Lurleen Walters (2021)
Dr. Lurleen Walters is an applied economist and courtesy faculty with the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. Dr. Walters has extensively demonstrated her commitment to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at various levels within our profession, with her nominators repeatedly speaking to her instrumental role in our profession’s progress related to DEI and her importance as a champion of DEI efforts across multiple professional organizations.
During her time as a faculty member at Florida A&M University (an 1890 land grant), she served as faculty advisor for the university’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANNRS) chapter, comprising mostly first-generation minority students. Under her leadership, they won the National Chapter of the Year Award in 2012-13 amidst a highly competitive field. Given the pipeline issues in applied economics, this type of undergraduate mentoring is crucial to improving diversity within our field.
From 2015-2020, Dr. Walters held various leadership roles within the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA), including successive terms as chair and section leader of the Committee on Women in Agricultural Economics (CWAE) and the Committee on the Opportunities and Status of Blacks in Agricultural Economics (COSBAE), respectively. In an approach described by her nominators as “strategic bricklaying” she made significant contributions to improve DEI in the AAEA. She developed COSBAE’s 2018 preconference workshop, “Towards Engagement and Collaboration of 1890, 1862, Federal and Private Sector Institutions: A Win-Win for the Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness Professions, “which focused on increasing engagement between academia, government and industry to increase professional opportunities and help build a more diverse profession.” She was a member of the 2018 AAEA Anti-Harassment Task Force, that wrote the Association’s Anti-Harassment and Code of Conduct Policy. As a critical liaison between CWAE and COSBAE, Dr. Walters helped spearhead the CWAE-COSBAE AAEA Climate Survey that is assessing the DEI metrics in academic spaces in the agricultural economics profession. She has also played an integral role in establishing on-site childcare at the AAEA Annual Meetings (which will be implemented beginning in 2022).
In 2019, Dr. Walters led the effort to establish the COSBAE-CWAE Mentoring Initiative. The program aims to increase engagement between land grant institutions, government and industry to facilitate exchange of ideas on teaching, research and extension, while increasing professional opportunities for mentees. It was recently expanded to include an undergraduate component. Dr. Walters was also instrumental in the creation of two Special Section Awards in COSBAE, the Alfred L. Parks Early Career Award and the COSBAE Legacy Award. These awards recognize early and later career professionals who have made substantial contributions to the applied economics profession. In 2020, Dr. Walters served on a team of current and past COSBAE leaders who were invited to advise on expanding the mission and research scope for the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (AJAE) to include topics on discrimination and inequities in agriculture. The group successfully advocated for greater inclusivity in the scope of AAEA journals to address topics on race, gender, discrimination and inequities in agriculture.
In addition to the AAEA, Dr. Walters has served in leadership with the Food Distribution Research Society (FDRS) since 2015. In successive roles as Vice President of Student Programs and Vice President of Research, she has helped create more diverse and inclusive programming initiatives, and was a key contributor to the Society’s diversity, equity and inclusion policy.
In the words of Dr. Keithly Jones, “Dr. Walters has exhibited, and continues to exhibit intense and sustained efforts to making the profession a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. What is most striking is that she accomplished this much as an assistant professor and applied economist with barely a decade of experience, and that she has continued to do so despite significant challenges. Having worked alongside her in COSBAE and witnessed her commitment and actions directly, this is testament to her deep belief in diversity, equity and inclusion as core values that can help to effect meaningful change in our profession and improve the professional welfare of many.”