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.



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.

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.

Karen E. Segrave | KES Photo Dr. Nancy Gray is the head of UAMS BioVentures, which does technology licensing and is an incubator for start-up companies that do medical research

Dr. Nancy Gray has more than thirty years of experience in biomedical industries, including medicinal chemistry research, management of pharmaceutical research and development, and business operations. Dr. Gray came to UAMS from the Southern Research Institute in Birmingham, Alabama, where she was vice president for corporate development.There, she led corporate development opportunities, including mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, joint ventures, minority investments, technology licenses and divestitures for the life sciences, engineering, and environment and energy business. Dr.Gray completed one joint venture agreement, 30 license agreements and 37 collaboration agreements. She also led the turnaround of infectious diseases contract services business, increasing revenue by $7 million and profit by $1.2 million in three years.

She is leading inspiration for girls and women to participate in STEM programs. She often says, she didn’t know why she decided to become a chemist in the 10th grade because she hadn’t even taken a chemistry course at that time. However, in her senior year of high school, she took her first chemistry class with Ms. Josephine Nied ad my teacher in Trenton, NJ. She knew that she was considering a career in chemistry and her mentor took her to a few networking events and lectures that were offered through the American Chemical Society (ACS). Then, in her freshman year of college, she took Organic Chemistry taught by Dr. Harold Heine, the first recipient of the ACS Award for research at an undergraduate institution. From that time on, she was hooked.

The biggest professional challenge she faced actually occurred before she even got started. She was asked by a collection of faculty, including the head of her department, to quit her graduate program because she had a child during my 4th year in graduate school. Her husband was also a graduate student in the same department and they were sharing childcare responsibilities. That challenge was quickly overcome when her husband offered to quit so that she could continue. The faculty members withdrew their request and they both earned our PhD.

Speaking about progress of women in science, Dr.Gray says, “Things have definitely gotten better for women in chemistry, particularly in education. Women are now mentored – a rarity when I was training. Also, family leave is now an acceptable practice, so women do not feel like they need to leave their training if they have children. Additionally, women are more visible as scientists at national and international meetings, so that symbolizes a more accepting environment. Also, women have banded together to mentor each other and created focused organizations to address head-on remaining gender-specific issues.”

She also added, “Yes. If one looks at the various salary surveys, females still lag behind males in compensation. In the biotechnology industry, there are only a few female CEOs. Looking at the large technology companies, female representation in the Board room is severely limited. Also, in industrial research, females only represent 4.2% of all inventors and earn about 14% less than their male peers.”

As a leading women in science was not easy, Dr Nancy had to make a lot sacrifices. When talking about work life balance, When my kids were young and at home, she made sure that at least one parent attended all sporting events, performances, teacher meetings etc. She and her husband also used all of our vacation time each year to maximize family time. Also, as noted earlier, her husband actually offered to sacrifice his degree so that she could continue her studies. Support doesn’t come any stronger than that.

Dr Nancy mantra to success – “Don’t take “can’t” for an answer! Have confidence in your capabilities and don’t hesitate to aggressively pursue your goals.” This will serve as an inspiration to millions of women around the world to pursue their career in science and make an impact on this world.


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