Evette M. Jones, a 1993 graduate of Fort Valley State University’s College of Agriculture, is the first African-American woman to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Georgia Area One office.
A Fort Valley State University alumna recently received a historic appointment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Evette M. Jones, a 1993 agricultural economics graduate, is the first African-American female appointed director for the USDA’s Rural Development Area One Georgia office. Jones’ service area is comprised of more than 25 counties in northwest Georgia. Through this role she will ensure the administration of federal programs, oversee loans and grants for rural areas and provide leadership for comprehensive rural development programs.
“It’s a huge honor, but I know it’s also a huge responsibility,” Jones said referring to her new position. She said she is up to the task, but is open to learning more.
Jones began her career with the USDA as a student intern and member of FVSU’s Cooperative Education Program. After graduation, Jones served in several roles at the USDA including area specialist and rural development manager. She also earned her master’s degree in human resource management from Webster University in 2007. Jones, 43 is married to Anthony Jones, who graduated with her on the same day at FVSU with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems.
The FVSU graduate plans to have a positive impact with clients in her area. Jones said she is looking forward to improving outreach for communities, non-profit organizations and public entities in her new position. She wants to inform communities about the funds available through the USDA and how they can be used for capital improvements. “With our agency, if you gave us a raw piece of land in a rural community, we could build you a city,” Jones said.
Students aspiring for a career with the USDA should seek internships, work hard in class and take advantage of the Cooperative Education Program, Jones said. The program is a joint venture between companies, agencies and higher education. It allows students to gain work experience while still enrolled at FVSU. “It’s an excellent program most students don’t utilize to its capacity. It was definitely the open door I needed to get into my career path,” Jones said. She also stressed that academic performance is a priority. “GPA does matter. It can actually change their financial position coming into our agency because if you have a 3.0 or better, you can start at a higher salary,” Jones said.
Jones said that students presently at FVSU have more resources compared to when she was in school, and they should take advantage of that situation. “I think utilizing the resources that you actually have available to you on campus and seeking out those opportunities is critical for the students there at this point,” Jones said.
As a student at FVSU, Jones participated in the pep club, debate team, agricultural economics club and was special attendant to Miss FVSU. “I love Fort Valley. I grew up on Fort Valley,” Jones said referencing her alma mater. The Macon native considers the institution home and said it was a place she learned about herself as an African-American, a woman and a person.