Urban Youth Perceptions of Agriculture


  • Sharon Jean-Philippe University of Tennessee
  • Jennifer Richards University of Tennessee
  • Kimberly Gwinn University of Tennessee
  • Caula Beyl University of Tennessee




agricultural and natural resources education, agricultural careers, college-high school partnerships


To change public perceptions, particularly from urban populations, of agriculture and natural resources (ANR) fields, the University of Tennessee developed a model of strategic educational recruitment to extend beyond traditional college fair experiences to educate underrepresented candidates. The High School Agricultural Education Initiative (HSAI) provided 10th-grade students with opportunities to: (a) gain knowledge of and appreciation for disciplines in agriculture and natural resources, (b) learn about college admissions standards, (c) network with college students and staff to learn about campus resources, and (d) understand how a college education improves professional opportunities. The HSAI (n = 122) was effective at increasing urban high school student knowledge of postsecondary opportunities in agriculture and natural resources, particularly with regards to ANR career paths. Additionally, students placed high value on the importance of scholarships and they believed that their parents would be supportive of majoring in an ANR discipline. The HSAI program targeted 10th-grade students for a one-time intervention, however, in further reflection and based on the results of this study, establishing long-term partnerships with Title I urban high schools may be more effective at increasing the number of youth who actually apply and enroll in ANR programs in college.

Author Biographies

Sharon Jean-Philippe, University of Tennessee

Dr. Sharon Jean-Philippe is an associate professor in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife, and Fisheries at the University of Tennesse, Knoxille with expertise in Urban Forestry. She teaches several courses on managing care of vegetation in urban areas. She has successfully managed multpile externally funded grants to support the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in agriculture.

Jennifer Richards, University of Tennessee

Dr. Jennifer Richards, a former middle school teacher, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications (ALEC) at UTIA with expertise in curriculum design, teacher PD models, science outreach, and program evaluation. She currently serves as the Curriculum Specialist in 4-H; with an emphasis on curriculum design. She oversees the education and extension training in these key areas. Dr. Richards developed and directs the Hands On: Real-world Lessons for Middle School Classrooms program.

Kimberly Gwinn, University of Tennessee

Dr. Kim Gwinn is an Associate Professor in the department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.  Her research focus is on commercially viable plant, insect, and microbial compounds or mixtures of compounds that can be used to control diseases and pests.  Kim also serves as the coordinator for the CASNR Honors Program and undergraduate research. 

Caula Beyl, University of Tennessee

Dr. Beyl provides leadership for the academic programs, works with statewide constituencies and stakeholders including alumni and various commodity and industry organizations, is a member of the Chancellor for Agriculture's Cabinet, represents CASNR on regional and national committees, and is an advocate for the CASNR with University administration.


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