Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

April 2012

USAO Corn Study Finds National Audience


USAO's Dr. Lee Hester.
Dr. Lee Hester, associate professor of American Indian studies at USAO, shared research on cultivating traditional corn stock recently as a featured guest on Native AmericaCalling, a nationally syndicated call-in talk radio program.

Traditional corn growing techniques were the subject of discussion on the national radio program Native America Calling on Feb. 28, spurred by research that originated at the University of Science and Arts.

The show, titled “Corn is Culture,” featured Dr. Lee Hester, associate professor of American Indian studies at USAO, and focused on

the cultural importance of native corn as well as how traditions are being lost through modern growing methods.

The research, spearheaded by Hester, explored native corn growing techniques while preserving precious seed stock.

Taking advantage of USAO’s unique five-week independent study program, Hester assembled a team of five students to do exactly that — plant a number of endangered tribal corn varieties in order to increase the seed stock as well as pass the traditional cultivation methods on to the next generation.

Alumna Marcy LaFerr was one of the students who participated in the project and also joined in the radio discussion. LaFerr, a resident of Anadarko, graduated in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in American Indian studies.

With USAO being one of only two programs in the state of Oklahoma offering a degree in American Indian studies, Hester appreciated the opportunity to show the work and cultural importance of native academics to a national audience.

“Growing corn has always had great spiritual significance for those tribes who grow it,” Hester said.

“But the traditional methods of cultivation and the huge number corn varieties also demonstrate profound scientific and technical understanding. I hope that listeners caught some of my enthusiasm for the subject.”

The Native America Calling program is a live call-in program, broadcast through the Internet and on 52 radio stations in the United States and Canada, with an audience of more than 500,000 listeners weekly.

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