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Agricultural Communications

Mentally Tough, Not your Average Department Head

From training and competing in Ironman races, to a new position right before a global pandemic, you could say Scott Burris, Ph.D., is physically and mentally tough. 

Burris, who became chairman of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University in January 2020, is a product of this department; he was an agriculture education major and graduated under one of his long-time mentors, the late Paul Vaughn, Ph.D. Burris accredits a lot of where he is today to his late department head.

Burris and two of his training buddies after finishing a race.

“He stayed on me and stayed on me,” Burris said. “Without Paul Vaughn, I would not have gone to graduate school, and there’s no way I would be where I am today.”

Burris said he has learned a lot from past department heads who have been mentors. He said he is thankful for the guidance and leadership from not only Vaughn, but also Matt Baker, Ph.D., and Steve Fraze, Ph.D., who have all been influential in his education and career in academia. 

However, Burris has an experience that not many people, let alone college department heads, can say —  he has finished 13 Ironman races. Though this a physical challenge, it truly highlights his mental strength.  

“Whether it’s in life, work or an Ironman, no one ever has had a great time the whole time,” Burris said. “You get to a point to where you think you can’t handle it anymore and you want to quit. However, that’s not an option.”

Dr. Burris said that you have to know bad times are inevitable, but it is how you handle these situations that really matter. 

“Quitting is unacceptable and is not allowed,” said Burris, quoting his favorite book Toughness by Jay Bilas from his phone notes.

“Not only does this help me when I’m racing an Ironman, this defines my life,” Burris said. “That is the basic rule right there. If you believe that quitting is no longer an option, that eliminates a whole lot of things that are no longer realistic for you. Then you can focus on the choices that are more important.”

Burris and his daughter after an IronMan race that finished on the 50-yard line of the Texas Tech Football field

Burris often references his running notes page of quotes from the book Toughness, by Jay Bilas, to help him push through as he started his role as AEC chair and while guiding the department through a pandemic. 

“I’ve only been doing this for two months,” Burris said. “This is all new, and no one has ever done this before, so who knows if I’m doing a good job.”

Courtney Meyers, Ph.D., professor and graduate coordinator for the agricultural education and communications department, has worked closely with Burris and said she has enjoyed working for and alongside Burris during his transition to department head. 

Meyers said she admires his lead by example leadership.

“One thing I love about Dr. Burris is that he is so open with his communication and he shows genuine interest in everything we do,” Meyers said. “Dr. Burris always asks, ‘What do you need from me?’ and just knowing that if I really did need something, I have someone to go to.”

Meyers praised Burris for being accessible during the COVID-19 crisis and the university’s transition to online courses during the spring 2020 semester. 

“Once a week Dr. Burris has virtual coffee,” Meyers said. “There’s no agenda. It’s just a check-in period to ask questions, see everyone and it really makes us realize that we do miss all being in the same building and being around one another.”

Burris said his colleagues within the AEC department make his job easy.

“I’m on a really good team,” Burris said. “So that changes everything, and I feel honored just to get to play a role on it.” 

Burris believes the AEC students, faculty and staff will all be better following the pandemic because of the way everyone has united to navigate the challenges.

“Eventually this pandemic will end, but we will never go back to the way things were,” Burris said. “Our students are being forced into being self-directed learners, and because of that our students will be better in the future.”

Scott Burris, Ph.D., and his family after his very first IronMan race.

Unleashing Creativity

  • Reinventing Goodwill purchases with fashionable paint and horse-shaped sponges was the norm for Andrea Glenn in college. Glenn, owner of The Rusty Rose, a southern boutique, always found unique ways to channel her creativity into crafty creations, but she never thought she would carry her creativity into starting her own business.

Reinventing Goodwill purchases with fashionable paint and horse-shaped sponges was the norm for Andrea Glenn in college. Glenn, the owner of The Rusty Rose, a southern boutique, always found unique ways to channel her creativity into crafty creations, but she never thought she would carry her creativity into starting her own business. What started as weekend sales at home shows, rodeos and festivals, transformed into a successful long-term career.

Andrea Glenn is proud of her boutique.
Andrea Glenn takes pride in her big, small business.

Glenn, residing in Plainview, Texas, worked for a local chemical company where she gained valuable field experience in corporate sales before establishing her business in 2010.

“I’m one of those people that I think you just have to get out and get experience,” Glenn said. “Real world experience is important.”

Glenn graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech in 2007. She says the skills she learned through the degree program gave her an advantage in establishing a strong brand for her business. Although technology evolves, Glenn said key skills such as photography, videography, website design, writing and marketing all remain extremely relevant to her business today.

“I think I definitely had an up because of my degree.”

Andrea Glenn
Photo of Andrea Glenn in front of Forbes Magazine Banner.
Andrea Glenn continues to build The Rusty Rose’s online presence after receiving the Best Paid Marketing Award from Forbes Magazine.

“I think I definitely had an up because of my degree and the classes I took as opposed to somebody that hadn’t,” Glenn said. “There was a lot [of skills] we learned I could really apply and use.”

Glenn said she utilizes the skills she learned from her degree to maintain her website and social media pages. She uses her own equipment to capture photos and update her online platforms to help increase her audience base.

Glenn stressed the importance of marketing. She said it is vital to portraying her brand to her audience members. Glenn’s successful marketing efforts have allowed her business to be featured in magazines.

In 2017, The Rusty Rose was recognized by Forbes Magazine as the winner for Best Paid Marketing. Glenn was recognized for her innovative marketing tactics that used paid and free marketing tools to successfully brand The Rusty Rose with a big online presence.

Glenn’s boutique was also recognized in the 2017 Western Runway Magazine for being a trendsetting business. The Rusty Rose was featured in the international list of the 20 Best of the West Boutiques. 

Glenn said she thinks the agricultural communications degree is extremely versatile and provides a wide variety of avenues to pursue.

“With agricultural communications, there’s a lot of different places that you can go and jobs you can get,” Glenn said. “It’s amazing how many people I meet that have like an ag degree and they may be doing something different, kind of like me.”

Street’s Light: Recognizing Alumnus Barry Street’s Undeniable Gift of Serving

Barry Street Portrait Outside

It is said that everyone has a gift. Whether it be a physical talent, mental strength or distinct expertise, there is something special planted in every person.

Agriculture’s Seed

Barry Street, a 1979 graduate of Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, spent countless hours working on the family farm growing up.

His background in agriculture paved the way to where he is today and the impact he is making within the Texas Tech and West Texas communities. 

Street quickly learned the value and importance of hard work and family. By the age of 11, he was driving tractors and setting irrigation pipe.

“There were seven of us—mom and dad, and there were two boys and three girls,” Street said. “We lived in a little three-bedroom house. It was busy.”

Street recalls the long days of working with his older brother, Trent Street.

“I’m sure if Dad were here, he would say, ‘Well now, did you boys really work that hard?’” Street said. “We felt like we did. I mean we left early in the morning, and we came in late.”

Even though their parents never went to college, Street said he and Trent always knew they wanted to attend college.

“We started saving money for a college education, and I really don’t know how that got instilled into us because my mom and dad, neither one got to go to college,” Street said. “They both graduated there in Kress. But we kind of had that instilled in us somehow or another.”

“I serve because of what this university has done for me.”

Barry Street

Street decided to attend Texas Tech, where he studied agricultural economics with plans to become a banker.

“There was no intention of going back to the farm,” he said. “And of course, those plans changed when I met my future wife.”

SuDe Street, a 1979 graduate from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and Street were both members of the Block and Bridle Club, a student organization within CASNR.

“My wife came to Tech from Fort Worth to be a small animal vet,” Street said. “She and I met during the Little International [Showmanship Contest], an event put on by Block and Bridle.

“I won the showmanship in the pig show and got a trophy,” Street said. “SuDe asked, ‘Can I borrow your trophy?’ She had her picture made with the trophy and her pig. Anyway, that’s how that started.”

Street said SuDe had always wanted to live on a farm.

“I thought, ‘Well, you know, this is the girl that I’m going to marry,’” he said. “‘If she wants to live on a farm, I know how to farm.’ So I blame her for us going back to the farm.”

They moved to the Street family farm in Kress, Texas, and eventually purchased a cotton ginning facility in 1988.

Texas Tech’s Deep Roots

While Street continues to farm and run Street Community Gin, his passion for Texas Tech has never faded. He serves in several leadership roles in the Texas Tech community and selflessly gives back to the university.

“I love this university,” Street said. “Some people do stuff because they want something in return, but I don’t expect anything back. I serve because of what this university has done for me. Heck, if it hadn’t of been for Texas Tech, I’d never have met my wife, and I probably wouldn’t be back farming.”

The Streets have three children who also graduated from Tech. CassiDe Street, Ph.D., the youngest of the siblings, said her dad’s hark work ethic and dedication goes back to his parents, her grandparents.

“I mean, hard work was just instilled in him, that’s it,” CassiDe said.

CassiDe said she admires many of her dad’s qualities.

“I love his giving nature, his hardworking attitude and his kindness,” she said with tears welling up in her eyes. “He is consistently giving. He believes Texas Tech helped him out so much.”

CassiDe currently works for Texas Tech as the section manager for the Human Research Protection Program and credits her dad for inspiring her career path.

“My research area is in recruitment and retention,” she said. “I think my dad’s giving nature is the reason I went into that research area. There are kids out there that want to go to college, but they don’t have the resources or the means to.

“Because of my dad, I want to make sure that these kids know how to go to college, they know the financial plan, and they know how to navigate college once they get there.”

Street and SuDe established an endowed scholarship in 2013, available to students of all majors within CASNR.

“This is their way of not only helping Texas Tech,” CassiDe said, “but also, incoming students. My dad knows how hard it is to get to college. He knows everybody’s got challenges to get to college, so if he could make it easier for somebody to get to college, he’s going to do it.”

Street said his love for the university and for serving grows as he gets older.

“That love continues to grow, especially being involved in organizations like [the Texas Tech Alumni Association],” he said. “I get to meet graduates from all over the United States who I would have never met before. There are some really neat people who have gone to this university.” 

Street currently serves as the past chair of the Texas Tech Alumni Association National Board of Directors. He has been on the board since 2009, serving in many different roles.

“Barry is a servant leader,” Curt Langford, CEO and president of the TTAA, said. “He has been a tremendous asset to our association. His humility and genuine love for God, his family and his alma mater are very inspiring.”

Street’s Undeniable Gift

Street continues to make an impact in the Texas Tech and West Texas communities. But he also leaves an impression on everyone he meets.

“I will always think back fondly of my first year on the job with Barry on the board,” Langford said. “Barry’s support, wisdom and constant willingness to help were very encouraging. Not only would he help the association navigate challenges, he inspired others to do the same.”

Langford said he was looking to purchase pumpkins in October to decorate the entrances of the Texas Tech McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center. He reached out to Street in search of a local contact in Floydada selling pumpkins.

Street’s response to Langford was, “Let me work on it.”

“That’s a common response from Barry,” Langford said. “Early on, I didn’t fully grasp what that meant. I’m thinking he’ll simply get me a name of somebody to contact.”

When Langford followed up a couple of days later, Street’s reply was, “It’s taken care of.”

“I go to work the next day, and Barry had purchased a pickup-load of pumpkins and had already arranged them at each of the three alumni center entrances. That’s an example of Barry’s servant leadership.”

CassiDe said her dad’s welcoming spirit and determination are inspiring to her and everyone he meets.

“Whatever my dad does, he’s going to be the best at it,” CassiDe said. “He’s going to go 110% and give it his all. That applies to helping people in any way possible. If someone is in need, he’s going to give everything he can to support them.”

Street claims he does not have a gift.

“But maybe that’s the gift God gave me,” he said, “just to know how to go out and work and put in a long day.”

All Roads Lead Back to West Texas

Fenton and her three kids
Fenton’s 9-year-old daughter, Ella Jane, enjoys gymnastics and robotics; her 8-year-old son, Hays, enjoys being a cowboy, baseball and cub scouts; and Lane, Fenton’s two-year old daughter, enjoys making noise and running around the house.

A recent high school graduate from a rural West Texas town stepped onto the Texas Tech University campus in fall of 2000 – the turn of a new century. She knew three things: she loved agriculture, she enjoyed politics, and she had absolutely no idea what she wanted to be when she “grew up.” Yet, there she stood, meeting with her academic adviser, “all grown up.” 

The Beginning

Carmen Fenton, of Amarillo, grew up around agriculture in White Deer, Texas. Fenton was an area FFA officer and was highly involved in extracurricular actives. After graduating high school, she was uncertain about studying agricultural communications at Texas Tech University.  

“To be honest, I wasn’t really that jazzed about going into agriculture,” Fenton said. “I felt like it was all I had ever done.”

While Fenton was uncertain about studying agricultural communications, Cindy Akers, Fenton’s adviser, eased her uncertainty. 

“When I got to Tech and started digging into ag com,” Fenton said, “I realized this is something I could make a career out of.”

During Fenton’s senior year, ambition turned into opportunity. While she enjoyed agricultural communications, she still had a passion for policy and was eager to pursue her interest. Akers recommended she apply for the congressional internship through Texas Tech.

“I have always loved politics,” said Fenton. “The congressional internship program at Tech really just married the best of both worlds for me.” 

Four Congressmen 

After completing her internship under Congressman Randy Neugebauer and graduating from Texas Tech in December 2004, Fenton continued her time in Washington, D.C., where he was hired on to work in Congressman John Carter’s office as his staff assistant and later his scheduler.

After three years in Carter’s office, Fenton moved to the Oklahoma delegation to work for Congressman Tom Cole as his press secretary. At the time, Cole was chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. 

Fenton’s time with Cole was short lived when Carter offered Fenton a job as his communications director. 

It was an offer Fenton could not turn down, so she went back to work for Carter, and stayed there three years. In 2008, she decided to take a small step back from policy and move to Austin, Texas, where she worked for Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association doing public affairs until 2013. 

By this time, Fenton was married, had two children and her husband was in law school. Together, she and her husband, Jason, decided it was time to move closer to home. 

 “After moving back to Amarillo, I went to work for Mac Thornberry,” Fenton said. “That was the fourth U.S. congressman I worked for.”

After two years in Thornberry’s office, the director of communications position at Texas Cattle Feeders Association opened.

“The job was a good fit, and I have been there ever since,” Fenton said. “It’s been quite a ride.”

Back to West Texas

Ross Wilson, TCFA CEO, said he knew Fenton from her time working for Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association as head of their communications in Austin. Wilson admired Fenton’s great work ethic and the energy she brought to the table. 

“I can truly say there is no other profession I would want to dedicate my life’s work to.” 

Carmen Fenton

“We did our best to keep up with Carmen after she moved back to Amarillo,” Wilson said. “When Carmen was ready to get back into a full-time career, we had an opening, and we were exited to hire her on.”

TCFA represents the cattle feeding industry in three states: Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. As the largest cattle feeding region in the country, TCFA producers market more than 6 million cattle each year.

With Fenton’s creativity and eager spirit, she hit the ground running. 

“Since the day I started, until today,” Fenton said. “the nature of the organization has changed drastically.”

Due to the advancement in technology, today’s consumers want to know the exact origin of their food. Naturally, feedyards face some challenges other agriculture organizations may not encounter.

“Typically, when consumers are asking questions about how animals are treated, factory farms, animal antibiotics, etcetera, a lot of those questions are directed at feedyards,” Fenton said. “It’s not always easy to paint that positive picture for consumers.”

It is Fenton’s goal to be transparent with consumers and to talk about how beef is produced modernly and efficiently in feedyards. She said people want to know how their food is raised and it is her job to tell them. 

“I want people to know that what we produce is safe and healthy,” Fenton said. “It’s good for you, it good for me, it’s good for my family, and you should feel good about eating it.”

Fenton and the TCFA team have modified communication efforts at TCFA by developing a more user-friendly website, creating a prominent presence on social media, starting a TCFA blog, and updating all communication platforms to better meet the standards of modern technology. 

Along with the help of TCFA’s communications coordinator, Madeleine Bezner, Fenton is also responsible for developing an annual magazine, designing brochures and other printed media, writing press releases, taking photos, traveling, and helping organize annual events. 

“Carmen contributes many things to TCFA – hard work, loyalty, creativity,” Bezner said, “but most importantly, she contributes a passion for storytelling.” 

One of the greatest challenges of Fenton’s position is developing a working relationship with producers, feedlot workers and TCFA members to develop a consistent, transparent message throughout all communication platforms. 

“Inherently, people in agriculture aren’t very comfortable talking about themselves – they just want to do their job,” Fenton said with a chuckle. “Well, like it or not, it is now part of their job.”

One of Fenton’s favorite parts of her job is drawing back on her previous job experience to bring a level of expertise to the office pertaining to legislation and policy. She said she feels like her position has allowed her to marry all of her interests – beef production, communications and policy. 

“There is nothing else that I would rather do – really,” Carmen said. “I can truly say there is no other profession I would want to dedicate my life’s work to.” 

Out of the Office

When Fenton is out of the office, she can be found at baseball practice, Cub Scout events, gymnastic meets, robotic team meetings and chasing her two-year-old with her husband. While Fenton has a lot going on in her life, she always strives to balance her time between work and family. 

“Ever since I met her, Carmen has really always been ‘Super Mom,’” Wilson said. “I’m happy she came back to West Texas, and I think she is, too.” 

Not so Mainstream, Mainstream Boutique

Empower. Strengthen. Celebrate. These are the powerful words that drew in Kate and her husband, as they began on a new uncharted journey.

Kate Mitchell, a Texas Tech alum, graduated with a bachelor’s in agriculture communications and a master’s in retail & hospitality institutional management. Kate and her husband Michael have two beautiful daughters: 3-year-old Blakely Grace and 12-month-old Elise Faith.

“We just did what we had to do.”

Kate Mitchell

With Michael living in Lubbock almost all of his life, and Kate returning to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech, making the decision to open a business in hub city was an obvious one for these Lubbock locals.

Operating West Texas Lace, LLC, dba Mainstream Boutique, as a locally-owned franchise has allowed the Mitchells to run their business how they see fit while still operating under a proven business model and earning multiple high rankings. Mainstream Boutique is ranked #86 nationally and is #7 in Texas.

The same month the Mitchell’s decided to dive into the entrepreneur experience and had signed all the papers, Kate found out she was pregnant with her second daughter Elise. Although it was an exciting surprise, it created another challenging obstacle to get their business up and off the ground. Kate and her mother Carolyn took on the journey of traveling to Minneapolis, Minnesota, for training when Elise was just 3 months old. The trio spent a week there while Kate attended training seminars during the day, pumped on lunch and coffee breaks, then returned to the hotel at night to join her mother and newborn. It was a lot but having the support of her mother made the educational trip doable and an experience they’ll all remember for a lifetime.

Blakely loves the store as much as her momma.

“By the time Elise was 4 months old she had already flown across the country on 6 different flights. I’ve never felt more angry stares while boarding planes but overall people were nice and accommodating to us. We just did what we had to do,” Kate explained.

Once training was complete, it was time to start the storefront renovations back in Lubbock. Being that Mainstream offers a business model as opposed to a traditional cookie-cutter franchise, Michael and Kate were able to make many of the design choices themselves. Part of that customization process included finding a dream team. Kate chose to post the positions of part-time stylists on Indeed.com, then sorted through the applications, and started hosting interviews. Being that Elise was still too young to join big sister Blakely in their daycare academy, Kate often had to interview the applicants with a baby on her hip. It even turned out that three of the four girls she selected were also pursuing a degree in agriculture communications at Texas Tech University.

The next step in the process was to place orders on materials. Clothing, office supplies, interior/exterior signage, furniture, mannequins, technology equipment, etc. were all part of the supplies list that needed to be paid for and shipped. Once the dozens of boxes began to arrive at the store, then came the endless task of unboxing, steaming, hanging, sizing and tagging. The girls all quickly learned that when matching tags to the clothes, it is best to open the boxes one at a time as opposed to all at once.

“It’s a learning process for all of us!” Kate said.

Attention to detail is very important in the retail business and Kate is hard at work everyday assembling the perfect outfit.

The first couple of days Mainstream was open there was extreme icy weather which had reduced the store’s foot traffic dramatically. After the boutique had quite literally weathered the storm, the number of customers coming into the doors increased phenomenally. Much of that pedestrian success is due to the location in the Hub Shopping Center. The outdoor shopping strip is in a retail center that shares co-tenancy with other like-minded businesses, such as Odds & Ends, Hot Worx, CycleBar, Kadiza Hair Salon, The Lash Lounge, Tea2Go and many more.

In addition to Mainstream’s idyllic location, another essential business resource is the shop’s online presence. The Mainstream’s social media has rapidly grown bigger and bigger since the day that it was created. Setting a goal to reach 1,000 Facebook followers by their first year open, the Lubbock location was able to reach that goal within their first 2 months. In a world where online shopping is extremely popular, a big following and professional online presence is very important. There is a direct link in social media to how a business is able to promote and brings in potential customers.

During this time of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, the online presence has forcibly shifted to Mainstream’s only source of profit. Being that this hit before the shop had been open less than 7 weeks, it was clearly not what Kate and her team had in mind for the store. Michael and Kate are hopeful and positive that business will resume as normal and even possibly boom after this mandated time of closure passes.

Between a new baby, freezing temperatures, and an unforeseeable medical state of emergency, there have been many bumps in the road, to say the least. Kate is a very strong woman who is pursuing her dream. Despite the hard times and difficult situations, the Mitchell family has decided to once again pull-up their bootstraps and muster through the storm. Given their upbeat demeanor and support of the West Texas community, it is likely the business will survive and thrive in the upcoming months ahead.

Kate and her husband Michael, hopeful business will return to normal after this worldwide pandemic is over.

Evan Johnson

Texas Tech University School of Law

Native to the South Plains, Evan Johnson, is a Texas Tech University School of Law student that graduated from the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications. Her roots in agriculture have molded her to focus on water law, which has been dear to her heart from a young age. 

“I met and cultivated relationships with many agriculturists, farmers, and ranchers,” Johnson said. “ I listened to them reflect on their lives of service in agriculture and the successes they realized in addition to the struggles they endured. After months of conversations with these men and women, I realized the importance and need that existed to represent and communicate the mission of these producers.”

The agricultural communications degree offers a diverse way of giving a hands-on experience. 

“Agricultural communications allowed me to develop many skills, such as writing, design, photography, and a general sense of professionalism that I have implemented in my professional journey,” Johnson said. “The professors in agricultural communications truly care about their students, and I think that makes a huge difference when you are receiving an education and striving for success.”

Johnson said when deciding where to study law, it was easy for her to make the decision to go to Texas Tech Law with it being her number one option. 

Evan Johnson is proud of the school she represents.

“Tech Law puts students first and teaches the practical skills that make good lawyers. In addition, I remain passionate about agriculture and the culture of West Texas; I hope to remain here and serve the people of the area.”

She encourages students to get involved and to voice future goals and dreams to professors. 

“You should work hard now, listen to your agcomm professors, and talk to them about your aspirations because they want you to succeed,” Johnson said. “Law school is hard, but it is worth it and so are you.”

Bret-Leigh Nance

Texas A&M University School of Law

Student athlete Bret-Leigh Nance represents Texas Tech University.

Texas Tech University track and field athlete Bret-Leigh Nance is running the race for success. The agricultural communication student has run track at Texas Tech for four years. Her passion for agriculture has pushed her to become a lawyer. She will attend Texas A&M University School of Law in May after graduating from Texas Tech with a Bachelor’s of Science in Agricultural Communications. 

 “I want to study law so that I can help my community. I come from a rural community that is often affected by rules and regulations often made by people who do not understand agriculture,” Nance said. “I hope to one day help to create policy that will help and not harm agriculture.”

Nance gives credit to her parents for pushing her to be her best.

 “My parents have been the biggest influence, they always told me education comes first and that if you work hard enough you can do anything.” Nance said. 

Nance stays busy on campus with her studies and participating as a Texas Tech athlete. 

“Track has helped me by not only providing me all the resources I need to succeed but has also taught me valuable life skills such as time management, teamwork and resilience.”

She encourages first-year students to get involved with organizations at Texas Tech.

“The connections you make are just as valuable as the education you obtain,” Nance said. “Try to build your network as large as you can.”

She is excited about her future and what she can do to give back to people in Texas. 

“After law school, I plan to move back the Hill Country and eventually open up my own practice around Fredericksburg, Texas,” Nance said. “Later in life, I would like to run for Texas agcommissioner so I can help even more people.”

Bret-Leigh is proud of her accomplishments she has earned over the last four years.

Passing Down the Robe: Legacy, Family and Law

Carruth Portrait
Ann-Marie Carruth wears the judicial robe her father once wore when he was a judge.

I

n the middle of a burglary trial in a small West Texas town, the 19-year-old defendant is asked by the district attorney if he was in town the night the crime occurred. On the front row of the courtroom, invested but not attached to the case, sat a local attorney and his young daughter. When the defendant responded, ‘No,’ the girl stood up and in a loud, confident manner said, ‘He’s lying!’”

Judge Ann-Marie Carruth said she always knew she wanted to pursue a legal career. After graduating from Texas Tech University in 2004 with a degree in agricultural communications, she attended Texas Tech School of Law.

Carruth said the speaking, research and writing skills she developed through FFA and the agricultural communications curriculum prepared her for her journey to becoming a judge. She said the support system at Texas Tech provided a great foundation for law school and her career.

“If I told someone that I wanted to go to law school or this was my career path and these are my goals, I was just always encouraged by everyone,” Carruth said. “Someone would find a way for me to do an internship that I wanted to do or locate a mentor for me to talk to.”

Although Carruth may not have chosen a traditional agricultural path after graduation, she said she is proud of her agricultural roots and the opportunities and skills it provided her.

“There was something about growing up in a small agricultural community that defined who I was,” Carruth said. “The work ethic, the caring for others, being responsible for others in the community in the sense of stewardship, I just don’t think you can get that anywhere else.”

Carruth said although agriculture helped prepare her for a legal career, it was her parents, Sam and Sylvia Saleh, that were the biggest influence in her life. Her parents were both in the legal profession and owned their own law office. Her father was a judge twice; once as a special district judge and then as a constitutional county judge.

Carruth said she spent much of her childhood at the law office from the day she was born.

“I was born in Lubbock, and whenever my parents drove back to Lamesa with me in the car headed home from the hospital, we went straight back to their law office,” Carruth said.

I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.

Carruth said it was her time spent at the law office, seeing steady streams of her father’s clients come in and out, that helped her discover her desire to give back to the community by helping those in need. She said it was this passion that gave her the motivation to overcome any difficulties she faced in law school.

“I don’t think I could have had any better role models because I really just got to experience it firsthand,” Carruth said. “It wasn’t something that I thought about in theory or hypothetically. I saw it every day, and I knew it was something that I wanted to do.”

Carruth’s mother, Sylvia, said when she was young, she would crawl down the long hallway in the office when a client would come in. As she got older, she would help file documents at the courthouse and eventually help answer the office phone. But like any good aspiring attorney, she had a few questions first.

“She wanted to know how long did she have to work, how many days that was going to be, and she wanted to be paid in cash,” Sylvia said.

stephens_courtroom
Ann-Marie Carruth wears the judicial
robe her father once wore when he was
a judge. Image courtesy of Ann-Marie Carruth.

Carruth’s father, Sam, agreed her involvement in the law office at such a young age helped her realize the impact she could make with a legal career.

“She saw that people came in with big, big problems with a frown on their face, and when they left, they had a smile on their face because we were able to help them,” Sam said. “And I think that has influenced her tremendously seeing what lawyers can do to actually help people.”

That young girl in the front row of the burglary trial, Sam said, demanded the defendant tell the truth is still trying to help everyone reach the best solution to their problems, which Carruth said is her favorite part about being a judge. She said she still pays an homage to her parents and the impact they had on her career by wearing the judicial robe her father once wore when he was a judge.

“When I got sworn in four years ago, I asked if I could wear his robe. So I had it tailored. It was a little bit too long, so I had it shortened and taken up just a bit, but I get to wear his robe,” Carruth said with a smile. “It’s something that we share that I love.”

Teaching with Aspiration

Dr. Li is the first foreign professor in the department of agricultural education and communications. She conducts her own research and teaches scientific communication.
T

he move from China was great, but the opportunity at Texas Tech University was greater. Dr. Nan Li, assistant professor for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, started her teaching and strategic communications research at Texas Tech three years ago. Her research is centered on the study of science, policy, and the public within the realm of agriculture. She is interested in a close focus on valued tendencies and shaping an individual’s thought process of scientific information.

Li’s strong devotion to improving students writing skills is reflected in many aspects of her research. Expanding her knowledge of agriculture to her students at Texas Tech was not an easy feat due to the language barrier, social differences, and the culture shock you experience when making such a significant decision such as moving to the US.

“From an outsider’s perspective and using my experiences as someone who used to struggle with writing and communicating, teaching the students is helpful for them,” Li said.

When I look into my culture and I compare that to what happened here, I want to bring those experiences here and expand their scope.

Along with teaching, Li works closely with graduate student Kimberly Cantrell. The two are collaborating on a research project on the effects of how people perceive food labels and products. Most importantly, specific characteristics of food labels such as colors, terminology, and images. They will interpret their data by the public’s attitudes, perceptions, and purchasing tendencies.

After renovations to the agricultural education and communications building, assistant professor of agricultural communications, Dr. Li, moved into her new office.

Working with Li has made Cantrell realize how there is a lack of communication within the food industry. Cantrell has the opportunity enhance her advocacy through her research with Li.

“With her having not the strongest ag background, it has made me a better advocate,” Cantrell said. “Explaining certain practice topics and issues with her has made me develop a better understanding and has developed both of our knowledge.”

Li possesses an outstanding ability to communicate to students through her past experiences. Li’s students learn from her opportunities and are able to excel outside of her classroom.

Lubbock Landscaping Redefined

W

hat started as a college student trying to earn money on the side has bloomed into West Texas’ oldest premiere provider of landscape design and construction. Tom’s Tree Place has re-defined the meaning of growing a business while holding onto its local roots.

Texas Tech alum and current owner of Tom’s Tree Place, Alex Scarborough, recalls his dad, Tom Scarborough, sharing the story of how the popular landscape-design company began.

“When World War II was over, my dad was headed to Texas A&M to go to forestry school there.” Scarborough said he hitch-hiked and thought he would stop by and see his Navy buddies in Lubbock. He said he got out of the truck and saw his first tumbleweed rolling across the ground.

There was a lack of admission slots due to so many veterans coming back from WWII, so the state of Texas required Texas citizenship to attend any of the universities within the state. Luckily, that did not stop Tom, the southern Mississippi native, from still attending one. 

“His buddies were getting ready to start the semester and they asked him, ‘why don’t you just go to school here?’” Alex said. “So, they went down to the admissions office with him and swore he was from some little town in Texas.” 

While Tom was attending school, he started a tree-spraying business to earn extra cash. It was not until a customer expressed how difficult it was to get in contact him without a place of business that Tom decided to purchase some property in Lubbock, Texas.

“He got a place on West 34th street, way outside of town. He came out here in 1950 and started the business on this location,” Alex said, pointing at the ground. “This is the original.”

Despite the growing popularity of landscape architecture, many people are not aware of the various roles they play. The Lubbock-based landscape design company is making it known that the landscape industry has more to offer than just jobs mowing grass.

Abbie Jones, marketing coordinator of Tom’s Tree Place, said the retail nursery is one of the many services offered by the company. 

“The retail nursery is where people come in and buy plants,” Jones explained. “It’s kind of like the do-it-yourself customers that come and get the fertilizers, garden seeds, and the plants and trees.” 

Jones said there is also the landscape architect sector of the business, where the design aspect comes into play.

“We bid projects out for jobs that are already designed, and we just offer to install them,” Jones said. 

Landscape construction comes with two different aspects: a hardscape division and a softscape division. Jones explained hardscape and softscape are the complete opposites of each other; both are necessary to make a landscape fully functional.

I think that we all think it’s important to give that back to the community.

“The hardscape sector of the business is anything that’s not living.” Jones said. “This would be the concrete pavers, brick walls, and a bunch of grading and drainage. Then we have the softscape side of the business, which is installing all the living products. The trees, the plants, the flowers all go with that.”

Whether their work has been recognized or not, almost everyone in Lubbock has seen a job done by Tom’s Tree Place. From the landscape installation at Texas Tech’s new performance center, to the re-construction of the Dairy Barn, it is hard to believe that there is someone in Lubbock who has not come across a Tom’s Tree Place project.

An often-visited development is the re-design of the Will Rodgers and Soapsuds statue on Texas Tech’s campus.

“The statue’s the same, but it used to be to where you couldn’t walk right up to it,” Jones said. “We redid the hardscape on it, so we poured all the concrete that’s around it.”

An ongoing project Tom’s Tree Place has upheld since 2000 is the maintenance and upkeep of North Overton. 

“When I went to college, students didn’t dare go off in there because it was a scary place to go,” Scarborough said. “We’re really proud with how that’s turned out, it’s changed that whole area of town. It’s just a nice place to live now, well-lit sidewalks, good bus connection, a lot of bicycling. The whole neighborhood is pretty neat.”

Tom’s Tree Place is also responsible for the re-design of the fountain and planting the trees at the Broadway and University Avenue entrance to Texas Tech. Jones, who graduated in 2011 from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications before she worked for Tom’s, said she is most proud of the beautification of the campus. 

“That was just a really cool project to be a part of because Texas Tech is so near and dear to my heart,” Jones said, “and it’s cool to see our stamp around campus and contribution to the beautification of it.”

Not only does Tom’s Tree Place deal with commercial landscape construction, but they are also engaged with the community in a variety of ways. Since 2014, Tom’s Tree Place has hosted an annual Easter egg hunt. This event was created to encourage kids in the neighborhood to have a fun, safe egg hunt.

“The egg hunt is a fun event to get our neighborhood involved with the business,” Jones stated. “I think that we all think it’s important to give that back to the community and the egg hunt is the one that gives back to this actual neighborhood the most.”

When it comes to challenges the company faces, Jones said the biggest one is keeping themselves relevant to the community.

“A challenge is how to keep yourself relevant, but not to the point where you’re only focused on the bottom line,” Jones said, “but you’re also focused on the community and your positive impact on the community.” 

A New Alliance

F

ourteen years ago, seventy men and women gathered in the small town of Muncy, Texas, surely between the cotton fields. On that day, the Texas Alliance of Water Conservation program was implemented.

During this first meeting, nine producers were elected into office by their peers for a program led by producers, for producers. The TAWC had just received the first round of funding a few weeks before, but only after getting producers in the South Plains area interested in the idea for the program.

Rick Kellison, the project director for the TAWC, originally ran a cow/calf operation where he only grazed on drought tolerant forages.

“He had always been concerned with water conservation. When Senator Robert Duncan started writing the grant, it only made sense to bring in Kellison.”

Today,  the idea has grown into something much bigger than just gathering information from a few producers. The program has turned into an outreach and education endeavor that is reaching people all over the world. When the program originally started, it included two counties. In 2014 when TAWC received a second round of funding, allowing it to expand to nine counties all within a 150-mile radius of Lubbock, Texas.

The TAWC team that meets on a monthly basis, has broken up the project into eight sections and has a task leader for each. One of those section includes an outreach and education program led by the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication at Texas Tech University, but is connected to multiple programs in the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources.

Rudy Ritz is a professor for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech and the Moderator and Outreach Director for the TAWC.

“One of the purposeful tasks from the origination of the project was to have outreach and education,” Ritz said.  “In this department by default, we know how outreach and education plays that role with the rest of the team.”

The entire TAWC program is based around outreach and education. The program was originally created to inform producers how to adopt innovation and use that innovation for water management.  As the program has grown, it has started reaching the consumers as well.

Six years ago, the TAWC held a four week conference for 25 producers who showed interest in new technologies for water conservation. At the end of the third week the producers asked if they could go a fifth week, because they were not going to cover all the information they had originally planned.

Once the conference was over, the TAWC realized producers wanted to continue to grow their knowledge more about new technologies for water conservation.  The problem, at the time, was the producers did not have anywhere to go to for the information.

“We have people in academia that don’t really have the opportunity to interact with growers,” Kellison said, “and we have growers that have specific needs that they don’t really know where to go to in academia to get those questions answered.”

Mr. Rick Kellison is the project director
for the TAWC.

The TAWC’s outreach efforts originally started out by having two field days and a field walk. After the five week conference with those 25 producers concluded, the TAWC decided to add an additional outreach program called the TAWC Water College. An annual conference held in Lubbock, Texas every January to help reach more producers and consumers.

“I can stack up a great set of presenters that are all academic, but with that, the growers like to have other growers that have got skin in the game like they do,” Kellison said.  “So if we have growers present and team that up with a scientist to explain the science that is behind a particular technology, it may end in a more positive result.”

Ritz said that the water college has outgrown its original roots. The first year, the water college was held at the Bayer Museum of Science with about 80 attendees. Now the conference is held at the City Bank Coliseum to ensure there is enough room for the over 250 attendees.

With the help of the Water College, the TAWCs idea of outreach and education for producers has grown, and hopefully will continue to grow.

“Hopefully, in the next 10 years we can continue to move forward with the project, Ritz said, “Personally, I want to continue to see the project grow. “There are always going to be those that need to learn more about the importance of agriculture and the need of water for production.”

The Power of a Professor

Dr. Courtney Meyers has been described by her colleagues and students as a highly motivated individual who is passionate about what she does.

“I am a bit of a workhorse,” said Meyers, associate professor and graduate studies coordinator for the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University. “I have a pretty strong work ethic, and I set high expectations for myself and my students.”

Her high expectations have led to a great deal of success. Meyers is a highly decorated faculty member who has received many prestigious awards, including the Texas Tech President’s Excellence in Teaching Award, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s New Teacher Award, and the Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Teaching Award.

Persistent Past

Meyers has touched the lives of many since her arrival as a newly hired faculty member at Texas Tech in 2008. Dr. Cindy Akers, professor and associate dean for academic and student programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, knew Meyers as a master’s student at the University of Arkansas. They have since maintained a friendship as colleagues at Texas Tech.

“When she was first hired I was put as her faculty mentor,” Akers said. “But now I would say we’re just good friends. I respect her and now look to her for advice; the roles have kind of changed.”

Meyers said she is grateful for the relationships made with people she has impacted through her time as a professor, and appreciates their recognition of all the hard work she puts into being the best she can be.

“I never set out to be a teacher so I could win awards,” Meyers said. “But it is empowering to know that I can be the type of teacher that is worthy of that recognition.”

Passionate Present

Dr. Meyers recently received Texas Tech University’s 2018 Integrated Scholar Award. Dr. Scott Burris, professor and interim department chair of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, said being an integrated scholar means the research the professor conducts on their own time is integrated with the lessons they teach in the classroom.

“It’s a pretty big compliment for someone to be recognized for that distinction,” Burris said. “She works really hard, and she makes sure the work is done well.”

Meyers spends much of her time preparing new and exciting ways to engage students in their coursework.

“I often say that teaching is like medicine or law in that we practice at it,” Meyers said. “We are never fully developed as teachers. There are always things we could do a little bit better or a little bit differently.”

Her efforts do not go unnoticed by the students she teaches. Paisley Cooper, a senior agricultural communication major, felt so strongly that Meyers has such a positive impact on the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications she nominated her for an on-campus award in 2017.

“From the first day I met Dr. Meyers as an incoming freshman, I could tell that she dedicated her day-to-day life to help students like myself succeed,” Cooper said. “Dr. Meyers is a critical part of why our agricultural communications program is nationally recognized. Our department owes a lot to her leadership and expertise because it simply doesn’t get any better than her.”

Cooper is one of many students Meyers has had a positive impact on. Meyers said being able to influence the lives of her students makes her excited to see what they can accomplish.

“Perhaps they got a paper back that they did really well on when they didn’t expect to, or they get a job that they didn’t think was possible, but someone along the way encouraged them to do so,” Meyers said with a smile. “That motivates me to get up and come into work every day and do my part to be a positive influence in their life.”

It is empowering to know that I can be the type of teacher that is worthy of that recognition.

Favorable Future

While all the awards Dr. Meyers has received in the past are nothing short of prestigious, her work ethic proves there will be even greater accomplishments in the road ahead for her. Burris said Meyers has helped the department in more ways than he could explain.

“It’s easy to see why she has such a meaningful impact here,” Burris said. “Students like her, love her and enjoy her, but even more than that, they value and respect what they gain from being in her classes. That’s way more important than being liked.”

Respect is a common theme among those who know Meyers personally. Cooper said one of the aspects that makes her so different from other professors is her attention to fine details.

“Dr. Meyers doesn’t skip the little things like learning each student’s name and working to build a relationship with each of us,” Cooper said. “She strives to be more than just a professor, but also a mentor and a helping hand. Dr. Meyers is always looking to improve her teaching tactics and form her lectures and assignments to fit the evolving skill base that is needed in the industry.”

Having taken on the role of both teacher and learner of a new curriculum, Meyers said one of her goals to improve the future of her classes is to make sure they are exciting and compelling. She said if she is bored as a teacher, she knows her students are bored, and that is something she never wants to happen.

“A lot of my time is invested in trying to remain up-to-date on the latest technology, trends, and best practices my students need to know,” Meyers said. “I also need to know what is happening in agriculture and how that can relate to their work.”

Akers said she has enjoyed seeing the growth and development Meyers has made in her professional career.

“I think she always wants to push the envelope and doesn’t want to stick to the status-quo,” Akers said. “She’s always looking to make things better. We have seen a lot of changes because of her competitive nature.”

Meyers said she knows she has a competitive spirit, which has led to so much success in her field of work.

“It’s not that I’m competing against anyone, it’s that I’m competing against the former version of myself,” Meyers said. “I always want to do better. If in that pursuit that I get recognized, that means that the work I put in and the energy spent was worth it all.”

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New Kids on the Block

4 female professors standing in hallway

In 2015, a study published in the Journal of Applied Communications recognized Texas Tech as the No. 1 agricultural communications program in the nation.

The Texas Tech ACOM program faculty took this No. 1 accomplishment as a challenge; how could they continue to produce top-tier graduates while staying up-to-date with the demands of the industry? As a result, they began brainstorming about innovative ways to keep their program on top. Thus, the idea of a “block” structure was born.

Building the Block

The faculty of the ACOM program came together and decided this block structure would be the best way to help transition students from college life into a career. Four ACOM faculty members teach the block: Courtney Meyers, Associate Professor, Erica Irlbeck, Associate Professor, Courtney Gibson, Assistant Professor and Lindsay Kennedy, Instructor.

Modeled after the agricultural education structure, the ACOM block is a unique and innovative learning experience through a combined course structure of four classes that includes campaign development, magazine production, advanced layout and advanced web design.

“The block is a set of four courses that the students have to co-enroll in,” Irlbeck said. “We have integrated our courses to make it feel like the students are communicating for an organization, and we try to make it as true to the industry as possible.”

After working in the agricultural industry for 10 years, Lindsay Kennedy joined the Texas Tech ACOM faculty in September 2015. Kennedy was able to provide her industry experience and perspective into the new course structure as well as an understanding of what employers are looking for in recent graduates.

“We wanted to put students in that real-world environment before they were actually in that environment,” Kennedy said. “When they go through the hiring process, they can speak from experience more-so than just having the basic classes.”

Kennedy said a goal of this course structure is to help students understand the “big picture” concepts and how all these skills can be used when developing strategic, cohesive communications initiatives.

What is the Block

The four ACOM faculty members teach the block, each using their unique skill set and expertise. Each course is meant to complement the others, just as it would be in a work setting environment.

Advanced Design Principles for Agricultural Communications is taught by Dr. Courtney Gibson. This class provides an in-depth examination of design principles and theories, design applications and design topics relevant to the agricultural industry. Students learn how to create effective design pieces for agricultural audiences and further utilize the Adobe Creative Cloud software.

Agricultural Communications Campaigns is taught by Dr. Erica Irlbeck. This course, better known as “campaigns,” covers the principles, practices, and applications of general marketing as it pertains to developing communication campaigns for a company or organization. This is a service-learning course where students work with an actual client to create and implement an integrated marketing campaign.

Convergence is Agricultural Media is taught by Dr. Courtney Meyers. This course is designed to focus on creating a real-world, practical working experience using computer-based electronic production tools to prepare students for a career in agricultural communications.

Development of Agricultural Publications is taught by Kennedy who is a doctoral candidate. This course examines each student’s ability to integrate various skills obtained in previous courses into one product with an emphasis on the computer software applications commonly used in agricultural publishing. To produce The Agriculturist magazine, the course is designed to provide all students the opportunity to have their writing, advertisements, photographs, and artwork published in The Agriculturist.

The Advanced Design Principles for Agricultural Communications course works closely with the Development of Agricultural Publications course by creating and designing layouts and creative components for the stories that make up the publication, The Agriculturist. The Agricultural Communications Campaigns course works closely with the Convergence in Agricultural Media course by teaching students how to utilize certain media tools to help create and examine a communications campaign.

Wilson_block
Students in the block are required to work together for multiple group projects throughout the course of the semester to simulate a real-world working environment.

Gibson explained how each class in the block works together and the benefit this structure gives to students.

“Writing skills tie in with your design skills that tie into your web and video skills, and you can use all of those to do effective messaging in reaching your audiences,” Gibson said. “We want you to be these truly prepared employees, going out into the world with this really cool skill set and experience.”

Going Forward

Jim Bret Campbell is the executive director at the National Ranching Heritage Center and a ’96 ACOM Texas Tech alum. He explained in a career, students must be prepared for a wide variety of environments. He said the transition from college life is hard but with this new block experience, it will be an intense application of the skills that students have been leaning for the past four years, getting them ready for the real world. This last semester for students now notches up the intensity, which will be beneficial to students when they begin their careers.

“It’s really an advantage giving students an experience that combines all classes together,” Campbell said. “It’s something that employers will take into consideration.”

It’s really an advantage giving students an experience that combines all classes together.

Campbell said employers in the industry are looking for people to contribute to their specific organization. With students who have been through this agricultural communications block, they are ready to bring fresh ideas to any company and have the willingness to learn in any situation.

Throughout the semester, students in the block are required to work together in different teams for various assignments and projects. Although some say it is overwhelming at times, there is a method to this madness. Irlbeck worked in the industry for eight years before joining the ACOM faculty at Texas Tech. She said this block experience gives students a realistic expectation of what the real-world is like.

“Knowing that people are depending on you is an important factor,” Irlbeck said. “Students are able to see first-hand working relationships.”

Meyers has been on the ACOM faculty at Texas Tech for 10 years. She explained how each professor expects a lot from students in this block structure and how the block is truly preparing students for the 21st-century workforce.

“I hope our students who go through the block become the leaders in the organizations who hire them,” Meyers said.

Dr. Scott Burris, professor and associate chair of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, said Texas Tech’s ACOM program has always been on the leading edge.

“The agricultural communications program is really a jewel of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources,” Burris said. “This program is absolutely something that has bolstered the reputation of the university.”

Texas Tech University has always had a strong, innovative agricultural communications program since the 90s, and it seems there is no slowing down. By keeping up with the demands of the industry, the new ACOM block seeks to produce graduates who are ready to face the transition from college into their careers.

“I continue to be excited about the growth of the program,” Campbell said. “The admiration and respect I see all across the country speaks volumes about not only the instructors, but also about the students as well.”

More Than Mr. CASNR

 

On a normal January evening, Dane Rivas headed over to the livestock arena on the Texas Tech University campus to help set up for Winter Welcome. Rivas thought he was helping out as an Agri-Techsan. Little did he know he would win Mr. CASNR.

Winter Welcome is a weeklong tradition at Texas Tech University to celebrate the beginning of the spring semester. During this week, over 45 events are held on campus, including the Mr. CASNR contest.

Rivas is junior agricultural communication major and animal science minor from Tahoka, Texas. When he graduates in May 2019, Rivas plans to go into ministry with Raider Church and possibly attend graduate school.

“I was really nervous the whole day,” Rivas said. “I got ‘voluntold’ that I was going to do this.”

January 25, 2018, was the fourth annual Mr. CASNR contest. Rivas said during past few years there has been a lack of participation in the Mr. CASNR contest. As a member of Agri-Techsans, a group of student recruiters for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Rivas and his colleagues were trying to brighten the atmosphere of the event.

Stephanie Legako, academic specialist for student retention for CASNR, said she loves how Rivas uses his humor to his advantage. For the talent portion of the Mr. CASNR contest, Rivas did rhythmic gymnastics with a stick ribbon to music from the “Greatest Showman.”

“That was actually my daughter’s stick ribbon that he borrowed,” Legako said, “so I helped him with some of the moves, but what I loved about it is he really owned it.”

Rivas said he put a great deal of work into preparing his talent for the contest, which involved learning how to rip and twirl in one week.

“It was a lot more fun and less nerve-racking than I thought it was going to be,” Rivas said, “It was more of a ‘Here I am, and I’m going to goof-off and try to make y’all laugh sort of thing.’ It was a lot of fun to bring something back that was kind of dying.”

Legako said while Rivas made the pageant fun, he also knows a great deal about the college and can recruit well from being an Agri-Techsan. She said it is nice his skill set now includes wearing the crown and sash of Mr. CASNR.

We have the potential for bigger diversity, bigger advances, and bigger steps within CASNR.

The Mr. CASNR contest consists of three categories: talent, interview and western wear. During the interview, each contestant was asked a question at random. Rivas’ question was, ‘What would you tell a junior or senior in high school who is considering coming to Texas Tech?’

“That’s basically what we do in Agri-Techsans,” Rivas said, “so I felt more at an advantage there.”

“We had a lot of different backgrounds this year,” Legako said, “but I was glad to see an actual CASNR student win.”

In 2017, Clay Brownlee won Mr. CASNR as representative of the Texas Tech Rodeo Team. Though he was involved with the rodeo team, Brownlee was actually an engineering major – not a CASNR student.

During the fall of 2017, CASNR met the enrollment criteria to be recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. This recognition shows how the college’s diversity is growing and qualifies it for federal grants.

“We have the potential for bigger diversity, bigger advances, and bigger steps within CASNR,” Rivas said.

Rivas said CASNR prides itself on having the highest percentage of scholarships given per student at Texas Tech. According to the college’s website, an estimated 43 percent of undergraduate CASNR students receive a scholarship.

Rivas said though CASNR is an agriculture-based college, not all of the students come from a background related to agriculture. He even said that is his favorite part of the college.

“Even if they don’t consider themselves country or from an ag background, they still have a place here, and they don’t have to feel left out,” Rivas said. “You can come from both [ag and non-ag backgrounds] and you can leave in both.”

 

Lytle_Dane007
Rivas proudly wears his sash and crown around campus.

Rivas said it is important people recognize the drive CASNR students have to discuss and make advancements in agriculture, but they are not limited to that. He said CASNR has students going into agriculture, the medical field, public relations, communications, non-profits and even ministry.

Rivas said events where students and their success are highlighted by the college help bring CASNR students together and keeps retention rates high. These events show the community, family, and diversity working within the college and makes students feel more connected.

According to Legako, CASNR tends to be a leader in retention rates. At the end of the 20th class day of the spring 2018 semester, the college was at 95 percent freshman retention from fall to spring.

Rivas has been given the opportunity to better the university and the college and represent them both in a way he was not able to before. He wants CASNR’s scholarships, diversity, and student success to be highlighted more.

“I need to set an example of what CASNR means and shine a light on CASNR,” Rivas said. “We have the most number of national championships in the university, and I don’t think we get highlighted enough for it.”

Rivas said he wants others to know he is just an ordinary student walking around campus. He is an active and involved student and wants to help do great things.

“I’m just a normal person who won Mr. CASNR and wants to use the platform to better the college and better the university,” Rivas said. “I represent CASNR now in this role.”

5 Things Ag Comm Majors Want You to Know

Have you ever wondered ‘What the heck is agricultural communications?’ Have you ever asked someone what exactly ag comm people do? As an agricultural communicator, I get asked both of these questions frequently. We have a big job and play an important role across many industries.

According to the Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, agricultural communications prepares students to communicate and advocate for the agricultural industry. Students learn a variety of written, verbal, visual, photography and technological skills. The University of Georgia Career Center stated, “The agricultural communications major prepares students to report agricultural information to consumers, farmers, agribusinesses, commodity groups, and governmental agencies.” We hold positions such as: marketing, sales, management, journalism, media, photography, public relations, advertising, web design, graphic design and communications. Honestly, we can do it all.

I often hear people asking questions about ag comm majors. I think we are one of the most misunderstood majors you can find. Agricultural communications degrees are not found at every university, so we are really quite unique. There are so many stereotypes of ag comm majors out there, and I want to help people understand who we are and what we do. To all the people who have questions, here are five things all agricultural communications majors want you to know.

1. Texas Tech is the #1 ag comm undergraduate program in the nation.

agcomm
Forget the yellow brick, follow the ag comm Road! Texas Tech University has great faculty, and our ag comm professors are the best in the field! Photo credit: Saicy Lytle

A study done by the University of Arkansas named Texas Tech the number one agricultural communications undergraduate program in the nation. THE NATION. How cool would it be to say you are a part of the number one program in the nation?

2. No, we don’t talk to animals.

Cattle
We love animals! Talking to them would be a little weird though. Photo Credit: Phere

We all get asked the same question. “Do you talk to cows?” No, we talk about cattle, but not directly to them. People often assume agricultural communications prepares students to be animal whisperers, which is not the case. At first, I thought people were joking, but no, people actually think our curriculum involves learning agricultural animals’ dialects.

3. We are the go-between in the agricultural industry.

Fence
As the gate is between lands, so communicators are between producers and consumers. Source: Free Images

Agricultural communicators are the gateway between the producers and consumers and we help both understand each other. Lots of agriculturists use very technical terms that the average consumer would not understand. As a communicator, our job is to help relay that information in a comprehensible manner. We are the liaison for the average person, to help them get the information they need, in a way they understand.

4. Life isn’t always easy as an ag comm major.

Dirty Hands
Ag comm majors like to get their hands dirty, too! Source: Pxhere

We aren’t an “easy” major; we actually have a very important job. We serve an integral part in the way our industry works with others. Without the work we do, consumers wouldn’t get their answers as easily, and no one would be there to help the agriculturists relay their knowledge back to the consumers. We like to take on challenges just like everyone else, and even get our hands dirty from time-to-time.

5. We aren’t limited to what jobs we can do.

A study done within the Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications found about one third of the respondents had jobs in marketing, advertising or public relations. One tenth of the respondents worked as executive directors or in some other administrative role. Others said they work in legal and financial services, education, and some in university admissions.

Job Categories
This chart shows some of the specific jobs our alumni had in a recent study. Source: Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications

Of these job categories, the most common company categories was non-agricultural related businesses. While a majority of agricultural communicators do work within the industry, this study goes to show that you can do a multitude of things with the degree. If an agriculture position doesn’t interest you, that’s okay – there are still plenty of options out there.

Company Categories
This graph shows the various companies that some of Texas Tech agricultural communications alumni have gone in to following graduation. Source: Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications

Another study completed within the department researched how much money ag comm graduates make. The study found that the mean salary for first year graduates with a bachelor’s degree was $31,326. Of these respondents, 91 percent completed an internship in college, and 26.7 percent of those received full-time jobs from their internships. This certainly isn’t the highest paid position, but we have a very rewarding job!

As you can see, agricultural communications students have many talents. From job opportunities to being the industry liaison, many doors are opened when you have a degree in agricultural communication.  For information about the degree offered at Texas Tech, please visit our department website.

Organic vs. conventional: 3 things to consider before your next trip to the grocery store

I often complain to my friends about being “over-stimulated.” The creeping feeling usually manifests while I’m at a crowded club or a big concert. However, no place makes me wig out more than a busy grocery store. For this reason, I have become quite the night owl, frequenting the United by my house exclusively after 9 p.m.

It’s not just the herds of people, blaring eighties music (Madonna must be making millions in royalties from grocery store playlists alone), and violent shopping buggy collisions that push me into sensory overload, though.

It’s the amount of choices! And I’m not talking about Red Delicious versus Gala apples. I’m talking about choices that are marketed to seem as if making the wrong decision might detrimentally affect your health. I’m talking about organic food.

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Following the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, the USDA rolled out its USDA Organic Seal. If companies get caught labeling a product that doesn’t meet the USDA’s guidelines with this seal, they can face an $11,000 fine. Yikes!
Photo by Lindsey M. Henry © 2018

What does that seal even mean? What happens if you consume non-organic food? Is organic food healthier than non-organic? With these questions and more in mind, I’ll share 3 things I always consider while navigating the screaming-child-laden, over-lit, and often confusing aisles of the grocery store.

1. What exactly does “organic” mean?

According to the USDA, in order for an item to be branded with the USDA Organic Seal, it must have been grown and processed in compliance with a multitude of different federal guidelines. Organic food is free of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified organisms.

Something else to keep in mind: organic food is significantly more expensive than non-organic. This is due to several factors, including the fact that organic goods will generally have a lower yield and will cost more to raise due to the high cost of natural pesticides and fertilizers.

2. There isn’t substantial scientific evidence proving that organic food is healthier or that non-organic food is harmful.

Read this one more time: There isn’t substantial scientific evidence proving that organic food is healthier. Numerous studies suggest this, but the best I could find was conducted by Stanford University. A team of researchers analyzed 200 peer-reviewed studies focused on the differences between organic and non-organic food and the differences between people that chose to solely consume one or the other.

There was no notable difference, nutrition-wise, between organic and non-organic goods. The only real contrast was that the organic food had a smaller amount of pesticide residue present. However, it is important to note that all conventionally grown food must have less pesticide residue present than the legal limits put in place by regulatory bodies. In addition to feeding the entire world, it’s important to remember that producers are also feeding their very own families, and care very much about their well-being. Farmers and ranchers put an extensive amount of care and dedication into their yield to assure they produce a safe and quality product.

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Here’s the organic fruit section at my local United store in Lubbock. The manager was extremely nice and accommodating while I took pictures.
Photo by Lindsey M. Henry © 2018

3. Millions of people are buying organic. Why?

Forbes magazine recently highlighted a study done in Australia where two groups were fed cookies. (If anyone has any information on how to be a part of these cookie-eating research groups, please let me know!) The first group was told not only that the cookies were organic, but that they were produced by a company that is committed to environmentally conscious manufacturing standards and utilizing locally sourced grains. The other group was giving the same exact cookie (hopefully not oatmeal raisin – gross!) but told that the cookies were manufactured by a terrible, awful company that imported its grains and was frequently criticized for causing environmental pollution, while also refusing to do anything to offset its carbon footprint. At the end of the tasting and information session, both groups rated the cookies on factors including taste and overall experience. The first group, which was told about a locally sourcing, environmentally conscious cookie company rated the cookies much, much higher than the bad, environmentally indifferent company.

After reading through numerous similar studies, I found a similar theme. While there is scant evidence that eating organic food is nutritionally superior, the presence of the USDA Organic Seal holds a positive connotation to most consumers, perhaps leading them to think that the brand bearing it is more environmentally conscious, practices higher standards of animal welfare, or is more “natural.” Consumers may think that they’re seeking better quality, more nutritious foods, but what they really get out of it is moral satisfaction – the feeling that they are doing good for them, their families and their world by purchasing a certain product.

Bottom line:

  • Don’t buy the organic tomato because it’s maybe, possibly, but probably not healthier than the alternative. But if you think it’s better looking than the non-organic one, or you just simply want to buy it, go for it. As someone who loves to grocery shop, I generally buy whatever looks the most delicious.
  • Be respectful of ALL opinions. At school, I am surrounded by people who are well versed in food and consumer science issues. They can see that it’s simply unnecessary to put more money toward organic food that offers no substantial health benefits. At the studio where I practice hot yoga, I hear ladies talking in the lounge about this fabulous organic, GMO-free (that’s a conversation for another day) cream cheese that everyone just has to try. Whatever their reason is for seeking out that USDA Organic Seal, is fine with me.
  • As supporters of agriculture, we need to support producers, including organic farmers and ranchers. Even if you don’t personally seek out organic food, don’t disparage the practices of those who produce and consume it. I once attended a lecture by Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist. He talked about the importance of consumer choice. While its excessive signage may clutter up the aisles, as long as there’s a strong market for organic food, the need should be met by quality products from dedicated producers.

In review, we probably can’t make the grocery store stop playing repetitive, kitschy music. I don’t see any shopping buggy defensive driving courses being offered in the near future. But what can we do? We can arm ourselves with knowledge and become smart shoppers. I also recommend a double shot latte one hour prior to the grocery expedition.

Want to learn more about the organic conundrum? Check out these sources, and please, do some digging for yourself!

The Science of Why People Prefer Organic, Natural, and Non-GMO Foods

Organic Food May Not Be Healthier For You

Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means

Fit For A Dean

Each new day may bring new tasks and adventures, but for this man, a day in this life is anything but spontaneous. Years of work and experience have allowed him to rise in his status and career field, yet he never loses the heart of a new employee dedicated to the brand they serve.

For Dr. Steve Fraze, two things signify the start of the day: once he arrives at the office, he checks his email and reviews his schedule for the upcoming day.

The current interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources describes this routine with a chuckle and shakes his head.

“It’s a bunch of meetings,” he said. “Lots of meetings. But the new things taking form within the college are exciting and worth meeting to collaborate on.”

Fraze takes great pride in his current position within the college, but the journey to this role has been anything but spontaneous.

Bright Beginnings

Fraze came to Texas Tech in the fall of 1988 as a professor of agricultural education. He oversaw the student teaching block structure for several years, a cohort program which allows student teachers within the department to collaborate outside of the high school classroom. Twenty years later, he was named chair of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications and remained there until August 2016 when he was appointed interim dean of CASNR after Dr. Michael Galyean transitioned from dean of the college to interim Provost of the university.

Shoes to Fill

“[I handle] everything from management of resources, monetary as well as human, and act as the final step out of the college in terms of the approval of anything,” Fraze said with a chuckle. “The big thing is probably just managing all of the different budgets and six departments within CASNR, the management of their departments and working with those department chairs. Filling faculty positions is another responsibility I have encountered lately.”

High Impact

Dr. Scott Burris, professor of agricultural education was named interim chair of the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications after Fraze took the interim dean position. He considers himself fortunate to have been taken under Fraze’s wing early on and continued to grow within the department.

“I have known and worked with Dr. Fraze for 27 years beginning with when I transferred into this department in 1990,” Burris said. “He was my advisor as an undergraduate student here at Texas Tech. I sat in this very office, which is my office now, and was given my first schedule of classes by him,” Burris said. “To me, Dr. Fraze is this department. I know he’s more than that now but to me, he is. He’s been my one steady connection with this department for a long time now.”

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Breaking the Mold

Fraze has begun blazing his own trail as interim dean and hopes to see through a number of different projects and initiatives. In addition to continued planning toward Texas Tech’s vet school initiative and development of an undergraduate preparation program, students across the college will have the opportunity to advance their own professional and interpersonal skills within a leadership academy program.

“I’m working on a new initiative of a leadership academy within CASNR, which will be a student-type of academy where we’ll do various things like an etiquette seminar, a ropes course to build team and leadership skills, things of that nature. This is going to be a three-semester leadership academy where the students will engage in different activities each semester culminating with a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with legislators,” Fraze said.

The program is projected to launch within the next two years after a rigorous application and selection process. Fraze also said he has had the honor of working with renovation plans for a number of agricultural buildings on campus and had a hand in the development of the seventh department within the college that will focus primarily on the research of large animal health. The new department will be restricted to graduate students upon its launch in what is expected to be within the next three years.

Off the Clock

Although he enjoys the new opportunities his current position has allowed him, Fraze said there are certain things about the department he misses.

“I was really just getting started with another study abroad program and trip until I moved over here,” Fraze said, pointing to his desk. “I travelled to parts of Germany and France for two weeks last summer for a study abroad within our department. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the agricultural tours.”

When he is not in the office or wearing any of the various hats he dons for the university, college, or department, Fraze enjoys playing golf, sharing time with his family and grandchildren, and training his toy Australian Shepherds with his wife.

“My wife just loves those dogs,” he said. “She goes to all these agility classes and she’s always training the dogs. We used to have horses and everything, but we no longer do the horses. We just swapped that for the dogs.”

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Leaving a Legacy

Burris said he hopes the legacy Fraze has created will continue.

“I would love to see him in this position long-term, because I can’t think of a better candidate that has a deeper appreciation and is more loyal to CASNR than Dr. Fraze,” Burris said. “He’s been a loyal and faithful faculty member in this college for three decades plus. He’s got as much institutional history as anybody.”

I can’t think of a better candidate that has a deeper appreciation and is more loyal to CASNR than Dr. FrazeDr. Scott Burris

It may not be a job requirement to have been with a place for a long time, but there is something to be said for people who are committed to a cause, or in this case, an institution.”

All In a Day’s Work

Fraze says the people he meets and the connections he has made are his favorite part of the job.

“I go to something every week as far as some kind of a function,” he said. “You get an invitation to this organization and that, but you’re meeting people all the time. Whether it is alumni, students, prospective students, families, everyone knows someone who either attended Texas Tech or has a respect for it. It’s getting to meet those [people] and share that which I find most rewarding.”

Fast Times at Texas Peanut Board

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Lindsay Hamer has been working for peanut farmers for over a year and has found her niche in the communications field (and the peanut field.)

When Lindsay Hamer started her communications internship at the Texas Peanut Producers Board, she thought she had a good understanding of what her day-to-day responsibilities would be: writing press releases, making social media posts, and answering phones. But as she climbed into the 8-foot tall Tex P. Nut mascot uniform, she started to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

Junior agricultural communications major Lindsay Hamer accepted the position of Texas Peanut Producers Board intern last April after being recommended by Cindy Akers, Ph.D., associate dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

“I was recommended by Dr. Akers which was very scary,” Hamer said. “I’m seeing an email from Dr. Akers that just says ‘Lindsay’ on it and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, I’m getting expelled.”

Rather than being expelled, Hamer ended up with a recommendation for a job. Dr. Akers told Hamer her personality matched that of those currently working at TPPB and she would be a great fit for the job.

After applying and interviewing for the position, TPPB wasted no time letting Hamer know she was the top candidate for the job.

“I think one day went by, and Hallie texted me and said I needed to come back,” Hamer said. “I started my first office job and got to take the reins of that position.”

One of the best aspects of the internship is being able to express herself creatively through graphic design, writing and pitching project ideas.

“The nice thing about working for a small commodity group is that you have a lot of free reign to use your own creativity and then they are there for support and back up,” Hamer said. “Hallie and Shelly have been incredible mentors and role models. They have helped me feel more confident in my ideas in my design and everything along the way.”

Hamer said her experience at TPPB has made her career goals clear.

“Before I started here, I was interested in graphic design and kind of that whole aspect of designing things and layouts,” Hamer said. “Now that I’ve had experience with that, I think it’s kind of still the track I’m going. I like marketing and PR campaigns and every job that I’ve had here has been an overview of pretty much every communications aspect that I’ve learned at Tech so far.”

Hamer appreciates the opportunity to work at a wonderful place with wonderful people, like her boss, Shelly Nutt.

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Hamer jumps for joy with Mr. Tex P. Nut when she helps out peanut farmers everywhere.

TPPB Executive Director Shelly Nutt has nothing but high praise for Hamer.

“She’s coming up with new programs,” Nutt said. “She comes in one day and she was like, ‘For March, I kind of think I want to do this recipe campaign,’ and it’s this major intense recipe development program that she wants to do through social media. And I’m thinking and I don’t know how you’re going to do that, but get after it.”

Hamer’s dedication to being creative and switching up the norm is one of her most valuable qualities, Nutt said.

“Lindsay did our weather channel baskets for us,” Nutt said. “That is a 100 percent intern project. Every single intern has to do this project for me. We have a whole book of instructions on how it’s got to be done so that it’s done the same way every year. Lindsay came in and was like, ‘I don’t know why we’re doing it this way because this is really not efficient,’ and I said, ‘We’ve always done it that way, but you’re also 100 percent right. It’s not efficient anymore. It was efficient 10 years ago.’”

The meteorologist baskets sent out are a TPPB initiative to gain publicity for National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month. Since the beginning of the promotion, TPPB has asked meteorologists from local TV networks across the state that if they will feature it on their channel, to upload the video, download it onto a USB and mail it back to the TPPB.

Hamer suggested the channels tweet the video so it would be instantly accessible to their audience.

“Of course, we got a whole lot more response,” Nutt said. “She’s innovative and thinking through what we’ve done and how she can make it better. She does everything around here and she just does it well.”

Nutt said one of the best qualities an intern candidate can have is to be bold.

“I love bold personalities,” Nutt said. “The people that can come into my office like Lindsay does and say, ‘Guess what I thought up? I want to do this!’ I love that.”

I could not have asked for a better internship.

Past Intern Experiences

Former TPPB intern and agricultural communications alumnae Adeline Fox now works at the Texas Water Conservation Association as the communications director. Fox said her time as a TPPB intern was extremely valuable to her professional development.

“Working with Texas Peanut Producers Board was a superb experience,” Fox said. “It was the first real communications job I had in college. TPPB staff members really wanted to share their knowledge and prepare me for future jobs. They provided me with many opportunities to work on challenging and fun projects.”

Fox’s favorite part about her time at TPPB was her opportunity to lead the Texas Peanut Leadership tour which brings in farmers from across the Southwest to Lubbock.

Although the internship is competitive, Fox encourages those who like a challenge, want to learn, and want to grow to apply.

“I would recommend the Texas Peanut Producers Board internship to anyone looking for a challenging and rewarding experience,” Fox said. “The staff and work assignments will prepare any student who is looking to work in the agricultural communications field after college.”

Gaining invaluable skills like graphic design, project planning, and writing have helped Fox in every job she has had since her TPPB internship.

“Working with Texas Peanut Producers Board provided me with great experience and work samples that helped me get my first job,” Fox said. “By the time I stepped into the world after college, I already had the mindset of an adult because of the responsibilities of my internship required. I could not have asked for a better internship.”

New Kids in The Block

The Texas Tech agricultural communications program has implemented a block course structure for its seniors, allowing students to participate in numerous capstone course opportunities.

Dr. Courtney Gibson, assistant professor of agricultural communications and key figure in the development of the block, said this implementation was created on anything but a wild hair. When faculty within the program learned that Tech had been ranked the top agricultural communications program in the nation in 2016, Gibson said they began to realize change was necessary and inevitable.

“It took a little over two years of planning, many meetings, and about a thousand ideas shared to even create the block,” Gibson said. “It’s exciting to be the first program in the nation to try this – to our knowledge – but it can be scary because we don’t have anyone to look to for guidance in how they handle conflicts as they arise.”

The block schedule for the semester comprises four courses: advanced web design, advanced graphic design, campaigns and magazine development, each featuring various capstone experiences. A significant work project is also assigned, allowing students to create and develop usable content relevant to their area of interest.

Gibson said the agricultural communications faculty plan to effectuate the block system for each upcoming spring semester. The goal is for students to enroll in the four block courses during their senior year.

Adrian Smith, a senior agricultural communications student from Lubbock, Texas, said she feels the block is helping to polish students before they enter the real world, giving them the necessary skills to impress future employers.

“The block provides a great hands-on experience of what most of us can anticipate in the workforce,” Smith said. “The work we are producing is work we can and should use for our portfolios. We are definitely competitive job candidates in whichever field we go into following graduation.”

Dr. Courtney Meyers, associate professor of agricultural communications, said she feels both enrolled students and the program will benefit from the new block system.

“Because most of our students will go into a career where they will be asked to do many of the things we are working on in the block, it helps to create that atmosphere,” Meyers said. “While achieving the objectives that we have set out for each individual course, they’re also gaining valuable interpersonal and professional skills. The block allows us to do that in a unique way.”

AEC Alumnus Receives Distinguished Alumni Award

Jim Bret Campbell, Texas Tech alumnus, has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry.
Dr. Kristina Boone, TTU alumna, receives Distinguished Alumni Award. Photo courtesy of OSU cfaes.

The 37th Annual Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Reception and Dinner were held for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University’s McKenzie-Merket Alumni Center on Feb. 20.

The awards honor graduates who have made significant contributions to society and whose accomplishments and careers have brought distinction to the college and to the professions associated with agriculture and natural resources.

Kristina Boone, Ph.D., who was recently named the director of Ohio State’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI), was among six distinguished alumni honored. Before being named to her new role, Boone was the head of the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education at Kansas State University.

Boone graduated cum laude from Texas Tech in 1986 with a bachelor of science in agricultural communications.

“Texas Tech really prepared me well for my career,” Boone said. “I was provided a very experiential learning opportunity, and I’m proud to be a Texas Tech grad.”

While working on her undergraduate degree, Boone served on the departmental advisory council and CASNR student council and held local and national offices in the student organization, Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow.

“My education at Texas Tech helped me achieve this award, but more than that, mentors and allies,” Boone said.

Tracee Murph, coordinator of alumni relations in CASNR said this is her favorite event.

“I just really love getting to showcase these alumni and what they have done with their careers,” Murph said. “It’s neat how they all have done different things than just the traditional thought process of agriculture.”

According to the Texas Tech today website, the measure of a college’s distinction and influence depends upon the achievements of its alumni and the positions they attain in their respective communities and fields of endeavor.

“Each person to receive these awards are always so thankful and humble,” Murph said. “It is just so incredible to see and hear of them become so accomplished.”

Boone said she enjoys seeing how the agricultural communications program at Texas Tech has grown and the exceptional faculty it has attracted.

“It’s humbling to have received this award,” Boone said.

Boone said she has some advice for students who are yearning to receive one of the two awards some day.

“Find what you love to do and what you can make a living with,” Boone said.

“Also, don’t close the door before you look at the opportunity that is there.”

For more information regarding the Annual Distinguished Alumni & Outstanding Young Alumni Awards Reception and Dinner, visit: https://www.depts.ttu.edu/agriculturalsciences/Alumni/awards/distAlum.php.

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Back to the Ranch

New Executive Director of the NRHC, Jim Bret Campbell, excited to return to Texas Tech.
New Executive Director of the NRHC, Jim Bret Campbell, excited to return to Texas Tech.

Taking the reins as the new executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center has brought Jim Bret Campbell’s career full circle.

A “horse crazy kid” who grew up in Hereford, Texas, Campbell has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry. He worked for the American Quarter Horse Association for 15 years, the Texas Cattle Feeders Association for one year and the National Cutting Horse Association for three years.

Campbell has two degrees from the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and said he is excited to be back at Texas Tech.

“Moving back to Lubbock and West Texas feels like coming home,” he said.

Campbell said even though Lubbock has changed over the past 25 years, he still appreciates his time spent at Texas Tech as a student.

“The foundation that I got here at Texas Tech as a student and the hands-on training I received as an agricultural communications student led me to my first job,” Campbell said. “I had great opportunities when I worked at the AQHA. It led to me being able to edit a magazine, which I never thought I’d do, but it was extremely rewarding. For things to come full circle and bring me back to Lubbock is just incredible to me.”

Campbell said his past experiences have benefited him with his new career.

“My previous jobs were definitely useful toward my new position,” Campbell said. “I oversee the key priorities at the NRHC, but I think my real job is to use the skills and background in marketing and publications that I have learned in other jobs for the NRHC to a certain degree.”

Campbell said his job also entails getting more NRHC members and to increase its visibility nationwide.

A horse enthusiast from a young age, Campbell said he loves ranching, and his new position at the NRHC is exactly where he is supposed to be.

“I have read every horse book known to man,” Campbell said. “As a child, I was addicted to Texas history, especially the period of the cattle drives. For fun, I read biographies of Charles Goodnight and all of those books that talk about how the ranching industry really came into being.”

My professional background coupled with my love for the ranching industry has made this a dream career for me.Jim Bret Campbell

Vicki Quinn-Williams, director of business management at the National Ranching Heritage Center, said Campbell was the absolute right choice for executive director.

“His connections with ranching, as well as Texas Tech gives him the opportunity to represent the center in the best way possible,” Williams said.

Campbell said he has a bold vision for the NRHC, and he expects to contribute to its growth.

“I don’t want to change much,” Campbell said, “but augment what we already do and evaluate all of our programs and things that we do well and really build on those.”

Campbell said he also desires to develop more collaboration with the Texas Tech campus.

“We share a mission with Texas Tech,” Campbell said, “and we need to have more opportunities for students in the history department, architecture, landscape architecture, agricultural communications, animal sciences and many other departments at the university to develop partnerships with us so that we can expand their experiences and show them what we do here at the NRHC.”

Campbell said in addition to creating partnerships with students in different departments, they have industry partnerships with off-campus organizations.

“We have connected with a few groups such as the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers, the American Quarter Horse Association, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” Campbell said. “But what I really want is for us to build on those and to make sure we are truly maximizing the effectiveness of those partnerships.”

He said he has another vision, which entails the story of ranching and the cowboy hat.

“The cowboy hat resonates with people, whether in downtown Dallas or in Beijing,” Campbell said. “I’ve traveled internationally, and if you show up in Italy in a cowboy hat, people are going to come up and talk to you. It’s because of your story and what they assume you have grown up with that resonate with people; they appreciate those values and the history of it.”

Campbell said he wants to take the story of the cowboy hat to the public to make sure people understand it and its history.

“I want to create enough interest that people are willing to get on an airplane and come to Lubbock, Texas, just to see the National Ranching Heritage Center and learn about what we are,” Campbell said.

Jim Bret Campbell, Texas Tech alumnus, has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry.
Jim Bret Campbell, Texas Tech alumnus, has spent the last 19 years working in the horse industry.

Williams said it is evident how concerned and passionate Campbell is with the NRHC and his career.

“He is very approachable and open to new concepts from anyone,” Williams said. “Also, he truly cares about people, especially the ones he works with.”

Carl Andersen, former executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center and Sweetwater native, is a close friend of Campbell’s and said there are many things that make him an asset to the center.

“He is a strong Red Raider,” Andersen said. “He has a deep love for the ranching community, he has knowledge of the ranching industry, and he has professional experience in multiple organizations.”

Andersen said before the hiring process for new executive director position started, Campbell was already brought to his attention by famous country singer, Red Steagall.

“He told me a little about Jim Bret,” Andersen said. “He said he knew him through the multiple associations he has worked for and that he was going to turn in an application. He said I needed to take a long and hard look at his application because he’s the man, and he was right.”

Andersen has been on the NRHC executive board for 20 years and said he thinks Campbell is unquestionably perfect for the executive position.

“We had over 30 applicants from all over the world,” Andersen said, “but after going through the process and deciding that Mr. Campbell was the right man for the job, I am absolutely confident that he is.”

Campbell said he is looking forward developing the NRHC and is enjoying Lubbock and being a part of Texas Tech again.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity,” Campbell said. “Truthfully, I feel like God led me here.”

 

Jim Bret Campbell said he is ready to enhance the NRHC.
Jim Bret Campbell said he is ready to enhance the NRHC.

Matadors in Training

It was just an idea. But it wasn’t just one person’s idea. They all saw the need for an in-house communications service. Eventually, the idea grew, and it became what is known today as Picador Creative, a communications service offered by the Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.

What started as a large collection of emails from the surrounding Lubbock community became a program that now hires agricultural communication majors as student interns to create various communication materials for anyone with a communications need.

Picador Creative Project Manager Erica Irlbeck, Ph.D, said the agricultural communications program received numerous phone calls and emails on a weekly basis asking for students interested in designing logos, creating brochures, editing videos, and producing other communications materials.

“This kind of got us thinking,” Irlbeck said, “that we might be able to do something that would create a more formal agreement between the students and the people who ask us for things like this. It would be a good way to give students good practical experience and a good service to the community.”

Housed in the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech, Picador Creative offers graphic design, web design, photography, videography, and writing services. The student-run service has completed projects in all areas since its start in 2014 when they received a USDA non-land grant college agriculture grant that allowed them to start designing.

The Design Process

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Evan Johnson, student intern for Picador Creative, creating a client design in the workspace for the communication service.

Internship credit is required for all agricultural communications students before they graduate. Irlbeck said the agricultural communications faculty thought, “Why not have a service that allows students to fulfill that credit, along with gaining experience working and designing for actual clients?”

One of the current interns, Evan Johnson, a junior agricultural communications major from Floydada, Texas, said she was initially intimidated to apply for the Picador Creative internship, but decided to put in her application anyways.

“I was honored to receive the position,” Johnson said. “I was really excited to be able to hone my skills and put them into application in the real world. I’ve been able to really listen to clients and create something that they need.”

In addition to hiring student interns, Picador Creative also has a graduate assistant handles client relations and oversees the undergraduate student interns on a daily basis. The current graduate assistant is Jenna Holt-Day, a second-semester agricultural communications graduate student from Levelland, Texas.

Holt-Day said working for Picador Creative has allowed her to gain real work experience in a field she would like to be in once she graduates from Texas Tech.

“Whenever you are applying for jobs, a lot of potential employers want around two years of work experience,” Holt-Day said. “I think this assistantship can be considered real work experience with the agricultural communications degree that I have. This position puts you in a role you can take with you in your future career.”

This position puts you in a role you can take with you in your future career.
Jenna Holt-Day

Holt-Day said her primary job responsibilities are client relations. She is in charge of setting up the initial meeting once the client emails her and communicating with the client throughout the entire design process. Following the initial meeting, an intern is presented with the job description, and the design process begins. With multiple clients at once, the jobs are divided up among the three interns, allowing them to gain experience in developing materials for print and web.

Former Picador graduate assistant and Texas Tech alumna, Keely Hamman, said teamwork played a major part in getting design pieces ready for clients. Before sending the projects to the clients, the designs have been looked at multiple times by several different sets of eyes to be sure the best work is being sent.

“We were like a family that made really great communication pieces,” Hamman said. “We would always help each other out however needed.”

Building a Client Base

In the beginning, Picador Creative had only one or two clients at a time, but now the communication service often works with four to five clients at once. Past clients of Picador Creative include the National Ranching Heritage Museum, Terry County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation.

Along with working for clients in the Lubbock community, Irlbeck said the interns have been beneficial to the agricultural education and communication department as well. In the 2016 spring semester, the department launched a campaign to promote the new online master’s degree program. Picador interns were in charge of creating content and marketing materials and continue to do so now.

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As a graduate assistant for Picador Creative, Jenna Holt-Day often conducts client meetings to clarify what the client is wanting.

In addition to the client base, Johnson said she is also able to apply her experience to promoting her band, the Riley Adams Duo. She said she is able to use the skills she has learned in class and enhanced through her internship to produce social media content graphics and posts to help promote her band, along with contacting other professionals to set up shows.

“I’ve had people comment to me, ‘Wow, you are the most professional musician I’ve ever had contact me,’” Johnson said, “And I’m like ‘Yeah, I learned that through agricultural communications.’”

Irlbeck said Picador Creative is positive addition to the department because it is an outreach into the community and allows students to fulfill their internship credit, grow their portfolio, and be compensated with a scholarship.

“On the student side of this project,” Irlbeck said, “their portfolios when they finish their internship with Picador Creative are pretty amazing. They’ve been able to work with an actual client that has a need, and they’re able to fulfill that need through some sort of creative service, be it graphic design, video, web design, photography, or whatever the client needs.”

From Class to Industry

Picador Creative’s graduate student and interns are able to use what they have learned in the internship and apply it to their classwork, and vice versa. Holt-Day said she is able to implement things she learns in class, allowing her to be able to see how classwork relates to a real business.

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With the hands-on experience Picador Creative gives her, Jenna Holt-Day can talk about her assistantship in class discussions.

Hamman, a Jacksboro, Texas, native, said she also saw the benefits of working with Picador while taking classes for her master’s degree in agricultural communications.

“While having the assistantship of Picador Creative while in graduate school,” Hamman said, “I had the unique opportunity to have a backside view of how a communications agency worked and the ideas of that agency that were being taught in class.”

Irlbeck said one of the biggest rewards of Picador is watching the students grow in their abilities in all aspects of the communication industry.

“I’ve seen, just from watching the interns, how their quality of work grows tremendously,” Irlbeck said. “They may not have the confidence when they first come in, but within just a couple of months their design abilities, their confidence, their speed, and their creativity has grown tremendously.”

Johnson said she has definitely seen an improvement in the quality of her work and her confidence in her design abilities since her start at Picador Creative in June 2016.

“I feel a lot more comfortable and confident, especially in my professional skills,” Johnson said. “I am confident in my abilities to write a professional email, and I am confident in my design abilities. I now know I can produce what I say I can produce.”

I now know I can produce what I say I can produce. Evan Johnson

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