of Agriculture Sciences and Natural Resource Government Internship is what initially sparked his interest in acquiring a minor in politics.

“The internship credits would not have fit elsewhere in my degree plan,” Raftis said. “So, I decided to pick up my minor knowing it had a possibility to be beneficial down the road.”

Raftis standing at Capitol Hill
Raftis gained valuable experience while working on Capitol Hill during his internships.

Raftis said his internship in Washington, D.C., with Congressman Jodey Arrington was something he will never forget. He said it gave him numerous opportunities to be involved in day-to-day operations. He said his internship taught him theimportance of cultivating personal relationships, while making the most of every experience.

“It was a powerful experience,” Raftis said. “I would recommend all students take a chance and apply.”

Darren Hudson, Ph.D., Larry Combest Chair of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, professor, and Raftis academic advisor, said he has always been a motivated student.

“Will is a student who always takes initiative,” Hudson said. “Which made it easy to give him the guidance needed to participate in a government internship.” 

Raftis said he has always had the idea of attending law school in the back of his mind throughout his college career.  He said after completing his internship he became very serious about it. Raftis has plans to attend Texas Tech Law School in the fall, but said he is keeping his mind open to what type of law he will study.

“I don’t want to go in with any preconceived notions,” Raftis said. “You never know what opportunities will pop up along the way.”

Haley Hudson

Agricultural and Applied Economics

Interning, studying abroad, and working while obtaining a degree is not something the average college student thinks can be accomplished, but one Texas Tech University student is proving it can be done.

Haley Hudson, from Lubbock, Texas, is a senior majoring in agricultural and applied economics and minoring in psychology and political science. She is a student assistant in the Office of the President for the Chief Compliance and Security Officer, a member of Presidents Select, and the Congressional Internship Coordinator. Her schedule may seem full, but Hudson has also been accepted into Texas Tech Law School.

Hudson personality
Haley’s vibrant spirit is a valuable asset for the opportunities she has took part in.

“While sometimes I may feel extremely busy it is definitely manageable,” Hudson said. “It is good to diversify your portfolio and resume by getting involved.” 

“My experiences at Texas Tech have helped me develop as a person, both professionally and interpersonally.”

Haley Hudson

Students at Texas Tech have the option to become a part of multiple clubs, organizations, teams, and jobs while earning their degree. Hudson said she thinks these opportunities can set students up for success in the future by giving them world experiences.

“Finding one or two things that you are passionate about and can put your all into is advice I would give every student,” Hudson said. “But, don’t make yourself miserable by becoming a part of too many things.”

Darren Hudson, Ph.D., is not only a professor and Larry Combest Chair of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics but he is also Hudson’s dad. He said he is proud of how well she represents the AAEC department, not only in academics, but in her involvement outside of the department.  

“Haley represents the idea that you can learn a lot in your education.” Hudson said, “And then you can use those skills to push outside of the classroom environment to do great things.” 

It is obvious that Hudson is an accomplished individual inside and out of the classroom. She attributes this to her experiences at Texas Tech. 

“My experiences at Texas Tech have helped me develop as a person, both professionally and interpersonally,” Hudson said. “That is why I think Texas Tech is great.”

Changing The Numbers

There are six women out of the 22 faculty members in the department. From left to right: Sanja Zivkovic, Ph.D., Jamie Bologna, Ph.D., Kelly Lange, Ph.D., Donna Mitchell, Ph.D., Olga Murova, Ph.D. Tullaya Boonsaeng, Ph.D.
There are six women out of the 22 faculty members in the department. From left to right: Sanja Zivkovic, Ph.D., Jamie Bologna, Ph.D., Kelly Lange, Ph.D., Donna Mitchell, Ph.D., Olga Murova, Ph.D. Tullaya Boonsaeng, Ph.D.

In 1971, the American Economic Association started a committee dedicated to tracking the number of women in the economics profession. Despite the committee’s hope of seeing the relatively low representation of women in economics increase over the years, a 2016 report from AEA suggested little progress had been made. However, the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at Texas Tech is changing that stat.

While most of the offices down the old hallways of the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics belong to the traditionally-known male faculty members, it is not rare to hear the sound of women’s shoes shuffling on the tile floors now within the past few years. As the department welcomes more women to its faculty family, the department as a whole has begun to alter the norm of the agricultural business and economics industry. For a while, the department consisted of a 22-person faculty with one woman. The department has added five women faculty members since 2015. These six women changing the numbers are Olga Murova, Ph.D., Kelly Lange, Ph.D., Donna Mitchell, Ph.D., Sanja Zivkovic, Ph.D., Tullaya Boonsaeng, Ph.D., and Jamie Bologna, Ph.D.

Olga Murova, Ph.D., associate professor, was the very first woman faculty member hired by the department in 2008. Originally from Ukraine with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering, she moved to the United States and obtained her master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from Mississippi State University. She traveled to different farming areas in Mississippi with a group of farmers in agricultural and applied economics as an interpreter, and from there, discovered Texas Tech’s program.

Eduardo Segarra, Ph.D., professor and former chairman for the department, and Phil Johnson, Ph.D., the current department chairman are both very supportive of the women faculty. Murova said much of her success is due to Segarra’s mentorship to her during her transition time as the only woman within the faculty.

“My main mentor was Dr. Segarra,” Murova said. “He was very helpful, and counselled me. If I had questions I would go to him, so I am very grateful for his help and mentorship, and all of my colleagues were very nice.”

Research Assistant Professor for the department, Donna Mitchell, Ph.D., is one of the newer faces revamping the department’s traditional demographics. Originally from Lamesa, Texas, she received her bachelor’s and Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Texas Tech and now works heavily in research for the department. Working in the male-driven industry was nothing new to Mitchell.

“It’s different,” she said. “I would say that being a woman in agriculture, especially in the agricultural industry, certainly presents its challenges. It’s typically male-dominated, however in academia it’s kind of different. Everyone is very accepting, and Phil has come to the conclusion that we are going to take over the department one day and then take over the world, so this is part of the plan.”

Mitchell’s research is focused primarily on water issues. She said water is often considered a woman’s issue in many countries and not just related to farming irrigation.

“When you think of agriculture, you think of producers and irrigation,” Mitchell said, “but when you look at developing countries, women are the one who have to find the water, collect water, travel long distances and carry heavy containers of water.”

Mitchell also works in the department’s study abroad program in Seville, Spain, during the summers, which also contributes to the department’s international agriculture program.

Serbia native, Sanja Zivkovic, Ph.D., assistant professor and coordinator of the master’s of agribusiness program within the department, joined the other women faculty in January 2016. She graduated with her master’s and Ph.D. from Texas Tech after hearing about the program from a friend. Although she does not have a background in agriculture, she said she is very thankful to have ended up in the department.

“I’m very glad they wanted more female members including me, and it is very nice to be in a department like this,” Zivkovic said. “When I started the program, even when I was just a student, I realized that students are very supportive of each other, but also professors and faculty members are very, very supportive of us. It doesn’t matter what origin, or country, what our religion is or our beliefs. One of the reasons I wanted to stay here in this department was because of the people around me and the faculty members.”

I’m very glad they wanted more female members including me, and it is very nice to be in a department like this.Sanja Zivkovic

Zivkovic said it is nice to know women are interested in agriculture and education despite not having an agricultural background. She said she hopes the number of women in the department continues to grow in the future.

All three women have noticed a large increase in the number of female students since their student careers in the department.

“In the classes when I was an undergraduate here, there may have been three or four women in classes, “Mitchell said, “and now, I don’t know what percentage that would have been, but now it’s probably 35 percent female.”

Going Global

In addition to the growing number of women, the department also has one of the most diverse faculty groups at Texas Tech. Over half of the department’s faculty are from different countries, coming from every continent except Australia and Antarctica. According to all three women, this stat is a benefit to the department and its students because of the global direction of the agricultural business and economics industry. The diverse faculty also aides in the opportunities available to students through the department’s international agribusiness program.

The department is preparing its students for global agriculture through their international agribusiness program and study abroad classes.

“I think it benefits our programs because we have many faculty with connections in their former countries, “Murova said, speaking on the department’s diversity, “so we can start projects if there is an opportunity or need that arises, we can always find contact in the other countries. We understand each other more because we are from different countries and share our knowledge among ourselves as well as with the students. I think that exposes them more to willingness to travel and see other cultures and understand them better, and understand that we are globalizing. It’s only to our benefit to go global and expand opportunities in terms of trade, in terms of jobs.”

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