Wiregrass Museum of Art Logo

Corporate Member Spotlight: HudsonAlpha Wiregrass

WMA is generously supported in part by the regional business community through its corporate member program. We spoke with leaders at HudsonAlpha Wiregrass, including Dean Mitchell, Executive Director, and Adam Kelley, Director of Communications at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville. HudsonAlpha Wiregrass is a proud corporate member at the Friend level.
WMA: Dean, HudsonAlpha Wiregrass is relatively new to the region. Tell us about how the Wiregrass organization came to be, and what your work will focus on.
H-A: In September of 2021, I met Dr. Neil Lamb, current President and Carter Wells, Vice President of Economic Development of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville for the first time. They came to Dothan and presented at the invitation of Dr. Marnix Heersink. We were all blown away by the work they were doing over the last fifteen years. Mayor Mark Saliba and I spoke about possibly partnering with the Institute, after following Dr. Lamb and his public education classes. After multiple visits back and forth, and year-long discussions, in August of 2022, the City of Dothan and HudsonAlpha signed a memorandum of understanding to move forward with a partnership. Three months later, the City of Dothan approved funding to support that work over the next five years. HudsonAlpha Wiregrass is focused on three things: research, education, and economic development. We’re building a more genomic-literate society with the power of research in human and plant health. We’re proud to be HudsonAlpha’s first footprint outside of Huntsville and are excited for the economic opportunities that this will bring to our community while advancing science.
WMA: What matters most to you at HudsonAlpha Wiregrass? Is there anything you’d like to share about your institute’s culture?
H-A: HudsonAlpha Wiregrass uses the power of genomics to achieve real-world results in human health and plant health. We use the power of DNA to solve real-world problems. The HudsonAlpha Wiregrass will offer new opportunities to area students and professionals. Abby Burch is the new Laboratory Manager. Abby grew up in Cottonwood, went to Rehobeth High School and graduated from Troy University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. She told us that she thought she would never be able to pursue research work like the kind she is doing at the HudsonAlpha Wiregrass in our region. We want more people like Abby to be able to stay in the area, so we’re investing in science to do that. Dothan has a broad-based economy, and the sky’s the limit for what we can do with research and education. HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Dr. Josh Clevenger, a passionate advocate for peanut improvement, leads the team at HudsonAlpha working to find the next great peanut. Our Wiregrass outreach education programs are supporting that work while also teaching local students about plant breeding and research.This is the only plant breeding program in the world driven by high school students, with 153 students participating in the last session. This research is focused on real-world problems. By 2050, there will be 2 billion more people in the world, creating the need for a 56% increase in food production. Farmers will have to farm more crops on less land, and by using the power of DNA, we’re working to make that sustainable in the future.
WMA: We are so grateful for your support as a corporate member. Why do you choose to support the arts, and WMA?
H-A: Our support for the arts goes back to one of HudsonAlpha’s founders, Jim Hudson, who has long been a proponent of the arts and artists. His passion for the arts emanates through the culture of the Institute. WMA’s work touches so many in the community, especially in education, and we know that you can’t have a thriving community without the arts. We want to invest in the future of the Wiregrass by developing long-term relationships with like-minded organizations.
WMA: Do you have an art or museum experience that you’d like to share with our members?
H-A: My previous work experience on Capitol Hill allowed me to be part of the annual Congressional Youth Art Competition, which allowed me to interact with so many talented young students participating in art. To be able to tell one student that their art was going to hang in the U.S. Capitol building was something truly special, and I’m very glad to have been part of those experiences.
WMA: We always like to ask our corporate members, ‘What do you want to see for the future of the Wiregrass?’ So, what’s on the horizon for you, and for HudsonAlpha Wiregrass?
H-A: The ultimate goal is to build an economy based in research, science, and innovation. We want to impact and strengthen the culture and direction of Dothan and Houston County. We want to provide opportunities for the “Abby’s” of the world, the student scientists that had their first experience this week doing research with peanuts. We could have the next George Washington Carver in these classes and not know it yet. Because of the City of Dothan’s partnership, and their belief in the HudsonAlpha Institute’s work and commitment to education, that’s possible.
To learn more about how your company can support WMA’s mission, contact Melissa Rea, Director of Advancement at mrea@wiregrassmuseum.org.
View More Stories