March 23, 2021 | By: Aimee Nielson

When Quentin Tyler was a student in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, he often found himself in Professor Lionel Williamson’s office.

“I just stopped to say hello, but when I looked at my watch, sometimes three hours had passed,” Tyler said. “He was so knowledgeable, and he taught me many life lessons. I’m forever grateful for him.”

Williamson was just one of Tyler’s mentors at UK that steered him onto his current career path and impacted his philosophy on leadership. After graduation, Tyler remained at UK, first as an extension associate for recruitment and retention. Later, he directed the college’s Office of Diversity as assistant dean. In 2018, Tyler became the associate dean and director for diversity, equity and inclusion and acting associate dean for faculty affairs and administration at Michigan State University. In May, Tyler will assume the role of acting director of MSU Extension.

Growing up in Hopkinsville, Tyler didn’t live on a farm, but he did have an interest in agriculture. At UK, he earned a bachelor’s (’02) and master’s (’05) in agricultural economics and a doctorate in sociology (’10). He also earned a certificate in diversity and inclusion from the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

“My UK experience shaped my outlook on my career,” he said. “I was involved in the agribusiness club, MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences), my fraternity and I was a residential advisor. Several mentors and advisors emphasized the importance of internships and networking, and they also introduced me to many opportunities.”

As a student, Tyler had a chance to go back to Hopkinsville and intern with the Cooperative Extension Service. He also had internships with the Bluegrass Farm Analysis, Conagra Foods in Omaha, Nebraska, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service in Washington, D.C. 

“My experience at UK was very valuable, being in agriculturally rich state.  My student experience was enlightening, empowering and engaging,” Tyler reminisced. “My whole family and community experienced UK with me, as I was able to communicate my experiences to those that would come after me as well as my family and loved ones.”

He believes his education prepared him to be land-grant leader.

“I learned about all parts of the land-grant mission, research, teaching and extension,” he said. “I remember my Gen 100 class where I had to do public speaking, which I absolutely hated.  But now, all I do is public speaking.  Also, the way I learned how to interact, appreciate and understand the work of our college, and the meaning it has to the state of Kentucky has carried over into the work that I do.  It is all about people.  Supporting people, appreciating people, and showing empathy for people and their challenges and opportunities.”

Scholarships were a large part of Tyler’s college success. He said they allowed him to not worry so much about the financial burdens of college and to concentrate fully on his studies. They are a big reason why he now funds scholarships for students.

“Today’s students have improved infrastructure, more scholarships and opportunities to travel abroad,” Tyler said. “Before I went to New Zealand with the Kentucky Agricultural Leadership Program, I had never traveled abroad. I want to tell students not to be afraid to leave home. Great things happen when you least expect it. Don’t take no for an answer and understand that real success is the sum of many small consistent steps.”

Tyler said that in addition to academics, he learned many valuable life skills while a student in the college. He continues to apply those skills today.

“The UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment taught me about hard work, valuing people, and the importance of treating people how you want to be treated, the platinum rule,” he said. “It taught me the value and the importance of the land-grant mission and the impact it has on people in this country.  The college showed me that a smile goes a long way, and that I never meet a stranger. I am forever grateful for my UK experience, the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment experience, the big blue experience.”

Recently, Tyler was elected president of the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Alumni Association. He will serve a two-year term. To learn more or to become a member of the association, visit