Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga
For years, Dr. Annie Kinwa-Muzinga, professor of agribusiness at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, has inspired students to get involved outside of the classroom. From serving as an advisor for numerous student organizations to leading multiple, short-term study abroad programs to Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo native knows the importance of being involved. It has been more than 15 years since Kinwa-Muzinga joined UW-Platteville, yet she continues to make strides in the School of Agriculture.
When did your interest in agriculture and agribusiness begin?
I came to the United States to pursue my master’s degree and Ph.D. That’s where everything started. When I saw the large amounts of food that can be produced from the farmland in the United States – especially in comparison to Congo, I was amazed. I began studying to see what makes the U.S. so successful in agriculture. Why doesn’t Congo have the same opportunity? I immediately began wondering how I could make a contribution to the industry. I had received my bachelor’s degree in economics, so I started thinking of ways I could apply economics to agriculture. That is where I thought I could make the biggest contribution.
You’re heavily involved with agriculture and agribusiness outside of the classroom. What are some of your other duties and titles at UW-Platteville?
I have a long list of committees I’ve been a part of – the International Committee, Academic Planning Council, University Undergraduate Curriculum Commission, and the Social and Environmental Justice Council. I like knowing what’s going on around me. I’m actively involved with the National Agri-Marketing Association, or NAMA. I have been with them since 2004 and I serve as co-advisor. Every year, my students find a product that is related to agriculture and market it to a group of judges at the nation-wide competition. We do well. My students tell me that I no longer have space in my office from all of the awards we have won from NAMA. Every year, I see the improvement of my students when we compete against big schools. Yes, we are a small school, but I always tell my students that knowledge does not have size. Knowledge does not have color. Knowledge is neutral.
Why is it so important for your students to be involved outside of the classroom?
I want every student to be part of a student club or organization. That is where they will learn their communication, leadership and professional skills. That is where they will learn how to work in a team. I can teach my students all of the methods and all of the theories in the classroom, but it’s outside where they are able to apply everything they’ve learned.
What are you looking forward to most in regards to the 2017-18 school year?
Agriculture is changing all the time, in terms of technology, people eating our food, how we sell our products or how we communicate with social media. Every day brings something new and we have to adapt to that change. I want to see that all of our students are really connected and learning what is new and how we can adapt in terms of marketing our agriculture products. How can we adapt to the new technology and how can we negotiate for that technology? I want all of the students in our program to incorporate sustainable practices of agriculture. I want them to be part of anything that is new or existing but to be aware of how it changes over time. I think our curriculum is adapting to those changes and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.
What do you hope your students take away from your classes?
With everything that I do in class, I want my students to know that they have the power to change their own lives. They have the power to change the lives of others – whether it’s positively or negatively – through making informed decisions that come from the lecture or methods that I’m giving them in class. I want my students to be confident and to stay open-minded, because every day of our lives, we learn something new. Every day of my classes, I want my students to learn something new. If they can apply what they have learned in my classes to improve themselves and to help others, then I will be happy for a well done job.
Interview conducted by Amanda Bertolozzi, Writer/Editor, Communications. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.