In 2020, following Covid-19, Scott Burris, Ph.D., chair for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, and his team implemented three value statements that would go on to shape the department into what it is now. The values served as a road map for navigating the unusual and trying time that they would soon face. Go Beyond, Invest in Others, and Create a Collaborative Culture are demonstrated daily amongst the students and faculty.
Ginger Orton, a doctoral student in agricultural communications, from Tazewell, Georgia, has been able to experience faculty going beyond for her. She credits the faculty for the opportunities she has been given while at Texas Tech.
“It takes real people to make an excellent student experience,” Orton said.
Because of the passing of a relative in her family, Orton had to go back to Georgia while still upholding her academic responsibilities. However, with the assistance of the faculty in the department, Orton was able to maintain a 4.0 GPA and stay on top of her studies and graduate research.
“Everyone made sure to communicate clearly that I just needed to be a person for a while and really took the opportunity to extend a human hand,” Orton said.
The amount of understanding she received from her professors was phenomenal and they were one of the main reasons she was able to successfully handle her circumstances.
It takes real people to make an excellent student experience.Ginger Orton
“If they hadn’t been so flexible, I probably would have needed to drop the program,” Orton said.
It is times like Orton’s which demonstrate the impact the faculty has on the students within this department. The need and want to go beyond enables students and faculty to further execute excellence.
Orton said Courtney Meyers, Ph.D., professor, and graduate studies coordinator, has truly gone above and beyond to help her succeed. Last year, amid the tough times in her personal life, Meyers nominated Orton for a Raider Who Rocks Above and Beyond award. The award recognizes student success and exemplifies her areas of strength.
Orton said the department values could not be clearer to her.
“The department values, to me, really just create a culture of people who care about each other’s success and care about student success,” Orton said.
Invest in People
Jason Headrick, assistant professor of leadership and community development in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, ensures students are invested in. During the transition and strategic planning period for the department’s values, Headrick said he knew the values chosen were going to be impactful and set the department up for success.
Headrick goes further to invest not only in his colleagues but in his students as well.
“When we invest in our students, we’re eventually investing in communities,” Headrick said.
By demonstrating these values on an everyday basis, Headrick said he strives to form connections and a community for those he interacts with.
With the recent development of a new program, the Civic Leadership Academy, Headrick said he aims to create industry leaders and instill the importance of civic leadership within the twelve students selected to be in the program.
“People are looking for community because it’s not really been something that maybe they’ve had access to over the past few years,” Headrick said.
By creating the Civic Leadership Academy, Headrick said he has created a community for students to grow and learn in.
“The Civic Leadership Academy to me is probably one of the better ways that I’ve been able to give back to others,” Headrick said.
Although the group is small, Headrick knows the ripple effect they will have on their communities will be substantial.
By having members as willing and involved as Headrick, the department demonstrates that students are valued and cared for. Not only do the faculty go out of their way to invest in student success, but they also invest in each other.
Create a Collaborative Culture
Creating a collaborative culture is something the faculty in the department go out of their way to exemplify, said Erica Irlbeck, Ed.D., professor in agricultural communications. She said Burris, the department chair, creates an atmosphere where faculty are constantly able to seek collaboration along with being encouraged to be transparent with students and each other.
Irlbeck had the opportunity to experience this culture first-hand. With the passion to write an educational textbook, permission was granted for Irlbeck to take a faculty development leave and take the semester off in fall 2021. From advising sessions to teaching classes, Irlbeck’s colleagues were ready to take on her responsibilities and made her return to campus an easy transition.
“A lot of people took a lot of the heat off of me,” Irlbeck said.
This experience was able to demonstrate the culture of the department from a different perspective and shows the value of the collaborative culture the faculty has developed.
“Everyone here is willing to work hard and go beyond so someone else can get an award, so someone else can achieve a goal, so someone else can have an accomplishment,” Burris said.
Implementing the department values is something that changed the department for the better. Burris said it was able to give a name to the strengths of the department, shed light to what is important to the faculty and provide a visual representation of what the department strives to instill within its students. The three department values, Go Beyond, Invest in People and Create a Collaborate Culture add another piece of identity to the department and Davis College as a whole.
“We don’t settle for the minimum,” Burris said, “and I think our values show that.”