Ed. Note: This post is part of the Celebrating Black History Month series, which highlights African Americans from across the Administration whose work contributes to the President's goals for winning the future.
From North Carolina to Washington, D. C., my career spans over thirty years with the Department of Agriculture. I grew up in Farmville, a small southern town in North Carolina, and attended a segregated elementary and high school. My parents instilled in me a strong work ethic and commitment to service. The foundation laid by my parents empowered me to succeed in earning three degrees. I earned a Doctorate and Masters of Science from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the Bachelor’s of Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. I have worked at the local, state and national levels. For me, it has been a long journey from the segregated south to the nation’s capital, but I am proud to serve in this historic Administration.
My personal and professional goals have always been to positively impact the lives of people through education to ensure they are empowered to reach their full potential. Over my career, I often served as the first African-American or female in the positions I held. After the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act, I worked to integrate USDA county offices and took the first group of black 4-H youth to compete in a state completion. This was an exciting opportunity. Previously, 4-H competitions were segregated and did not recognize black 4-H groups. I later became the first African American to hold a senior executive position in USDA’s Extension Service. Agriculture is typically a male-dominated career, so it was significant when I was selected as the first woman to serve as an Extension Administrator at Tennessee State University. In that position, I provided support for research, education, and extension programs to increase the prosperity, security, and sustainability of America’s families, farms and ranches, business firms, and communities. The experience allowed me to become the first female Dean in Agriculture at Virginia State University. There, I was responsible for providing leadership for agriculture, human ecology, research, and cooperative extension.
In my current position as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, I am leading efforts to transform the culture of USDA and carry out Secretary Vilsack’s vision to transform USDA into a model organization, positioned to meet the present and future needs of its employees and customers. During the State of the Union Address, the President laid out a plan to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and out-building the rest of the world. Through education and outreach programs, we are reforming and transforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century. It is an honor to be a key player as we improve management and transparency and ensure equal access to departmental programs at USDA.
Dr. Alma Hobbs is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.