Coker to lead regional professional society

Christine Coker

Christine Coker (Photo By: submitted)

By: Meg Henderson

A Mississippi State scientist and longtime member of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) was elected president of its southern regional chapter.

Christine Coker, an extension and research professor in the MSU Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station horticulturist based at the MAFES Beaumont Horticultural Unit, accepted the position at this year's annual meeting of the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists (SAAS).

ASHS is a community of academic and industry professionals who have collaborated to conduct research and address the most pressing national and global issues in horticulture since 1903. The society's southern regional chapter falls under the SAAS organizational umbrella, formed in 1899 to support the interests of Southern agriculture by bringing together agricultural leaders in education and industry.

Coker joined ASHS as an Auburn University graduate student in 1999. Since then, she has attended almost every annual meeting, moderated sessions, served on committees and served as vice-chair on the board of directors on the regional level. Having moderated the graduate competition at this year's meeting, she said that a lot of the up-and-coming research in horticulture is presented at these annual meetings.

"SR-ASHS is the most active of the regional ASHS chapters and the only one that still has an in-person meeting with student competitions," she said. "We have a very active membership, with nearly 35 graduate student oral presentations and 23 graduate and undergraduate posters presentations competing for scholarship monies this year."

On the national level, she has reviewed for ASHS journals, served on multiple committees, moderated meeting sessions, and chaired professional interest groups.

"The greatest benefits of the society are the collegiality and the collaborations that it fosters," she said. "I've had opportunities to learn and grow with fellow researchers, and the relationships I've built over the years are invaluable to me."

Coker looks forward to working with the executive board in hosting next year's meeting in Irving, Texas and working on modernizing the regional group's website. She will work with the executive committee to launch the new site and streamline processes, such as membership communication and voting, to improve the interface between leadership and membership.

As she reflected on her 25 years of membership in ASHS, Coker is most thankful for the mentors and colleagues who encouraged her to be involved.

"In graduate school, my major professor urged me to attend the meetings," she said. "And when I joined Mississippi State, I was fortunate to have colleagues in the Coastal horticulture group who support ASHS. Dr. Knight and Dr. Stafne are past presidents, so I'm following a strong tradition in our group at MSU."

To learn more about ASHS, visit, and for more information on SAAS, visit To learn more about the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, visit

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