GAINESVILLE, Ga. — In 2011, Linda Purvis returned to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, where she earned her associate degree in poultry science, with a specific task in mind: to rebuild the poultry science program from scratch.
The subject hadn’t been taught there in more than a decade, said Purvis, UNG poultry science lecturer.
“I had a chicken skeleton. That was about it. No resources, no textbooks, nothing,” she said. “I wanted to build that program back up, and the biology department here was very encouraging and wanted that to happen.”
Through her connections with the University of Georgia’s Department of Poultry Science and relationships she formed with the poultry industry, Purvis acquired funding to make the poultry science program a reality.
Purvis has secured more than $40,000 in grants from the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s foundation during the past seven years to aid in recruitment and education of poultry science students. She also has given out about $8,000 per semester in scholarships thanks to donations from local poultry companies.
Visits to nearby elementary, middle and high schools have been a hallmark of Purvis’ efforts to grow the program. And now an annual “Poultry 101 Day” held each spring brings middle and high school students to campus to learn about UNG’s poultry science program and prepare for future poultry competitions.
Purvis, who grew up on a poultry farm, decided in eighth or ninth grade she wanted to study poultry science. After earning her associate degree, Purvis added a bachelor’s degree in poultry science and a master’s degree in infectious disease, both from UGA. She also recently won a Young Alumni Achievement Award from UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
She enjoys helping students find a place to work in the poultry industry, which can include marketing or business positions or other roles that may not immediately come to mind.
“I’m really passionate about helping students figure out what they’re really good at and helping them find a job and a career that will fit that,” Purvis said.
UNG offers three agriculture pathways with associate degrees: poultry science, general agriculture and avian biology. Purvis has worked hard to ensure students are well-prepared for what’s next. For some, it’s a job right away, while for others it involves seeking a bachelor’s degree in poultry science or avian biology from UGA. For some, it means seeking a bachelor’s degree in biology, business management or marketing from UNG.
Purvis said she is grateful to see the poultry science program thriving and is proud of its 100 percent job placement. She also hopes the curriculum helps her students understand the big picture.
“We live in a culture where everyone eats and food is easy to get to, so we don’t appreciate all the work that has to go into producing that food,” Purvis said.