Since the day the offer was accepted to join the Texas Tech University agricultural communications faculty, Cindy Akers, Ed.D., has continued to shape the Davis College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources into what it is today, through the culture of the college, her drive for leadership and putting students first.
Department of Agricultural Education and Communication Chairman, Scott Burris, Ph.D., has known Akers since the beginning of her journey at Texas Tech. Burris said Akers creates an atmosphere for individuals around her to thrive and be successful.
As a first-generation college student, Akers said opportunities continued to present themselves as she developed a passion for education. After judging livestock at Clarendon College in Clarendon, Texas, Akers said she studied interdisciplinary agriculture with an emphasis in agricultural communications at Texas Tech. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, she went to work for the agricultural industry and then returned to Tech to receive her master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural education.
Akers said, little did she know, her passion for Tech would shape the rest of her professional career.
“The department chair at the time hired me to be an instructor,” Akers said. “… I never dreamed I’d be as fortunate to love the job I have, as much as I do.”
Davis College Culture
Aiming high for success, the Davis College strives to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for its faculty, staff and students. Since 1997, Burris said, Akers has been molding the college into what it is today. She has been able to impact countless lives through her roles held on campus and has gone above and beyond to drive the college toward success.
“She describes the Davis college as a “high touch” experience for students who come here,” Burris said. “We are highly engaged where we are. We’re in your business and concerned about you.”
Marvin Cepica, Ph.D., served Davis College for 30 years in several leadership roles. Until retiring from the dean of the college in 2007, Cepica said he had the opportunity to watch Akers grow from an undergraduate student to a tenured faculty member.
Cepica said he watched her develop the culture of the college and push it towards elevating excellence.
“Her personality allows the freedom of expression and that helps people work together in a positive manner toward common goals,” Cepica said.
Akers not only strives to excel personally but professionally through demonstrating the value of hard work. Cepica said her kind personality and deep care for the success of others represent the core values the Davis College is known for.
Lindsay Kennedy, Ph.D., an assistant professor of practice for agricultural education and communications, studied under Akers as a graduate student and has witnessed the difference she can make in people’s lives
“She is a genuine, authentic person who deeply cares for her students and the people around her,” Kennedy said. “Her approach to teaching, advising and mentoring students has certainly infiltrated the culture of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications and the Davis College.”
Drive for Leadership
Akers’ leadership style allows those around her to succeed at a higher level, Burris said. Helping people succeed is at the top of her priority list.
“Someday a history book will consider her as one of the most influential developmental faculty members in the discipline of agricultural communications,” Burris said. “I do not know of anyone more loyal to their institution than Dr. Akers.”
Akers said she leads with intention and will settle for nothing short of excellence. Students, staff and faculty are at the forefront of her mind in decision making regarding the college and creating opportunities for success.
“It’s my job to speak for the students, faculty members and for our industry, I’m not doing my job if I’m not speaking on their behalf,” Akers said. “Because if I don’t, who is?”
Cepica said her drive to lead the college and exceed expectations has been clear from the beginning of her journey at Texas Tech.
“She developed from an aspiring young person listening, observing and moving from being a follower to the leader,” Cepica said.
David Doerfert Ph.D., professor for agricultural education and communications, said Akers was part of the reason Texas Tech became the number one agricultural communications program in the country. From being a student, to professor then active in the dean’s office, Doerfert said her leadership has shown nothing but growth for the college.
“…Her research and emotional intelligence are leading the nation as far as looking at it from the agricultural communications perspective,” Doerfert said. “The opportunity to serve as interim dean has given her the opportunity to continue building collaborations and relationships which are needed to make things happen.”
Putting Students First
When you ask someone the qualities of Akers, putting students first will always be at the top of the list. Doerfert said being student-oriented is who she is, and it transcends way beyond Texas Tech. As she is a mentor, supporter and advocate for every student who walks through the doors of the Davis College, she stays true to her values and beliefs while welcoming all students.
“…Cindy Akers serves as a model that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, or ethnicity or any of that,” Doerfert said. “You can be successful here.”
Throughout her time at Texas Tech, Akers said she found her passion for student success, and it has only developed further.
“I find joy in helping students,” Akers said.
When she was in college, her professors put their faith and trust into her, which showcased her potential. Akers said she realized she could do more than she believed because of the encouragement others gave her during school.
“Others encouraged me to do it and I did, I hope to be that and that is what drives me every day,” Akers said. “That is why I wanted to come back and do this.”
She truly values others and is committed to watching the students in the Davis College grow into well-rounded, experienced and successful individuals. Burris said Akers genuinely cares about those around her and the students and takes it into consideration with every decision she makes.
“Her focus on student engagement has become a defining characteristic of this college,” Burris said.
Akers now serves as interim dean for the newly named Davis College and continues her focus on positively influencing the culture of the college, displaying strong leadership and always putting students first.
“I love Texas Tech,” Akers said. “I cannot help but bleed red and black.”