On a “4-h at uga day” football game in the sixth grade, Lauren Ledbetter Griffeth, who grew up in Cochran, watched the UGA cheerleaders run down the sidelines, saw the spirit of the fans, and fell in love with Georgia. At the time, she didn’t know that she would one day be one of those cheerleaders and also go on to receive three degrees from the university and work there.
Griffeth BSA ’05, MEd ’08, PhD ’13 is an extension leadership specialist with the UGA Cooperative Extension and the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. She works with professionals both inside and outside the college to build and improve leadership skills. While heading these programs, she researches leadership development, specifically of women in agricultural leadership.
“We’re learning about how to empower women in the male-dominated field of agriculture to be better leaders,” she said. “I know everyone’s an individual, but I think we need to recognize that men and women are fundamentally different in how we see the world in some ways. We have different needs and that’s OK, and we shouldn’t be afraid to discuss it.”
Working with extension programs such as UGA’s Advancing Georgia’s Leaders in Agriculture and Forestry allows Griffeth to get direct feedback from her students on what they want to learn about leadership and about the effectiveness of current programs. This research has also allowed her to closely observe how women fundamentally change the conversation in agriculture and leadership in general.
Griffeth is currently working on a book about how women in agricultural leadership roles can bring new perspectives on how to solve world hunger. Although her many different roles can make it hard to find time to write, she’s no stranger to balancing a hectic schedule. As a master’s and doctoral student, she worked full-time and took classes at night to finish her degrees with the guidance of her professors.
“Some of the faculty, some of the professors that I had, truly made me see the world differently,” she says. “And I really appreciated that, just because, in order to really develop your own perspective, you have got to have your worldview challenged.”
The original version of this story first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Georgia Magazine.