Verian Thomas, Ph.D., served FAMU students for 39 years.
Retiring Florida A&M University (FAMU) Professor and Associate Dean for Recruitment, Student Support, and Alumni Affairs in the College of Agriculture and Food Sciences (CAFS) Verian D. Thomas, Ph.D., recently donated food and agricultural sciences hard copy textbooks to the Developmental Research School (DRS) for use by its 9th – 12th Graders in the Agriscience Academy.
The donation reflects Thomas’ commitment to student success during her almost half a century career as an educator, which began as a math high school teacher in her native Guyana.
“If you are in the University, you have to reach back to the elementary, middle and high schools with summer programs for students and teacher training,” said Thomas, whose last day was August 31 after 39 years at FAMU. “I feel blessed to have had this opportunity. I love what I do.”
Cynthia Holloway, who teaches the introductory courses in food and agricultural sciences in the middle and high schools, recently accepted the hard copies. Also, E-books for these courses were presented to the students during the 2020-21 academic year while they were being taught virtually due the coronavirus pandemic.
In an effort to develop the current Bridge Program between CAFS and FAMU DRS, Thomas partnered with the FAMU DRS more than 12 years ago to establish an Agriscience Academy in the DRS high school.
She worked with Cooperative Extension specialists to establish a garden plot at FAMU DRS. In addition, she partnered with CAFS faculty and staff to establish a food science track at DRS. The goal of the collaboration is to have DRS students in the program take introductory courses in CAFS and sit for appropriate certifications before graduating from high school.
CAFS Dean Robert Taylor, Ph.D., calls the Thomas’ donation and her contributions “visionary and extraordinary.”
This current CAFS-FAMU DRS collaboration is being funded by the National Institute for Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (NIFA USDA).
“Building academic programs, mentoring students,” Thomas said. “It’s fulfilling, and it’s what I wanted to do. I had a passion to work in the STEM area.”
Thomas is retiring after 39 years of service to undergraduate and graduate students at FAMU and specifically in CAFS, formerly known as the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology, and Agriculture (CESTA).
“From the time I met her, she encouraged me to reach for any goals I put my mind to, no matter how big or small. There were times she made the difference between me going after an opportunity and letting it pass by,” said Kayla Braggs, a fourth year food science student. “She made it her mission that every student within CAFS had access to only the best opportunities within their intended fields and would be our biggest advocate whenever the time came. More than anything else, she acted as my personal mentor.”
Before joining FAMU, Thomas began her career in higher education administration at the University of Guyana (UG), where she was a lecturer and chair of the chemistry department.
The daughter of a school principal, Thomas taught high school math before going off to university. She earned a Ph.D., in food sciences from the University of Leeds, England.
During her sabbatical leave in 2017, Thomas returned to UG where she designed a new degree program in food science and established an Institute for Food and Nutrition Security. This new degree program at UG was launched in 2019.
“I love of teaching and sharing my expertise with students,” said Thomas.
While at FAMU, Thomas has led several efforts to review course curricula for efficiency, currency, innovation, rigor, and relevance; led program assessment efforts in her College; developed successful and innovative grant proposals, and implemented support and mentoring pre-college, undergraduate and graduate research and teaching programs in food and agricultural science, with the help of over $4.43 million in federal funds, mainly from NIFA USDA, and state matching funds. She was the co-principal investigator and program director for the CAFS 1890 Scholars Program, which resulted in more than 100 students of scholarships.
“Dr. Thomas has been a leader for women in agriculture even when she was not intending to,” said Vonda H. Richardson, director FAMU Cooperative Extension Program. “She is testament for all young women of the effectiveness and power of female leadership.”