Danniel Diquan Bailey, a recent graduate of regulatory science-environment biology at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, cites "getting plenty of rest" as a determining factor in achieving academic and athletic success during his education.
Thanks to this approach, he became a recipient of the Chancellor's Medallion Award -- the highest honor presented during UAPB's commencement -- and is also a nine-time Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champion with four gold medals.
"It's very easy to get caught up in the 'grind culture,' but rest is equally as important," he said. "Another thing is to remember that the results are not indicative of who you are. As athletes, that competitive spirit can be a hindrance sometimes, since not every day will be your best showing. Learning to give yourself grace and looking at the bigger picture can make the already-difficult balancing act a lot easier."
Originally from 8 Miles Bull Bay, Jamaica, Bailey decided to earn his degree at UAPB because of athletic and scholarship opportunities, as well as the diversity of the campus.
"I knew a few people that played sports here before -- they really sold me on the school," he said.
Bailey said that growing up in Jamaica played a big part in his choosing to major in regulatory science at the UAPB Department of Agriculture.
"I have always been fascinated with nature, and the older I got, I saw just how important it is to protect the natural resources we have," he said. "One moment that was the catalyst for my decision was when I witnessed the illegal mining of sand on my local beach. The negative effect of that action is just now being witnessed. As humans, our role as environmental stewards is something that is grossly underplayed. I want to have a more active role in ensuring that the things that make this world beautiful are here for future generations to enjoy."
As he considers his career goals, Bailey said he aspires to open a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized groups who are exploited for their communities' natural resources. He specifically hopes to undo some of the damage done by the phenomenon known as the "resource curse," in which communities that have an abundance of natural resources are poorer and less stable.
"As a child, it never made sense to me that the resources of my country and areas where people who looked like me lived were so valuable -- but that value was not reflected in the standard of living," he said. "Sadly, this happens all over the world. Historically, for the system to work, these people must be in a subservient position, and that has resulted in a deliberate lack of education and limited upward social mobility. With all the barriers in place, it has allowed those in power to keep most of the shares for themselves."
Bailey said his goal will be to help people channel more of the spoils of their labor back to their own communities. He sees access to education and the ability to form unions as key to achieving this.
"Luckily, we are in a time where we can demand more and also create opportunities for ourselves," he said. "Education is paramount because most resources become more valuable as they move along the manufacturing chain. For example, in my home country, we have bauxite, which in its raw form is not very valuable -- but aluminum is quite expensive."
Jamaica does not produce aluminum, but instead alumina. Only later is it turned into aluminum, he said. Because of this, the country bears the brunt of the negative environmental effects of mining the mineral while earning the least in the supply chain.
"If Jamaica had a refining plant, the ability to produce our own aluminum would give the economy a much-needed face-lift," he said. "Examples like this can be found all over the world and are not just unique to people of African descent. One of the common denominators in any area that experiences this issue is a lack of education and the inability to add value due to a lack of infrastructure. So, if these things are addressed, people will be able to negotiate better deals – the system cannot be destroyed, but we can adjust to reap more benefits."
In the future, Bailey plans on pursuing a master's degree in software engineering.
Bailey encourages others to consider enrolling in the UAPB Department of Agriculture because of the vast opportunities in the field and the quality of education in the department.
"I was exposed to so many avenues in the field that I was previously not privy to," he said. "The professors in the department are phenomenal. They provide students with all the tools they need to succeed while also guaranteeing a very nurturing environment. At no point will one feel too harshly judged."
He credits Alicia Robinson-Farmer, instructor and regulatory sciences undergraduate coordinator, with supporting him in his studies.
"I met her on my first day of school, and she has held my hand through it all and taught me so much both inside and outside the classroom," he said. "She has helped me make some of the biggest decisions in my academic life."
The takeaways from Bailey's time at UAPB were not limited to things he learned in the classroom.
"Although my knowledge was vastly expanded in the classroom during my tenure at UAPB, the thing that I appreciated the most here was the opportunity I was given to fully explore my blackness," he said. "As an international student, I was thrown into a situation where I had to navigate not only being in a foreign country but also being a Black man."
He said he was afforded the opportunity to grow and learn who he wanted to be. He felt he was allowed to explore every interest he had, no matter how far apart they seemed from each other.
"There was at no point in time I was seen as only the summation of my talents, but rather as 'Danniel,' he said. "The confidence that I have developed here after seeing excellence all around me is something that I will take with me everywhere I go."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Center of Excellence Regulatory Science Program offered through the UAPB Department of Agriculture is a multi-disciplinary degree program. It is offered with options in agriculture, environmental biology and industrial health and safety.
Details: Alicia Robinson-Farmer or Willie Columbus, recruitment committee chair, at [email protected].
Will Hehemann is a writer/editor [email protected] at the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.