No Pomp But Lots of Circumstance for Graduating Leadership Class

White man wearing business suit stands at podium
Class Spokesperson Austin Davis
Jul 13, 2022
IRVING, TX -- The 2019-2022 Rice Leadership Development Program class graduated on Thursday, July 7, during the USA Rice July Business meetings here.  It’s a notable accomplishment for all those selected into the program but this class had an especially unique journey to get to their graduation.  

Class members were selected for the program at the USA Rice Outlook Conference in San Diego in December 2018.  Their first two sessions were conducted in March and June of 2019.  Session III, which was scheduled for September 2020, was delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The final session took place in Washington, DC, in February 2022, where the classes typically graduate.  However, this year’s USA Rice fly-ins have had limited participation by design so it was decided to conduct the formal ceremony during the General Session of the annual USA Rice July Business Meetings in front of a larger audience.

The Rice Foundation Board Chair, David Petter, himself an alum of the program, provided remarks and was assisted in handing out the graduation certificates by USA Rice Chair Bobby Hanks.

The 2019-22 graduates are:  Jason Bond, a rice weed scientist with Mississippi State University in Stoneville; Austin Davis, a rice farmer from Cleveland, Mississippi; Michael Durand, a rice farmer from St. Martinville, Louisiana; Bobby Golden, a research scientist with Simplot; Austin Littleton, a rice farmer from Parma, Missouri (Austin was unable to attend); Matthew Morris, a rice farmer from Carlisle, Arkansas; and Justin Nix, a regional manager with Helena from Youngsville, Louisiana.

Austin Davis was the class spokesperson and in his valedictory speech talked about how meaningful the program has been for him, and how it has prepared him to take on more leadership roles within the rice industry in the future.  Davis emphasized how participation in the program had created strong and lasting bonds among the seven class members.  He also acknowledged that the program would not be possible without the generous and long-term support of dedicated sponsors, American Commodity Company, John Deere, and RiceTec.

The Rice Leadership Development Program began in 1989 and has provided more than two hundred individuals an opportunity to develop leadership and communication skills while gaining a much greater understanding of the U.S. rice industry.  The program is currently accepting applications to select the next class members who will begin their rotation in March 2023.  

Go here for more details on the program and application information.