Last year, the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) unveiled its strategic plan, “Drive to Distinction.” As part of the plan, numerous priority areas were defined, including cultivating a diverse and inclusive community.
Samniqueka Halsey has always had a passion for establishing and building a culture of acceptance, equity and inclusivity. That passion made her the perfect fit as the first CAFNR Faculty Fellow for Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity.
“In an effort to provide more leadership opportunities for CAFNR faculty, we are recruiting Faculty Fellows to work with administrative teams to advance key aspects of the CAFNR strategic plan,” CAFNR Vice Chancellor and Dean Christopher Daubert said. “We are so excited to name Samniqueka as our first Faculty Fellow. Her passion for inclusivity, diversity and equity will be vital to the CAFNR community as we move forward with this important priority area.”
Halsey joined CAFNR in 2019 as an assistant professor in the School of Natural Resources, joining Mizzou from the Illinois Natural History Survey/ Prairie Research Institute, where she served as a postdoctoral associate. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University; her master’s degree from Chicago State University; and her PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Halsey’s research interests include computational ecology, long-term data sets, geographic information systems and remote sensing, biodiversity conservation, and emerging wildlife diseases. She uses computational approaches to understand the mechanisms involved in the patterns we see in nature. Most of her work involves using modeling approaches to delineate how spatial and temporal changes in ecological interactions influence a focal species. Halsey holds a particular interest in informing management actions with her models. As a computational ecologist, she takes integrative approaches to modeling complex systems while examining the consequences that management actions on biodiversity conservation and emerging disease systems play across a hierarchy of spatial and temporal scales.
On the teaching side, Halsey’s undergraduate emphasis area is in natural resource science and management, and her graduate emphasis area is in fisheries and wildlife sciences.
“I’ve always worked hard to incorporate a service component into my research,” Halsey said. “I tend to do a lot of outreach, whether it be volunteering at homeless shelters or mentoring elementary students.”
As the Faculty Fellow for Inclusivity, Diversity and Equity, Halsey will look to develop and implement strategies to help CAFNR become a more compassionate, diverse, inclusive and equitable community for all students, faculty, and staff across the college. She will also keep CAFNR closely engaged with the MU Division of Inclusion, Diversity and Equity, and chair CAFNR’s Inclusivity and Diversity Committee (CIDC).
“I’m not trying to change the world in one day,” Halsey said. “I believe in progress, not perfection. Like a weightlifter, I want to use steady progress to get stronger each day.
“My plan is to talk with undergraduate and graduate students about what they want and what changes could be made to make the college more inclusive for them. Hopefully, those discussions will build momentum toward changes at higher levels, including training opportunities for faculty, staff and students. We want to build an environment that is both comfortable and supportive for under-represented populations.”
The CAFNR Faculty Fellow position is a part-time role. Halsey will meet regularly with Daubert and the CAFNR administrative core team, with a focus on establishing benchmarks and strategies to increase recruitment, employment and retention of under-represented populations; ensuring communications reflect CAFNR’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity; introducing diversity and inclusivity experiences into curricula with the objective of personal growth and development; and providing opportunities for faculty and staff to engage in cultural events and professional development opportunities that foster interactions between students, faculty and staff, which include topics on inclusivity and equity.
“People underestimate the power of seeing someone who looks like them in a position of power,” Halsey said. “I recently had a student come up to me and thank me for being a professor because she had never had a black professor before. I know how powerful it is to see someone who looks like you doing something at such a high level. I’m excited for this role and to help CAFNR become a more inclusive college.”