Dr. Arvazena Clardy serves as an associate professor of horticulture and Extension specialist at Tennessee State University (TSU). Get to know Dr. Clardy in the following interview.
Tell us a little about your path into your current field. Who and/or what inspired you to pursue public health or science more generally?
I have always been a science nut! As a kid, I loved looking at the stars in the night sky and identifying the constellations and all things space. I had a scrapbook of all the NASA launchings. My first dream was becoming a veterinarian and then a high school chemistry teacher. After a massive layoff while working at Tennessee Valley Authority, I decided to return to college and finish my bachelor’s degree. By this time, plants were my hobby, and I collected tropical indoor and planted flowering plants in my yard. I decided to make my hobby my career, still with the desire of wanting to be a teacher. I finished my bachelor’s degree in plant science in 1989 and started my master’s in agriculture in plant science and finished in 1993, both from Tennessee State University (TSU). I graduated from Alabama A&M University with my Ph.D. in plant and soil science (plant physiology) in 1999. I was a former high school vocation agriculture teacher from 1999 to 2004 here in Nashville.
How has funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture shaped your professional development and assisted with your current projects?
I have been assisting Tennessee producers with various outreach programs for over 10 years. We have held several large outreach conferences and county workshops over the state and provided education and training in the field of agriculture statewide. Other TSU professors and I work together and sponsor educational and training opportunities in animal production and management, greenhouse, organic production, business planning, risk management, integrated pest management and other requested areas of agriculture. We offer educational opportunities for women, veteran producers and new and beginning producers/farmers. My research area is with international and niche vegetables and fruit crops, such as bitter melon, Tinda and Bottle Gourd. I love working with Tennessee producers and assisting them with new specialty crops and herb varieties for potential market sells. Over the past three years, we have sponsored a one-day workshop for women producers and have plans for an October 2022 workshop along with a boot camp for Tennessee veterans this fall.
What advice do you have for current students who may be interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Stay focused, study hard, have a backup plan and take advantage of all the programs at your university, such as work study, summer internships through the USDA, and educational clubs such as the National Society for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences. Take classes and enjoy all opportunities for expanding your knowledge and gaining experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to explore all related opportunities. Find a good mentor and a good study group. Give 110% to your education and all educational opportunities. Just remember, you can achieve anything if you believe you can. One of my favorites sayings in my Ph.D. program was, “This, too, shall pass.” You will make it through. Sometimes the road is long and hard, but you will excel and achieve.
Photo: Dr. Arvazena Clardy serves as an associate professor of horticulture and Extension specialist at Tennessee State University (TSU). Image provided by Dr. Clardy.