‘I want to serve’
A University of Texas at Arlington professor is the University’s first to be appointed a Jefferson Science Fellow by the National Academy of Sciences.
Edmund Prater, professor in the College of Business’ Department of Information Systems and Operation Management, will spend a year at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, Office of American Spaces, starting in August.
The fellowship program is designed to help the U.S. government leverage the expertise of academic scientists, engineers and physicians. It requires one year of service in the State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) on-site in Washington and overseas.
Prater’s passion for service compelled him to apply for the fellowship.
“I’m one of the few people in my family to have not served in the military. I want to serve,” said Prater, who also is executive director of UTA’s Veterans Business Outreach Center, which is funded by a $1.8 million U.S. Small Business Administration grant. “I believe in service, and I believe I owe this country my service. This was an opportunity for me to do that.”
Prater’s expertise is multidimensional but focuses on global supply chains, logistics operations and entrepreneurship. In addition to his doctorate in business, he earned three engineering degrees from the Georgia Institute of Technology and has owned businesses in the United States and Russia.
Jefferson Science Fellowship (JSF) assignments involve providing up-to-date expertise in the rapidly advancing science, technology, engineering and medical arenas that routinely impact policy decisions encountered by the State Department or USAID. However, each fellow is also expected to become conversant with the functional operation of the State Department or USAID. This requirement enables the JSF program to complement and enhance existing efforts by the permanent staff within the two government agencies.
During the fellowship year, each fellow delivers a lecture as a part of the JSF Distinguished Lecture Series. Following the fellowship year, the Jefferson Science Fellow will return to his or her academic career but will remain available to the State Department or USAID for short-term projects over the next five years.
In his nomination letter, UTA Provost Teik C. Lim said Prater is “a distinguished scholar, tireless leader and role model for our youth, and he is most deserving of this opportunity.”
He said Prater always has taken a multidisciplinary approach in his research and his education of students.
“His core mindset is to strategically tie in disparate parts to make a much larger whole,” Lim said.
Prater is unsure where he’ll be sent, but federal officials warned him that the locale might not be luxurious.
“I told them I’ve lived overseas and that growing up on a farm with no central air conditioning or heating, it was my job to sleep on the floor in front of the fire to keep it going all night,” he said. “I’ll be comfortable with wherever they send me.
“I have been able to muster several different entities toward common goals during my business and academic lives. I have the ability to quickly adapt to setbacks and course changes. I am comfortable assessing situations, taking calculated risks and making decisions. These are all required to be a successful entrepreneur. I believe I can use those skills wherever I’m sent.”
Currently, Prater is conducting research with Texas Health Resources, a large North Texas nonprofit health care system. He was also the coordinator for the College of Business’ inaugural MAVS 100 event, which recognized successful UTA entrepreneurs and business owners.
Prior to living in the US, Prater started and ran an import/export company in Russia during the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union. He currently raises Dexter cattle on his 10-acre farm in nearby Rendon, supplying organic beef to the marketplace.
“The cattle business isn’t a huge moneymaker, but I have fun with it,” Prater said. “And I bring things I learn on the ranch into the classroom to teach students about the realities of owning your own business. The truth is that everything we teach is theory until you have to make payroll.”