Doerfert pushes students, colleagues to succeed
Wisconsin native, David Doerfert, Ph.D., grew up working on his family’s dairy farm. Early mornings, late nights and chores requiring completion are what instilled a drive and work ethic in Doerfert.
For years, he was up before the break of dawn tending to chores on the farm, which taught him the value of resiliency and determination.
Before joining the faculty in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University, Doerfert, a first-generation student, earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and his master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural education from The Ohio State University.
Doerfert entered the industry as a high school agricultural education instructor and FFA advisor.
“It was in this role I found my passion for communications,” Doerfert said. “I implemented activities such as photography, layout and design, and creative thinking in my classroom.”
Doerfert decided to turn his passion into his purpose which led him to Texas Tech for the first time in 1989. After spending a year and a half away from his fiancé at Texas Tech, he returned to Wisconsin to be with her. During this time, Doerfert served on faculty at Iowa State University, and for four years he served as a development officer for the National FFA Foundation as well as the publisher of the FFA magazine, New Horizons.
Fast forward to 2002, former AEC professor and department chair, Steve Fraze, Ph.D., ran into Doerfert in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the National FFA Center and convinced him to come back to Texas Tech. Doerfert returned to Lubbock and joined the three agricultural communications faculty members in the department.
Pushing for Success
For the next 13 years, Doerfert had the opportunity to influence countless students and colleagues with his forward-thinking and witty personality.
Former agricultural communications student, Missi Currier, Ph.D., said Doerfert always set high standards and pushed his students, colleagues and the department to embrace growth.
“He was tough when he needed to be tough, he was a mentor when he needed to be a mentor, and he was a friend when he needed to be a friend,” Currier said. “He never gave up on me.”
Currier, who received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural communications at Texas Tech, worked under Doerfert during her doctorate program. She said he is an all-around, one-of-a-kind mentor who always pushes students to succeed.
“While his high standards sometimes seem incredibly difficult to achieve, just know he does everything in his power to ensure that you not only achieve them but exceed them as well,” Currier said. “I can 100% confidently say that had it not been for Dr. Doerfert, I would have not gotten through my Ph.D. program.”
Currier said his authenticity leaves a mark on everyone and his determination to make everyone better has a lasting influence.
Cindy Akers, Ed.D., College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources acting dean and associate dean for academic and student programs, has worked with Doerfert since her time as an undergraduate student in agricultural communications at Texas Tech.
“He is definitely somebody I look up to and am proud to say he is a faculty member, mentor and friend,” Akers said.
Akers said Doerfert is a visionary and pushes everyone to think beyond the obvious.
“I absolutely love having him on a team because he makes you think bigger than what anybody can think on their own,” Akers said. “He never hesitates to ask those hard questions, but he asks them with respect.”
A student-turned-colleague, Erica Irlbeck, Ed.D., a professor in agricultural communications at Texas Tech, is thankful to call Doerfert a friend and fellow co-worker. She described Doerfert as a visionary.
“He always says, ‘If we don’t push ourselves, we’re never going to grow, and we’re never going to expand and be better,’” Irlbeck said. “The department and the university are better because of him, and beyond the department, he has had a big influence on Texas Tech.”
Returning to the AEC Department
Since 2016, Doerfert has served as the associate dean of the Texas Tech University Graduate School, while maintaining a part-time appointment in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications. In the fall of 2021, he will transition back into the classroom and rejoin the agricultural communications faculty full-time.
Doerfert said he has missed the interactions with students.
“People are gathered before class, they’re hanging out, and there are very fun conversations to hear,” Doerfert said. “It’s different in the hallway.”
He said he is excited to get back into the department to work with students. Seeing several of the current agricultural communications faculty that were once students of his makes him proud.
“I mean, it’s those kinds of things that are the cool moments, the cool memories,” Doerfert said. “It’s not the awards. It’s those moments when I see someone successful because maybe I had a little bit to do with it. That’s my reward. That’s the thing that makes me happy.”