Meet Patrice Lazard, Agricultural Economics Master’s Student
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Driven by her family and agriculture upbringing, Patrice is breaking barriers in the agricultural sector not only by being an economist, but a mother as well.
Patrice Lazard is a master’s student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA majoring in Agricultural Economics. Her area of study is international trade and her current research focuses on identifying the economic implications of a potential Mississippi River avulsion on the soybean transportation sector.
Her research seeks to examine the changes in total transportation costs associated with soybean exports using alternative transportation methods and routes. Patrice aims to identify if these costs would offset costs of maintaining the Old River Control Structure and the Mississippi River and/or offset the costs of increasing infrastructure of other ports should barge travel to New Orleans be eliminated.
Agriculture runs in the blood
Patrice became interested in agriculture because her parents owned a small farm where they raised mainly cattle and horses. She and her brother became fascinated with the farm life and became eager to learn about farm operations.
“We were there watching our father bale hay, worm cattle, plant grass seed, make sales at the local sale barn... the list goes on and on.”
Patrice joined the 4-H club at her elementary school, and she was able to learn more about agriculture and participate in the local 4-H events and activities. However, once she began high school, only certain students knew about FFA and 4-H, so her interest shifted temporarily to academics, sports, and band. When Patrice was ready to graduate high school, she knew she wanted to have a career in agriculture but not as a farmer.
Starting her journey into grad school
After Patrice graduated high school as class salutatorian, she attended Southern University A&M College in Baton Rouge, LA to complete her undergraduate studies in Ag Economics. During Patrice’s undergrad journey she received several scholarships, including the USDA 1890 Land Grant Scholarship, a fantastic opportunity for minorities seeking a degree in agriculture. Under this award, she became a USDA 1890 National Scholar.
For Patrice, becoming an USDA 1890 National Scholar was one of the best experiences she has ever had. Being a scholar exposed her to a new world where she could contribute on improving the agriculture sector. Also, she experienced many amazing opportunities, which included exceptional mentorship, summer internships, and networking with other students and professors in agricultural economics. These opportunities helped Patrice develop the skills she needed as a graduate student in Ag Economics.
One of the scholarship requirements was that she had to choose an agriculture concentration.
“The decision wasn’t too difficult since I have always had a niche for writing, public speaking, and problem-solving. Just a few of the many skills needed when pursuing an Ag Economics degree, so I immediately knew what I wanted to pursue.”
The good and the bad times
Patrice explains that the most significant difficulty in grad school was the transition to graduate school. She took a semester off after receiving her undergraduate degree but immediately returned to school in the spring. During Patrice’s first semester at LSU, she became extremely stressed, which led her to fall ill a couple of times. Besides the workload and responsibilities of grad school, she had a daily commute of over 50 miles. Patrice is also a wife and mother of two amazing children, so balancing school and life at home were also very challenging.
“Being a grad student takes dedication, sacrifice, time- management, discipline, patience, and perseverance, to name a few. But nothing worth fighting for comes easy right. Knowing that I obtained my Master’s degree given my circumstances is such a confidence booster!”
Another difficulty Patrice encountered in grad school was being in an environment where she's the only person who looks like her.
“I am a young African American woman pursuing a degree in Ag Economics, so most times, I feel alone. I’m aware that usually, people in an agriculture profession are much older and typically are males; however, that’s changing. Although it was a bit intimidating at first, I’ve come to realize that I’m breaking barriers and it’s alright to be the only one!”
Nonetheless, she describes she has an impeccable support system. Her parents and husband have continuously supported her throughout her academic journey. Patrice's children are her greatest motivation to accomplish her goals, and she expresses that without them, probably wouldn’t have gotten that far. “I know if I achieve my goals, then I’ll not only have I inspired them in the future to accomplish whatever they desire. But also to inspire other young ladies to pursue their dreams as well.”
Uncharted future but definitely beaming!
Patrice wants to take a break from school to spend time with her family, but she does want to pursue a Ph.D. in the future. She is ready to get a job outside academia and is interested in exploring entrepreneurship.
Patrice, what would you like to say to young female students out there?
“Don’t limit yourself and do what makes you uncomfortable! Doing this leads to GROWTH. Too often, we become complacent where we are and don’t broaden our perspective on life. We’re too busy inside the box when we really should be looking outside of the box. And remember, the opportunities are endless; you have to take that leap of faith!”
Patrice also encourages you to do as much research as you can so that you find an area within this field that you are most passionate.
Family time is fun time!
On Patrice’s free time, she enjoys spending time with her family. She says there's never a dull moment with her family and that they could be doing anything and somehow make that activity extremely fun. “I also like to sing, so car rides and listening to music are the most enjoyable because of course when there’s music involved, everyone starts dancing!” Patrice is also a DIYer and loves the accomplished feeling she has whenever she completes a task.
We all need inspiration and motivation
Patrice believes it’s crucial to highlight minority women in agricultural sciences because it allows young women to see that someone like them in this field. She believes it will possibly encourage them to broaden their career perspective to something they didn’t think was possible. Patrice role models are her remarkable mother, her former professor and mentor Dr. Patricia McLean-Meyinsse, and her cousin Danielle Fontenot-Sicard.
“Having a female mentor in the same field as you will definitely give any young woman the extra confidence she needs, so she feels unstoppable!”
You can find Patrice at:
LinkedIn and Facebook: Patrice Lazard
This interview was transcribed by: Marlia Bosques-Martínez