Kenneth (Kenny) Payne graduated from Fort Valley State University in the fall of 2020 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural engineering technology (AET).
Since graduation, Payne has worked as a civil engineering technician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) in Pittsboro, North Carolina.
“As a civil engineering technician, I am responsible for assisting and providing support to civil engineers working on building and construction projects. My role is generally that of an assistant who performs tasks such as creating plans, surveying sites and inspecting projects,” the FVSU alumnus said.
Payne said he really enjoys his work.
“I love that I can problem solve and be the solution to assist with growing foods for the U.S. population,” the 25-year-old said.
Considering Payne’s family history, it is no surprise that the Atlanta, Georgia, native chose the middle Georgia university to pursue his college education.
His mother, Dr. Tamara (Brown) Payne, (’94, infant and child development; ’96, Master of Science, rehabilitation counseling), father, Donald Jr. (’96, biology), grandfather Donald Sr. (’76, business administration), grandmother Betty (Oglesby) Payne (’75, elementary education) and great grandmother Ledicia (Spivey) Payne (’47, elementary education), all graduated from Fort Valley State. Currently, Payne’s younger sister, Kamora, is majoring in plant science with a concentration in biotechnology.
He said that his mother and father introduced him to the university, and he immediately fell in love with the College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology.
Coming from the metropolitan sprawl of Atlanta, Payne knew that pursuing a degree in agriculture would be a unique endeavor, but that did not deter him.
“I am a problem solver and had an interest in the nature of soil and plants,” he said.
Payne said one of his fondest memories as an undergraduate was traveling to conferences as a member of the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) program. “While on the trips, I connected with interns and was exposed to job opportunities,” Payne said.
Despite being occupied with classes and assignments, Payne still had time to participate in numerous extracurricular activities. In addition to MANRRS, he was a member of the National Society of Pershing Rifles, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated.
Furthermore. Payne participated in several internships. During Payne's sophomore year of high school, he joined FVSU's Young Scholars Program (2014). Likewise, while enrolled at FVSU he interned with the Georgia Department of Natural Rescources (DNR) in the Air Protection Branch in Atlanta. In 2019, he interned with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Center Discovery Program in Virginia. Lastly, in 2022, Payne was commissioned in the U.S. Army Reserves through FVSU's ROtC program as a second lieutenant.
Payne’s future plans include traveling with the USDA and the U.S. Army, where he is currently completing officer’s training at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.
“I want to move every three years while I’m young, not be tied to one location and adapt to new skills and gain experiences in different fields and terrains,” he said.
For more information about the AET program at FVSU, visit https://bit.ly/3IRSAM8