Belinda Demmings Bell, a 1988 alumna of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), is the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 1890 program liaison for UAPB.

USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement made the appointment recently, according to a news release.

Bell will collaborate with the UAPB Office of Career Services and School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS) to increase the number of students studying agriculture and counsel them on employment opportunities in USDA agencies.

She will support USDA partnerships with state, local and non-profit corporations that will assist research and Extension programs that serve small and limited-resource farmers and underserved communities, according to the release.

Her responsibilities will also include administering the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program at UAPB. Students accepted into the program receive full tuition toward a bachelor’s degree, books and the cost of room and board, as well as work experience with USDA agencies.

The liaison will increase awareness of the program by speaking with high school teachers and students and participating in career fairs and other outreach activities.

Bell had been temporarily overseeing UAPB’s USDA Liaison Office since January 2018, while assigned as the USDA 1890 program liaison for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU).

She assumes the position at UAPB following the death of George Will Richardson, who had served in the role since 1993, according to the release.

“As the USDA/1890 Program Liaison, I plan to establish centers of community prosperity that will foster hope, opportunity, wealth creation and asset building in our rural and underserved communities,” she said. “I aim to provide the education, tools and resources necessary to address challenges outlined by the underserved communities. My main objective is to increase the viability and profitability of the communities that UAPB serves.”

Previously, UAPB, Bell worked at FAMU for four years, and before that, she worked for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for 28 years. She started her career with NRCS as a cooperative education student in Bloomington, Illinois, and later became the first female African-American district conservationist in Arkansas.

She also served as a NRCS resource conservationist/social scientist and as an agricultural economist.

Bell earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from UAPB. Her daughter, Delta Bell, earned a degree in agronomy from UAPB-SAFHS, and her son, Bobby Madrid Bell, is a graduate of plant science at Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, La.

— Will Hehemann is a writer/editor for the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.