Department Head Report

We kicked off the year with our celebration of a century of the Smith-Lever act which has provided the federal support for our U.S. Extension program.  It was great to see so many of our faculty members from around Texas join us for an inspirational set of meetings to chart a vision for our future. 

 As part of the celebration we held a statewide ESSM faculty and staff meeting January the 9th. Dr. Dugas, in his new position as Acting Dean, presented updates on a couple important issues – he relayed that the deans concurred with the search committee recommendation and the top three candidates for department head will be brought to campus for interviews, which are scheduled for the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weeks in February. The three candidates are: Dr. Kathleen Kavanagh, 2010-Present, Professor, Department of Forest, Rangeland, and Fire Sciences, University of Idaho; Dr. John Tanaka, 2009-Present, Department Head and Professor, Department of Ecosystem Science and Management (formerly Renewable Resources), University of Wyoming; and Dr. John Briggs, 2008-Present, Director Konza Prairie Biological Field Station and 2008-Present, Professor of Biology, Kansas State University. The next update concerned the move from the Animal Industries Building, which is scheduled to happen late summer through spring 2014/2015. The ANIN building occupants will move into renovated space in Kleberg, Centeq, and HFSB. The next step of the process will be a room by room review of new space before being assigned to faculty, staff, graduate students, etc.

 The latest hires were introduced and welcomed to the department: Mr. James Jackson (Extension Program Specialist I, Stephenville), Dr. Tim Steffens (Assistant Professor of Range Science and Ecology, TAMUW), Dr. Morgan Russell (Assistant Professor and Extension Range Specialist, San Angelo), Dr. Michelle Lawing (Assistant Professor of Spatial Sciences), Dr. Claudio Casola (Assistant Professor of Forest Genomics), Ms. Melanie Maggard (Business Associate II), and Ms. Jessica Reese (Business Associate II).

 Tenure and promotion issues were discussed regarding graduate courses and possible changes to guidelines. Congratulations were extended to Jason West and Bill Rogers – their dossiers are going forward to the President and hopefully the BOR. Important note: if you are going forward for review next year, please get started on the process.

 On the horizon for the coming year is preparation of the Academic Program Review, scheduled for February 2015. The report will be due to the review team before the 2014 holidays. The review is part of the accreditation by SACS and is a standard review of curriculum, research and extension. A committee was appointed – Mort Kothmann, Tom Boutton, and Robert Lyons will provide administrative support. The committee members are Urs Kreuter, David Briske, Forrest Fleischman, Carol Loopstra, Jason Vogel, Sorin Popescu, Marian Eriksson, Fred Smeins, Bob Knight, Barron Rector, and Jim Ansley.  The group will be electing an internal Chair.

 Dr. David Briske was presented with his 35 years of service pin, and congratulated for his recent national award.

 It seemed like as soon as the conference was over we were in a rush to prepare for the first day of class.  I took the opportunity to visit with the Howard Buffett Foundation about potential opportunities for collaboration as we move forward.  I also started my year as President of Crop Science Society of America with a trip to Madison to meet with our National Headquarters staff and to kick off my first CSSA board meeting.  As president of Gamma Sigma Delta we met to plan for the induction of this year’s honorees and to make sure we get the word to everyone.  If you have not talked with your graduate students about this opportunity please do so.  Heather has the information on awards that are available through Gamma Sigma Delta as well as the initiation process.

 With the departmental review with administration on January 27, the staff and I were very busy preparing the supporting information.  There are so many great things happening in the department including the quality of our students increasing, student numbers on an upward trend at both undergraduate and graduate levels, extension making a difference with producers success and exciting research findings.  It has been fun to represent ESSM at these reviews.

 I just want to take the opportunity to thank Dr. Shaw for getting this semester’s seminars off to a great start.  The discussion has been lively and the topics professionally presented while taking on controversial issues.  If you have not attended you have really missed out, but more opportunities are coming every Tuesday at 4:00pm in HFSC.  I hope you take the opportunity to participate and bring your grad students and invite our future grad students.

 I will be off to SRM this weekend and look forward to seeing you at the meetings.  Don’t forget to bring our former students to the mixer on Tuesday evening in the Grand Sierra I, at the Caribe Royale Hotel. 

 It is great to be in the interview process.  I appreciate all of the participation and effort to get them organized and carried out.  The future of the department looks bright!

 Happy New Year!