Thursday, November 3, 2022

Member Blog: David Zilberman


Unique Opportunity for Extension and Research Career in the Economics of Diversity and Equity

David Zilberman, professor, agriculture and resource economics | November 2, 2022


Some of the best jobs in academia are to be a professor of Cooperative Extension at Berkeley. The Cooperative Extension is one of the greatest inventions of the American educational system, designed to transfer knowledge to and learn from the experience of practitioners in agriculture and industry. We have two types of extension professionals: farm advisors who are in the counties and advise farmers, businessmen, and consumers; and professors of extension, who conduct practical applied research and assist the farm advisors and collaborate with different constituencies (legislators, consultants, citizens, and NGOs) as they address major policy and management challenges.

The Cooperative Extension people have made our research more relevant and linked us to reality. I have a 15% Extension appointment, and I love the freedom and creativity it allows me. Indeed throughout my career, I benefitted from my engagement with Extension professionals. Some of the major revolutions in California agriculture started with extension personnel. Don Gustafson, a farm advisor from San Diego, basically brought drip irrigation to California. Richard L. Snyder, a retired Extension professor at Davis, was the brain behind California Information Management Systems. The exciting programs of the University of California in integrated pest management, master gardening, and 4-H are designed and managed by Extension. I am excited that our department, Agricultural and Resource Economics, was allocated a professor of Extension position in the Economics of Diversity and Equity.

The Extension specialists that I know have had wonderful careers. If they wanted, they could publish in the same outlets as other faculty. But, instead of concentrating on teaching young adults, they work with practitioners and spend less time in the office and more time in the field. They are drawn to more relevant and practical problems. They have more impact and more fun than the teaching faculty.

I am grateful that we have a position on Diversity and Equity because these are major issues of California in general, specifically in agriculture, and issues to which economists can contribute greatly. Our department has experts in development economics who travel around the world to address poverty challenges, but parts of the Central Valley also have poverty challenges that need addressing. We have research programs on farm laborers and issues related to environmental justice, but this new position provides a focal point for integrated efforts in all our fields.  Enhancing opportunities for the disadvantaged is one of the biggest challenges of our time. So, this new position will open new research and outreach avenues for our department and the Berkeley campus and new opportunities for creative individuals. We look forward to outstanding applicants and hope that we will attract people who will be able to improve our research and our lives.

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