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Agricultural Education

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.

Agriculture for All

When people think of the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, their first thought is usually a kid who grew up on a farm or ranch in the middle of nowhere Texas donning jeans and boots.

“It is for people to know where their food comes from where your clothes come important from.”

Sandra Addo

While this may be true for some, Sandra Addo is working to defy those stereotypes.

In January, Addo joined the CASNR Dr. Bill Bennett Student Success Center as the administrator for diversity and graduate student recruitment. The Dallas/Fort Worth area native was a first-generation college student and marketing major at Texas Tech. She also previously served as a college recruiter. 

Addo said these experiences have led her to a career she is passionate about.

“It was fantastic,” Addo said. “Having already worked with first-generation students, it’s something that I had already become really passionate about.”

Cindy Akers, Ed.D., associate dean for academic and student programs, said she knew immediately when she met Addo she was perfect for the job.

“We felt so fortunate to find her,” Akers said. “When we interviewed her, she was a perfect fit. Even though she doesn’t have an ag background, her positive attitude of ‘she will try anything’ shows she understands the CASNR philosophy of ‘We’re here to help and how can we get it done?’”

Addo said even though she did not grow up around agriculture, she has found a love for it. Being a part of the CASNR community has shown her how incredibly important agriculture is. She said she has learned things she would have never otherwise known about had it not been for her current position.

“Now, they require students to take art classes, science classes and math,” Addo said. “But, they do not force people to take an ag class. It is important for people to know where their food comes from and where your clothes come from. I get so excited because I did not know about half of these things before CASNR.”

Akers said it has been quite apparent they chose the right person for the job with all of the fresh, new ideas she has brought to the table. Not only has she implemented various opportunities for students of all majors to learn about agriculture, but she has also worked tirelessly on perfecting organizations for minority demographics within CASNR.

Addo said she started by working on educating people about CASNR. She said she first created a website for CASNR graduate school. This gives students access to what research and projects are in progress as well as scholarship information. She then brought in various speakers to educate students about the importance of agriculture and what CASNR is about. Lastly, she improved CASNR’s social media presence by engaging its audience and targeting perspective students.

Addo said she then moved into larger projects. She has been working on improving the Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) and Agriculture Future of America (AFA) student organizations. She has been working with officers in both organizations to find better ways to promote them to students and recruit student members. She is planning to take them to conferences and festivals to help spread the word. Addo said MANRRS and AFA are organizations she wished she would have known about when she was in college. 

“Everyone should know how important ag is,” Addo said. “Since I did not know about it for the past 25 years, I feel like I was cheated out of my education.” 

Addo said the last major component she is responsible for is career services and internships. She said her goal is to pair every student that walks in the door with the career they are interested in. She has been working with the Texas Tech Career Center to ensure this goal is met.

Addo said the COVID-19 epidemic has not stopped them from helping students. CASNR has implemented about 10 online graduate school programs students can start from home. She said she is working to ensure students have full access to her during the quarantine and that they are working hard to keep students up to date with the latest information about the situation.

Addo said she wants students to know what a great program CASNR is and that CASNR is a great place for students of all backgrounds.

“I want everyone to know in agriculture and around that TTU CASNR is a family,” Addo said. “Before you’re in college, while you’re in college, and after you’re in college, we will continue to serve you and find ways to help you out.”

Hank’s New Voice

Hank the Cowdog, TTU, Agricultural Education
This illustration by Texas Tech senior, Auden McBeath, depicts the Ranch Life Learning series resting upon a patch of bluebonnets beyond a cattle ranch.

As the importance of agricultural education increases, the National Ranching Heritage Center continues to provide educators with innovative classroom tools and has future plans that will bring Hank the Cowdog to life.

Merely three years ago, author John R. Erickson partnered with the NRHC to publish an informative series of children’s books narrated by his witty character, Hank. The books, known as the Ranch Life Learning series, incorporate ranching, agriculture and wildlife into public school curriculums and casts Hank in his new role as a teacher. 

Hank the Cowdog, TTU, Agricultural Education
This illustration by Texas Tech senior, Auden McBeath, depicts the Ranch Life Learning series resting upon a patch of bluebonnets beyond a cattle ranch.

Julie Hodges is the Helen DeVitt Jones Endowed director of education at the NRHC. Hodges is devoted to the message behind the Ranch Life Learning series and has worked closely in the development of a corresponding curriculum guide. 

“We’ve done some really cool things that I’m pretty proud of,” Hodges said. 

In the last three years, Hodges and the NRHC have implemented the Ranch Life Learning series into 60 school districts across the nation, distributing more than 45,000 copies. 

“It’s the only place in the world you’ll be able to see Hank the Cowdog in a realistic way,” Hodges said. 

With the original plan of a three-book series, Hodges was ecstatic to announce the publication of two additional books. 

“Book four will focus on ranch weather,” Hodges said, “and book five will focus on prairie fires.”

Erickson, the series author, lost his own ranch to prairie fires in 2017. Erickson hopes to depict prairie fire management techniques in book five by reflecting on his own experiences.  

“It’s a really interesting book and will hopefully help students in this area understand prairie fire more clearly,” Hodges said, “because there’s a lot of mystery to it.

Based on the success of the first three books, the Ranch Life Learning series has been developed into a multi-faceted curriculum plan. This carefully developed curriculum includes classroom activities, reading strategies, and teaching guides. The series covers topics such as economics, business, geography and animal breeds. 

The Ranch Life Learning curriculum is implemented into classes such as social studies, science, reading and more. By frequently updating curriculums and developing new activities, the NRHC is leading a progressive trend in agricultural education. Hodges said training and providing educators with curriculum guides has been very successful.

“It gives teachers the flexibility of when and how to incorporate it into their curriculum,” Hodges said. 

Julie Hodges, TTU
Julie Hodges standing next to the historic Hoffman Barn that was constructed by Lawrence H. Jones in 1906.

Using a cross-curriculum allows educators to utilize activities and lessons across many different courses. With the help of exceptional educators, Hodges said agricultural education will continue to impact and engage with young minds.

“I see it as a project that will never be finished and it’s something that we can always find ways to enhance,” Hodges said. 

Jim Bret Campbell, executive director of the National Ranching Heritage Center, is also closely involved with the Ranch Life Learning series. Campbell said curriculum developers work hard to create educational and engaging content. 

“They mostly focus on horses, wildlife and ranch livestock,” Campbell said. 

Campbell said the NRHC has big plans for the future of Ranch Life Learning. These plans include the development of the Ranch Life Learning Center exhibit, located on the NRHC property. 

The purpose of this interactive exhibit is to answer the frequent question; what is a ranch?

“The Ranch Life Learning Center will be an indoor-outdoor permanent exhibit that will answer questions with the help of Hank the Cowdog,” Hodges said. 

Hodges said when the NRHC opened its doors, the community was still very in touch with the meaning of agriculture. But times have changed, and an interactive exhibit will not only bring the Ranch Life Learning series to life, but also encourage agricultural education of the public. 

The exhibit will be large-scale and feature interactive technology and activities. The NRHC has been awarded a grant for planning the project but will require additional funding for the building process.

“We’ve made progress raising about a quarter of the funds needed,” Hodges said as she flipped through a binder. “And, we are actively pursuing the rest.”

The Ranch Life Learning Center is currently in the planning phase. By utilizing the skills of professional designers and architects, the NRHC hopes for the exhibit to be inclusive to all ages and levels of agricultural education.  

“We are partnering with various experts to make sure that we can build a wonderful exhibit that would be appropriate for a small child all the way to a seasoned rancher,” Hodges said.

Inclusivity is important at the NRHC. By creating age-friendly exhibits and activities, they are able to broaden demographics and reach a larger audience. Hodges said the NRHC expects a drastic increase in the number of visitors on site when the Ranch Life Learning Center opens. 

“It’s the only place in the world you’ll be able to see Hank the Cowdog in a realistic way,” Hodges said. 

The exhibit will include topics of cowboys, livestock nutrition, prairie ecology and the basics of ranch life. From wildlife to native plant species, this exhibit will cover a broad spectrum. The NRHC is aiming to spread agricultural awareness while preserving the beloved voice of Hank the Cowdog. 

“We’re building something that’s real and telling a real story with the help of a fictional character,” Hodges said. 

Within the next two to five years, the Ranch Life Learning Center will be much more than the plans and blueprints on Hodge’s desk.

Growing A New Generation

Many children do not have ties to agriculture or the opportunity to learn about the industry. The Bayer Museum is working to change that through the addition of the children's education wing. Photo courtesy of the Bayer Museum of Agriculture.

cacophony of noise engulfs your ears. Squeals of delight and peals of laughter surround you. Imagine children milling around, climbing up and down ladders and around a brightly colored room that seems to always be in motion. Little fingers touch, play and create new worlds, stimulated by their surroundings. You see dozens of make-believe scenarios being played out as kids consume information that will expand their horizons while doing what they do best – play.

This is the vision for the Bayer Museum of Agriculture and what ultimately will be a new addition that solidifies it as a place to educate visitors of all ages about agriculture.

The Start of a Dream

The Bayer Museum of Agriculture strives to bring the history of agriculture to everyone. This purpose is embedded in the organization’s mission statement and encourages the museum, “to preserve the history of, tell the story of and instill pride in American agricultural values.” When it comes to fulfilling that mission, the Bayer Museum of Agriculture is really good at what it does.

Despite the outstanding quality of the museum’s exhibits, there is something missing. The museum’s exhibit spaces are oriented mainly to adult audiences and the museum has only a handful of exhibits targeted toward children. Because kids primarily learn through doing and touching rather than observing, the static nature of most of the museum’s exhibits does little to engage a young, curious audience.

Once this shortcoming was identified, the challenge then became finding a way for the museum to become a place where everyone, from grandfather to grandchild, could enjoy a fun and educational experience.

In 2008, while attending the museum’s annual fundraiser, then museum board member Zach Brady and several others began conversations with Lacee Hoelting, Bayer Museum of Agriculture’s executive director, and quickly realized Lubbock did not have a place where children could learn about agriculture in an environment catered specifically to their learning styles. By adding a children’s wing, the museum would be able to better serve a key visitor demographic.

“This is the most obvious area where the museum could improve right now,” Brady said. “It’s the most important next step we can take.”

The Dream Begins to Develop

Fast forward to 2015 when Hoelting attended the Association of Children’s Museums Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was here Hoelting met representatives from Redbox Workshops, a Chicago-based company that creates children’s displays, including some farm-related exhibits across the nation. With Redbox providing knowledge about children’s exhibits and the Bayer Museum of Agriculture bringing its wealth of agricultural knowledge, a collaborative partnership was formed.

At that point, and with a little help from the J.T. and Margaret Talkington Foundation, a private organization which funds charitable causes centered around the arts and youth education, the museum found enough money to begin actively planning for the new addition. Soon, important questions such as what to include and how to present it began to come to light.

Decisions, Decisions

Hoelting said the museum wanted the new exhibits to present a more modern-day view of the industry. Therefore, the new wing would focus on the vast array of careers available in agriculture and show people in many different agricultural settings beyond the stereotypical middle man in overalls chewing a piece of straw and sitting on a tractor.

“No matter what you want to major in or what job you want, there is a place for it in agriculture,” Hoelting said.

This is the message the museum wants to promote through the wing.

Following two trips to facilities across the country specializing in presenting to children, the museum was able to identify several components that are important, but often overlooked, when educating children.

Finding the Funding

The final step, and in many ways the most daunting, toward making the dream a reality was gathering supporters for the new wing and raising money to cover the estimated $3.5 million it would cost.

 “We have about $1.5 million already raised,” Hoelting said. “We have about another $2 million out in requests right now and we also have several sponsorships available on exhibits. Everyone can help out. We will take $1. We will take a million dollars. We are not picky.”

In 2019, the Museum’s fundraising efforts for the children’s wing are increasing. As Lubbock grows in size, becoming more urban, the disconnect with agriculture grows, making the need for the wing more imperative.

“Agriculture is still such a huge part of our economy, but if you’re not teaching children and their families about agriculture and the people who produce it, we are going to lose a little bit more of our identity as an agricultural community every day,” Hoelting said.

Running parallel to the fundraising efforts, the museum is working with Redbox architects to finalize a design and floor plan. The tentative name for the children’s wing the museum is utilizing is AgWorks. The duel meaning of the name, Hoelting explained, is to highlight the careers available in agriculture and the positive connotation of everyone working together within the industry.

As adults it is important to help nurture children’s learning in all things but especially in those which will impact them throughout their lives. Photo courtesy of the Bayer Museum of Agriculture.

High Hopes for the Future

The museum is hoping to partner with more people across the Lubbock area and beyond as they begin to see the benefits the wing will provide for our children. Brady has been a supporter of the project since its conception and, as a Lubbock ISD board member, sees the importance of educating children about agriculture.

“It’s just an opportunity to teach,” Brady said. “It’s an opportunity to tell the story to a different population.”

Brady believes the wing will be a destination for not only Lubbock school children, but for children from around the area and those passing through. To realize this goal, Brady said the museum plans to have a space where outside groups who already have educational materials and programs can present them to students.

“Nobody’s trying to reinvent the wheel,” Brady said. “It’s about adapting and using stuff that works.”

The last and final step is to execute the plan and break ground for the new wing. Although the Bayer Museum of Agriculture is not yet to this stage, Hoelting said they are working to have the wing fully funded and completed by 2021. Looking to the future, it will become an educational staple of the Lubbock community.

Mary Jane Buerkle, a current Bayer Museum of Agriculture board member and director of communications and public affairs for Plains Cotton Growers, believes it is essential for children to have an opportunity to learn about agriculture in a year-round setting.

Once completed, the museum will be a place where all ages can come together to learn and enjoy their time exploring the history of Lubbock and agriculture. There is still a lot of work to be done to make the museum’s dream a reality, and by the end of the process, the museum will teach children of all ages about agriculture.

Grandpa can go look at tractors, the grandkids can play in the children’s wing. There is something for everyone.

With progress toward the children’s wing gaining momentum, the Bayer Museum of Agriculture and its supporters are determined to succeed. You can almost feel the excitement, see the energy of the children, and hear the effervescent chatter of kids learning about the special industry that helps feed and clothe the world.

“It’s outside what most would consider a traditional curriculum,” Buerkle said, “and it can enhance what many teachers are already doing in the classroom in regard to teaching about agriculture. The earlier we start instilling in our children the importance of agriculture, the more likely they are to carry that with them throughout the rest of their life.”

A New Alliance


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.”

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.”


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.”


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.”

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.

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