Where Are They Now: Patrice Bailey
June 17 – The old saying remains true to Prairie View A&M University: Prairie View Produces Productive People. College of Agriculture and Human Sciences ’95 alumnus Patrice Bailey has taken his PVAMU roots with him throughout his career and into his new role helping to lead the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
What does a kid from Harlem, New York, with aspirations to be a lawyer know about PVAMU, you may ask. Upon graduating from high school, Bailey had a conversation with his mother about his next steps, and she suggested he attend the college since he didn’t have any other school in mind at the time. “I said, ‘Prairie View? I don’t even know where that is.’” He soon became very familiar when he moved to Houston to live with his aunt. Each day, he would take a bus from the city to Prairie View and walk a few short miles to campus.
When he arrived to “The Hill” in 1991 to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education, the first professor he met was Dr. Freddy Richards. During his undergraduate experience, Bailey had the opportunity to intern in Idaho with the National Forest Service for a few summers. Over his four years, he continued to work closely with Dr. Freddy Richards and learned all that he could about agriculture from him. “That’s really where I got the chance to see agriculture for what it is today; it was through him. My interest in agriculture just ballooned from there. That’s where the love of it came from.”
After graduating in December of 1995, he went on to graduate school at Iowa State to study Agriculture Education. When he finished school, he would gain his first job teaching service funding at Wartburg College. An opportunity to return to the agriculture field presented itself in 2005 when Bailey was offered a position in recruitment at the University of Minnesota’s agriculture department. Bailey also served as Outreach Director for the State of Minnesota for the Council for Minnesotans of African-American Heritage, a position that first introduced him to the impact minorities have on state agencies. He attributes these opportunities to all that he gained in his undergraduate years. “Prairie View was the catalyst that kicked [my career] off for me.”
The new role Bailey is taking on as Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is evident in his hard work and the lessons that he’s lived by since his time as a CAHS student. He believes that in this position, he will be able to inspire future generations of minorities in agriculture. “Even though agriculture doesn’t have many of us in this field, there are so many opportunities for people of African heritage to break the barrier to have significant roles and bring more people of African heritage to STEM fields like agriculture. Don’t sell yourself short when it comes to this field because this field will open doors for you that you could never imagine.”
For students who are interested in studying agriculture, Bailey suggests you learn your purpose in the field for yourself and not for anyone else. He says it’s also important to go after everything that will allow you to grow in the field. “Along the way, take advantage of those internship opportunities with different agriculture agencies. Anything you can advance in while you’re a student can help tremendously when you’re applying for scholarships, jobs, and especially when you’re going to grad school.”
Bailey wants to inspire PVAMU students to make the best of their experience and be sure to maintain and nurture the bonds built during this time. “The relationships that you make in terms of your fellow students and the administration are invaluable. They go beyond college.”