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Suzanne Munson, Manager, Global Partnerships and Alliances Heifer International

 

Since 1944, nonprofit Heifer International has equipped and empowered families and communities around the world to build self-reliance that lifts people out of hunger and poverty. In her eight-year tenure, Manager of Global Partnerships & Alliances Suzanne Munson has witnessed these inclusive, sustainable methods transform numerous lives.

“Our holistic approach to ending hunger and poverty is what makes our work effective,” Munson says. Since dire straits have no single culprit, the solution must address all causes. Values-based holistic community development (VBHCD) is the multi-pronged approach Heifer uses. “It means we work directly with small-scale farmers and their families to identify what they need to thrive,” Munson explains. Project participants — many of them women — receive training and assets: gifts of livestock, seeds and trees, access to clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene. In this way, Heifer ensures those with little opportunity get the tools to lift themselves out of poverty.

Fanny

Fanny

Heifer employs in-country teams who speak the language and understand the culture and issues that contribute to hunger, poverty and marginalization. This accelerates the process of inclusion, which is inherent in Heifer’s holistic approach. These teams work throughout the life of a project to train leaders to continue the work after Heifer is gone. “This is the true sustainability of Heifer’s model,” Munson says. “Communities learns to be self-reliant, independent.” This thread is continued with Passing on the Gift®, a promise each recipient makes to pass on gifts of training and livestock to other members in the community. With a typical “pass on” rate of seven to nine generations, the offspring of each original animal benefits seven to nine more families. “We have seen this incredible model build social capital and foster inclusion in an amazing way,” Munson says.

Countless incredible women have emerged from Heifer’s fold. “I’ve met so many strong, brilliant women during my time at Heifer,” Munson says, including Fanny in the mangroves of Ecuador. Fanny is an activist and fierce advocate for families whose livelihoods on the coast have been threatened by the invasion of large shrimping companies. “They buy up all the land,” Munson explains, “and clear cut the precious mangrove forests, ruining the natural ecosystem by setting up artificial shrimp ponds that leak chemicals and toxins into the communities’ water supply.” These people used to have an abundance of crab, shrimp, mussels and clams. Now they have barely enough to feed their families. Fanny’s work to defend the rights of the community and protect the mangroves is dangerous. She’s been shot at, threatened, and witnessed a number of atrocities,” Munson says. “She’s seen defiant community members killed and entire hamlets of houses burned down as warnings to stop interfering.” Nevertheless, Fanny continues to persist to address food insecurity, and for the mangroves, hoping to one day regain all that’s been lost.

Hear more from Suzanne Munson as she represents Heifer International on a panel at this year’s World Woman Summit, October 11-12 in Little Rock.

Dr Meredith Zozus, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Informatics, College of Medicine, UAMS

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) has led the state in research, education and health care for nearly 140 years. With a new chancellor, the state’s largest public employer has its eyes on the prize: a healthier, happier Arkansas.

Meredith Zozus, Ph.D. joined UAMS’s College of Medicine—Department of Biomedical Informatics as associate professor and vice chair for academic programs in 2016. Dr. Zozus was particularly attracted to the school’s emphasis on biomedical informatics in the implementation of strategic methods that ensure efficient use of data.

Keenly aware of the importance of collecting and managing research findings to support conclusions, The Data Book author is excited to be a part of this process at UAMS. “The niche between the research mission and being the only academic hospital in the state gives UAMS statewide reach,” Zozus says. “UAMS has a social contract to do work statewide to ensure patient safety so that health care, cost and quality are improved.”

“I’ve seen more young investigators come with questions that directly relate to them,” Zozus says. Brooke Montgomery, Ph.D., MPH, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, is passionate about improving the health of marginalized communities and focused on preventing sexually transmitted infection and reducing sexual risk, overall. When a close look at the rates of cervical cancer in the southern United States revealed education about human papillomavirus (HPV) and low rates of completed HPV vaccinations as culprits, Montgomery worked to improve education and access to testing and vaccinations statewide.

After 12-17 years of translational and clinical research, a new discovery is ready for implementation in a clinical setting. “Transitional blocks, or valleys of death, often prolong this journey,” Zozus says. “Grants help develop innovative solutions that improve the efficiency, quality and impact of the process, allowing for further testing to break through blocks.”

Laura James, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research at UAMS, is the principal investigator (PI) for the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA). The CTSA consortium comprises 62 academic research institutions across the nation that communicate with each other to identify transferable solutions for health challenges everywhere. As PI, James has engaged communities all over the state—specifically rural areas—in this work. Beyond research, this grant allows UAMS to deliver quality care to patients.

Charlotte Hobbs, M.D., Ph.D. serves UAMS as executive associate dean for clinical and translational research. For more than 20 years, her focus on epigenetics and birth defects has merited national attention, research grants, and seats on working groups and committees. As director of the Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention and PI for an ongoing national study on environmental and genetic contributors to birth defects, Dr. Hobbs enrolled families from every county in Arkansas, expanding the data pool and making prevention efforts accessible statewide.

Hear more about UAMS’ mission to improve health care in Arkansas from Dr. Meredith Zozus, Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA and Sr. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Stephanie Gardner at the October 11-12 World Woman Summit in Little Rock.

 

Ben Noble serves as Vice President of Marketing, Sales and Strategy for Riceland Foods

Equality for women is progress for all. This belief drives the World Woman Foundation, and it’s shared by Riceland Foods—the 97-year-old Arkansas-based, farmer-owned cooperative and sponsor for the October 11-12 World Woman Summit in Little Rock, Ark.

The largest miller and marketer of rice in the United States and a major player in the world’s food service and soybean industries, Riceland currently nears an annual revenue of $1 billion with more than 5,500 members. From its farm-family owners to customers, the brand has long been associated with smart, strong women. “Women play a vital role in agriculture across Arkansas and the U.S. Farming is often a family business which supports women in lead roles or as key players,” says Ben Noble, vice president of marketing and strategy. From a consumer standpoint, women are the primary decision-makers for what ends up on dinner tables.

Raised on a rice farm in Ethel, Ark.—the family business since 1892—Noble knows a thing or two about agriculture and the influential responsibility of women in it. After teaching school all day, Noble’s mother moonlighted as the farm’s CFO. “I remember my parents sitting at the kitchen table every month going through stacks of bills, making sure they were all paid,” Noble says. “She kept him organized. They made a great team.”

At school, Noble’s mother witnessed childhood hunger firsthand. “For some of those kids, the school was the only place they ate,” Noble says. Riceland knows the importance of nutrition and, through partnerships with organizations like Rice Depot and Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, works to address nutritional disparities in the state.

Jennifer James is a fourth-generation rice, soybean and corn farmer from Newport, Arkansas

Jennifer James is a fourth-generation rice, soybean and corn farmer from Newport, Arkansas

Fourth-generation Arkansas farmer Jennifer James grows rice on her 6,000-acre farm in Newport. All business operations revolve around a commitment to sustainable agriculture through technology that conserves and preserves natural resources. “She’s extremely active as a community leader, not just for Riceland, but for the industry,” explains Noble. She chairs the USA Rice Federation’s Sustainability Committee and was named Farmer of the Year by Field to Market: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture in 2017.

“Riceland was sustainable before sustainable became a buzzword,” Noble says. The Stuttgart plant is a perfect example. Rather than discarding the rice kernel husks, they are burned in a co-generation facility and transformed into energy that fuels the plant with 17 percent of its electrical and 14 percent of its natural gas needs.

As technology changes the world, GPS helps tractors track crop production. Precision agriculture allows farmers to strategically manage their land for healthier yields—a win-win for both farmer and consumer. Trucks have become wireless mobile working stations, affording farmers instant communication with colleagues and customers via text, email, and social media.

However, there is no farming future without education and investing in the next generation of farmers. With a mutual interest in STEM (science, technology, energy, math) education—Riceland has partnered with Museum of Discovery and CEO Kelley Bass to launch a STEM-centered program designed to educate and empower middle- and high-school girls in Arkansas’ Grand Prairie and Delta regions.

Hear both Noble and James speak at this year’s World Woman Summit, October 11-12 in Little Rock.

CHANGE THEIR WORLD. CHANGE YOURS. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

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