Dr. Gina E. Eubanks: a people person who helps the Peoples Department build equity
Sep 12, 2022
The youngest of ten children, Gina Elaine Eubanks grew up in rural Clinton, Louisiana, participating in 4-H. Her 35-year career in higher education has taken her back to her home state, where she serves as Associate Vice President and Program Leader at the Louisiana State University AgCenter. In this role, one of his duties is to help coordinate research and extension programs in nutrition and food science.
“I come from what you might call an extension background. I was involved in 4-H all through college,” she said. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Eubanks enrolled and earned a master’s degree at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
For a very short time, she worked as a buyer before accepting a teaching position at Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. She enjoyed teaching in college, so she returned to OSU to pursue a doctorate and in the end accepted a teaching position at Virginia Tech and then Southern University A&M College.
In 1993, she accepted a job with the University of the South’s Cooperative Extension Program as a home economist. During this time, she worked with families with limited resources, farmers and young people. “We just didn’t work with the ladies of the house,” she said.
“I guess I’ve always been someone who wanted to make a difference; working with people,” she said. “I didn’t see myself as an engineer sitting behind a desk, or a chemist mixing formulas and doing that. I knew for years growing up that I was a people person.
She is one of 28 members appointed to the USDA Equity Commission in February 2022. Each member of the commission and subcommittee, who is appointed for two years, brings a specialized understanding of her field and of his professional niche. Working together, the commission and its subcommittees will evaluate USDA programs and services and recommend how the USDA can reduce barriers to accessing them by implementing transformative change.
The Equity Commission held its first face-to-face meeting in May 2022 in Washington DC. “Each individual came with a different benchmark and all of those benchmarks are valuable,” she said. “I’m not saying because I’m a black woman that we should only help black farmers. I give that as a reference,” she said.
She said it is the role of commission members to listen to understand and apply that understanding to develop recommendations to strengthen equity.
“USDA has all the services. But how the USDA provides these services can make a difference,” she said. “In other words, I can walk into a USDA office and ask a question and you answer the question. The service has been rendered.”
But understanding that customer’s point of reference can help guide a more detailed and helpful response.
Eubanks described the concept of fair service using a simple story about donating shoes. “Let’s say everyone needs shoes, so I start donating shoes. Then it’s equal, ”she said. “But when I come in and give someone shoes that really fit them. That’s fairness.