September Update: From the Desk of David Baltensperger

Dr. Baltensperger

Welcome aboard to several new faculty in the ESSM and SCSC departments.  Dr. Xuejun Dong started as our cropping systems Assistant Professor in Uvalde on September 3.  Dr. Tim Steffens is transitioning to his new role in a joint range science position with West Texas A&M with a 40% assignment in our department as Assistant Professor and Range Specialist in Extension with an office in Amarillo.  He will officially begin October 1.  James Jackson, Extension Program Specialist 1, will begin work in Stephenville October 1.  Dr. Anil Somenahally will be starting as Assistant Professor of Soil Science at Overton in late October.  Dr. Morgan Russell, will begin her work at San Angelo as Assistant Professor and Range Specialist on January 1.  Jourdan Belle will start as Assistant Professor and Extension Crops Specialist at Amarillo on January 1.  Thanks to the search committees for their diligent efforts and to participants in the search processes.  Please make sure, as they arrive, that you take a bit of time to help each new person get acquainted with your work and A&M. 

We are recruiting for ESSM Spatial Sciences and will be conducting a second interview with Dr. Michelle Lawing in October.  Dr. Claudio Casola will be interviewing for the Forest Genomics position during that same time.  We are also recruiting for a Spatial Soil and Water Management faculty member in SCSC, a Weed Scientist in SCSC, and Extension Turf Specialist position at Dallas.  Additionally, a search will begin this fall for a new Soil Chemist/Fertility position in Lubbock, which will be in cooperation with Texas Tech University. As you can tell, we have been busy recruiting to refill our capacity.  We still have much to accomplish as Dr. Dan Fromme has announced his plans to retire from his Extension Specialist Role in Corpus Christi in January.  We also are actively recruiting for a new Department Head for ESSM.  The search committee has been actively recruiting candidates from the best around the world and we expect to begin reviewing candidates in mid-October.

Thanks to the promotion and tenure teams for both departments.  Dr. David Stelly and Dr. Brad Wilcox led the charge for four mid-term reviews, five promotions with tenure and four promotion packages between the two departments.  All have been forwarded to the Dean/Director and AgriLife Committee. This is one of the most important decisions that a department makes and the efforts toward a professional evaluation are greatly appreciated.

We are working through internal process for budgeting in AgriLife based on a 10-90 guideline rather than an 80-20 guideline that has been in effect for the past several years.  This will require more interaction with other departments and administration as we fill future positions and allow AgriLife to be more strategic in the allocation of resources.  This will allow for increased emphasis on water issues and other high priority areas.  Future hires at the College level will be based on a 9- or 10-month appointment.

It was great to host our new faculty and the recent tenure recipients and promotion recipients from both Departments. Congratulations to all that were promoted or tenured on September 1, along with our new faculty members. We were well represented by award recipients at the annual Dean’s Awards ceremony.  Congratulations to all. 

This month I had the opportunity to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the High Plains ARS research facility at Bushland and to view some of the ongoing research and outreach in collaboration with our faculty.  It is amazing to see the impact that research in that region has had on agricultural productivity there and in similar climatic zones around the world.  Congratulations to all that have set such high expectations for our future efforts at Bushland.  I was also able to participate in the SICNA meetings in Lubbock and get a feel for the future of the sorghum industry and how our research in being incorporated in solving problems.

From a national perspective, I have had the opportunity to work with several organizations this year to organize symposia on major issues.  As President Elect of Crop Science Society of America I am coordinating special topics on hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and politics in Science for our National meetings in November where I will become President.  I am also coordinating a D.C. symposium sponsored by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents on meeting population challenges in the future.  I will be providing a keynote talk on the future of plant breeding at Texas A&M at the International Plant Breeding Meetings in Turkey in November. Along with representatives of our forestry accreditation team, I will be presenting our case for reaccreditation to the SAF committee in Charlotte in October.  I will be participating in SACNAS national conference in San Antonio this week to connect with potential students and scientists with Hispanic and Native American background.

Preparation for our College of Agriculture Tailgate has been going full steam.  It is always rewarding to see our various student organizations step up and make these such wonderful events.  See you there!  For ESSM the fall picnic is October 22 from 5:00-7:00 pm in Hensel Park.  The Aggie Mixer at the Tri-Societies meetings in Tampa will be on Tuesday at the Green Iguana.  See the note for getting registered for our Harvest Festival at the Wellborn Community Center Friday evening, October 18.  Join in dancing and reminiscing and great food.

Recent rains across the state have not solved the drought, but certainly made for a more pleasant start to fall. Wishing you all the very best as you work to make a difference for Texas and the World.