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From the Southeast, to the South Plains

The base of the Appalachian Mountains in Cleveland, Georgia, is not the place you would expect to find a Texas Tech Red Raider. Bucky Jackson, however, is not a typical young man.

Growing up in the mountains of North Georgia, Jackson was heavily involved in his local FFA chapter. Through his membership, he was encouraged by his advisor, Dustin Keener, to show market goats.

Jackson grew up on his family’s commercial beef cattle operation in the mountains of Georgia.

“Bucky is a great kid,” Keener said. “If you do not know about his passion for agriculture and the livestock industry, it is because you have never listened to him talk.”

As Jackson progressed into his high school years, he became interested in livestock judging. His interests soon grew into a passion and led Jackson to seek out higher education that would allow him to increase his knowledge of the livestock industry.

For his first two years of post-high school education, Jackson attended Fort Scott Community College while competing on the school’s extremely successful livestock judging team. To continue fulfilling his aspirations in the livestock field, Jackson decided to transfer to Texas Tech University to complete his undergraduate education.

“My decision was not very hard,” Jackson said. “Ever since I had started this journey, I had one school in mind and that was Texas Tech.”

Jackson has continued competing as a member of the Texas Tech judging program.

“Dr. Rathmann was one of the biggest reasons I came,” Jackson said. “His reputation as a coach and mentor made me want to be a part of this team and represent this school.”

Jackson plans to complete his undergraduate degree in the field of animal science at Texas Tech and utilize his education to attain a profession in the sales of agricultural pharmaceuticals. Jackson’s passion for the livestock industry is a true testament to the dedication and work ethic possessed by the Red Raider family.

 “This industry is what I have grown up loving,” Jackson said, “and I hope I can pass on my passion for agriculture to my kids one day.”

“Ever since I had started this journey, I had one school in mind and that was Texas Tech.”

Bucky Jackson
Bucky Jackson is and animal science major who hopes to find a career selling agricultural pharmeceudicals.

The New Ranch Horse Team Coach has Big Plans for the Future

Justin Stanton Ranch Horse Head Coach
Justin Stanton looks to the future as the new ranch horse team head coach.

The Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team has a reputation of winning multiple national and reserve national championship titles, but the new head coach wants more for his students than winning in the show pen.

“I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry.”

Justin Stanton

Justin Stanton, a native of Slaton, Texas, was excited and surprised when the previous head coach approached him about becoming the new head coach for the Ranch Horse Team.

Ranch Horse Team Coach Justin Stanton
The new ranch horse team coach, Justin Stanton, has big goals set for his students.

“I was really surprised,” Stanton said. “It just kind of came out of nowhere for me. Chance was the first one to talk to me about it and after it, all kind of sank in. I was, of course, super excited. I have such a passion for this team because it did so much for me and my family. I know what it can do for so many other students and just something about that just gets me fired up. This team holds a special place in my heart, and I want it to be successful.”

Being a qualified candidate for the position of head coach, Stanton runs his own horse training operation, Stanton Performance Horses, and was the prior assistant coach and a member of the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team.

“We had two national championships that I was part of on the team,” Stanton said.  “I won a reserve national championship and then my last year I was high point individual, won the nonpro division and that’s pretty much my show career for the team. At the time I was also training outside horses and I had about 10 horses in training that I showed on my own as well.”

Stanton knows the pride that comes from wearing the double T logo and has high expectations out of current and potential future team members. 

“With the reputation that the ranch horse team has there is a level of pride that you have while on this team,” Stanton said. “There are so many things that we do that requires a great attitude, a great work ethic, and a love for this team. A desire to make it better for the future kids to come on this team is huge that I look for in prospective team members.”

Stanton is looking to the future for the next big thing to help grow the program. He said he wants to focus not only on winning in the show pen but also helping his students prepare for life after college and being successful in the industry.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at winning,” Stanton said. “One thing that I really want to focus on is preparing these students for the industry. I want the ranch horse team to be the most elite program that all of the top professionals in the industry call and ask, ‘Who’s graduating this year?’ That’s more important than winning to me. Winning is, of course, important, but I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry because they have that much more experience.”

Stanton said he does not want a lack of experience to keep his students from not getting a job after they graduate but instead wants them to gain as much experience that they can while being on the team.

“To me, especially in the horse world, and really any industry, the experience you get out of school is important,” Stanton said. “But what does every facility, or place that you’re trying to apply to say? ‘You need more experience.’ I don’t want that to be a problem with my students. I want my students to have more experience than any other student coming out of similar programs.”

CASNR Names Hales as the New Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science

Thornton Distinguished Chair Dr. Kristin Hales
CASNR announced Dr. Kristin Hales as Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science.

A Panhandle native and a leading export in her field of nutrition and beef cattle has brought her expertise to Texas Tech University as the new Thornton Distinguished Chair.

“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research.” 

Dr. Hales said
Hales named Thornton Distinguished Chair
Dr. Kristin Hales named as the new CASNR Thornton Distinguished Chair in Animal Science.

Dr. Kristin Hales grew up in the Texas panhandle where she raised and showed cattle and sheep. She also did horse judging through her college career but said she always knew her passion was for beef cattle.

“I participated in the Texas Cattle Feeders Association Fed Beef Challenge where you had to feed a pin of cattle,” Hales said. “Then when I was in high school, I worked in the summertime, and after school at our local feedlot. That really piqued my interest in feedlot nutrition, especially in all feedlot cattle aspects and that’s really where I became interested.”

Hales completed her undergraduate and master’s degree in animal science at Oklahoma State University and then came back to Texas to complete her Ph.D. in animal science at Texas Tech. After Hales completed her schooling, she began working for the USDA Agricultural Research Service for the next decade.

“I knew that I wanted a heavy research job,” Hales said. “My degrees were very research driven and in doing the research in graduate school, I realized that I really enjoyed conducting research and analyzing data, interpreting the results, and then writing the results.”

While Hales worked for the government for the past decade there were not many opportunities to work with students or teach, she mainly just conducted her research and analyzed her data.

“I came back to academia because I really enjoy mentoring graduate students and helping them learn how to conduct research,” Hales said. “Helping students find their way and hoping that I can make research enjoyable for them so that they will want to one day do research as well. I always wanted to teach a little bit but going into ag research within the USDA I didn’t have that opportunity.”  

Through the years of research she did while working with the USDA, she said she was very excited to get to be teaching classes that related back to this research.

“I’ve been doing heavy research for the past 10 years,” Hales said. “Which makes it really fun to use what I’ve learned in my research, and then incorporate that into my classroom teachings. I really enjoy being on the university campus and I enjoy being around young people that are enthusiastic about agriculture.”

The animal and food science department staff were very excited to have Hales joining the department. Animal and food science chair and professor, Dr. Michael Orth, spoke very highly of Hales and looked forward to what she will bring to Texas Tech.

“Dr. Hales is a great addition to our faculty,” Orth said. “She became a nationally recognized researcher during her time at the USDA. She has a great work ethic and focus that is also being seen in the classroom. She will continue the tradition of outstanding scholars in the Thornton Chair position following in the footsteps of Drs. Preston and Galyean.”

Hales said she is excited to be back at Texas Tech teaching the next generation of research conductors and answering some of her research questions during her time at Texas Tech.

“When you look at it, time goes by so fast,” Hales said. “I’ve already been out of graduate school for 10 years. You really have to prioritize what questions do you want to answer before you retire because those answers take a long time to get when you’re doing research and so you have to prioritize. Like what things do I want to know before I retire, and I didn’t realize that right out of school.”

Restoring our Roots: The Dairy Barn Makeover

Texas Tech University is the paragon of agricultural education, and it has been since 1926. The year 1926 brought Texas Tech the beloved Dairy Barn, one of the oldest structures on campus built to originally house livestock for calving, feeding and milking. The dairy industry was thriving during this time, and in 1926, the Student Dairy Association was established. In 1927 The Texas Tech University Dairy Manufacturing Department, which was run out of the Dairy Barn, supplied milk, cheese, sweet butter and ice cream to the university and Lubbock community. From the first year at Texas Tech, the Dairy Barn embedded agriculture in Texas Tech’s name.

“The Dairy Barn speaks to our roots here at Texas Tech University.”

Dr. Micheal Gaylean – Sr. Vice President of Academic Affairs

In 1966, the dairy manufacturing department deserted the barn which led to the demolition of two wings that the original building had. The two wings were torn down in order to undergo the construction of the Foreign Language building. Over the years, the Dairy Barn has experienced many small renovations and raised financial efforts to help take care of the building. Since 1992, there have been multiple proposals and fundraising efforts to help preserve the Dairy Barn, and the constant initiative Texas Tech has shown is finally persevering. The Dairy Barn is getting the makeover it needs.

Inside Information

On Aug. 10, 2018, the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents approved the project to renovate the entire 8,000 gross-square-foot structure; the actual construction went underway on Nov. 11, 2019. The goal of this project is to renovate the first floor into studio spaces and display areas, and the second floor will be converted from a hayloft to an event space. Due to the historical construction date on this building, total interior reconstruction must be done, which includes all the mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire suppression, security, stairs and elevator renovations.

The first floor of the dairy barn post-renovated for display areas and studio space. Image courtesy of Jeff Sutherland

During the summer of 2012, the roofing on the silo and the barn were replaced as well as the roof decking and internal structure. The overall exterior of the Dairy Barn will be renovated, replacing doors, windows and trim. All exterior changes will coincide with the Dairy Barn’s historical look. The design professional on this project is Condray Design Group and the general contractor is Teinert Construction. The expected completion date on this project is fall 2020.

The after look of the Dairy Barn’s second floor hay loft. 
Image courtesy of Jeff Sutherland

Texas Tech University’s campus has developed a collaborative learning environment with the creation of open learning spaces and common areas. This construction project is centered around supporting the collaborative learning environment that has been structured across campus.

This renovation of the Dairy Barn will stand as a historical monument to the university and its agricultural roots. As construction continues to go on, let’s make it a constant reminder that Texas Tech University has proved greatness in agricultural education through the past and the present.

Agriculture is an Art

Starting his floral career at the age of three, Russell Plowman had a clear-cut plan for what he wanted to do with his life. As an instructor of horticulture in Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Plowman has been able to follow his passions and share them with his students.

“I knew early on what I was going to do. I didn’t have a choice,” Plowman said. “One of my first memories is planting Marigolds.”

Plowman’s interest in plants and flowers led him to Texas Tech to get his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ornamental horticulture. After college, Plowman opened his own floral shop and worked as a designer for many years. This led him to become a Certified Floral Designer and join the American Institute of Floral Design. Eventually, he returned to Texas Tech to work on his Ph.D. and serve as an instructor in the plant and soil science department.

“I knew early on what I was going to do. I didn’t have a choice.”

Russell Plowman

With all that comes with being a student, teacher and researcher, he let go of his certification and membership with AIFD to focus on teaching and earning his degree. Plowman still exercises his creative side by doing landscapes for clients around Lubbock, as well as teaching his popular floral design class.

“Word of mouth,” Plowman said when asked how he finds clients. “Each client helps me bring something new to teaching.”

Plowman has been instrumental in developing the curriculum for the floral design program. What once was only a lab for horticulture students is now an always full, creative arts credit open to anyone in the university. Plowman fought hard to get the class to where it is, writing and rewriting proposals, and finding what would work to make the class a well-rounded experience for students at Texas Tech.

“It took two semesters of working to rewrite it and getting it submitted,” Plowman said. “One of the comments was ‘nothing creative could ever come out of agriculture.’”

Despite what people have said about agriculture and art, agriculture can be creative and it often offers better experiences while learning.

“I took art as a creative arts credit and all I had to do was identify some paintings,” Kinnidy Markum, a former student said. “With floral design I felt like I was actually putting the concepts I learned about to use.”

Kolbie Tyler, Russell Plowman, and Alicia Thomas
Russell Plowman (middle) with Texas Tech graduate student, Kolbie Tyler (left) and instructor of horticulture, Alicia Thomas (right). Picture provided by Kolbie Tyler.

Each semester Plowman fills classrooms with students eager to learn about floral design. Thanks to its popularity, classes have increased over the years.

“When I took the class there were 20 students a year and now there are 80 or more a semester,” teaching assistant Kolbie Tyler said.

The lectures address the artistic concepts and history of floral design, while the lab teaches care and design techniques as students work with live flowers. Thanks to Plowman, those who take the class are eligible to become a certified floral designer in Texas.

“I want to teach an upper-level class soon as a service-learning class,” Plowman said. “That way, once they know techniques and designs, they can turn around and do a presentation to local florist.”

After each semester, Plowman modifies and improves the classroom experience for students. Plowman wants to give students the best learning experience that he can provide.

“I have proposed that I will teach every other class, and in between me, have other designers,” Plowman said. “I think that would just be wonderful.”

Russell Plowman giving feedback to a student during the floral design class’s design showcase. Picture provided by Kolbie Tyler.

Plowman recently became a second time Certified Floral Designer and member of the American Institute of Floral Design, which has never been done before.

“I reapplied and did it all over again,” Plowman said.

To become a CFD, you must demonstrate a thorough knowledge of floral design and be able to pass that onto students. Becoming a member of AIFD is no easy feat either, as it is one of the highest honors to have in the floral design industry. Each member must go in front of a jury of peers who judge their floral designs.

“You’re competing with all different kinds of people from all over the world,” Plowman said. “You go into a room; you don’t know what kind of flowers you’re going to get or design you’re going to have to make.”

While creativity and thorough knowledge of concepts is important, AIFD is committed to education as well.

“AIFD is all about education and treating floral design as an art,” Plowman said.

Being committed to continue getting accreditations to better serve students is just one of the many reasons Texas Tech is lucky to have an instructor like Russell Plowman.

“I’ve planted something my whole life,” Plowman said.

While Plowman could take the easy road and focus on one task at a time, he is committed to his aspirations as well as being the best instructor he can be.

Marie Reinke

A first-generation undergraduate student stepped foot on the Texas Tech University campus awaiting her four-year landscape architecture experience. A passion for landscape architecture and campus involvement allowed this student to find their second home. 

“My interpretation of landscape architecture is designing the outdoors in sustainable ways that allow humans and wildlife to interact with nature.”

Landscape Architecture Student

Marie Reinke, from Waco, Texas, is a senior at Texas Tech dual majoring in landscape architecture and business management.

“Some might not understand what this degree is or what we do. My interpretation of landscape architecture is designing the outdoors in sustainable ways that allow humans and wildlife to interact with nature,” Reinke said.

Reinke is a member of the Student American Society of Landscape Architects (SASLA) at Texas Tech and served as the event coordinator.

The SASLA provides an excellent experience through professional opportunities. Something that the organization does differently is putting together an event called WreckShop.

Marie Reinke is a Texas Tech student that has built a strong foundation through her professors and peers within the Department of Landscape Architecture

“This event is something that as a student officer, we spend all summer and most of spring and fall semesters preparing for,” Reinke said.

The three-day event Reinke put on is filled with educational experiences showcased at the First Friday Art Trail, a monthly city art show in Lubbock, Texas has each month.

Reinke emphasized the importance of being involved during her collegiate experience.

“You may ask, where does my business management degree come into play,” Reinke said, “having a business management degree is appropriate and relatable no matter the type of business it is one is working for.”

In August 2020, Reinke will graduate with her Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and Business Management. Her career goals are to use her skills to work her way up in a company.

“The participation that I have had within the landscape architecture community has been extremely helpful with making connections with professors and professionals in my field of study,” Reinke said, “it has opened doors for opportunities and relationships that can be built beyond my time as an undergraduate.”

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.”

Growing soybeans; Growing futures

Dr. Lyford looking at statistics of his research.
Texas Tech University takes pride in doing research internationally to advance agricultural practices in other countries.

Ghana’s poverty and hunger have declined steadily over the last 20 years thanks, mostly, to improved agricultural extension services and improved market access. Researchers in Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources were working to understand the financial benefits of producing soybeans in Africa.

In Ghana, research plots of soybeans were planted to monitor the changes in yield and income for local farmers.

The goal of the research was to evaluate the effect of improved agricultural extension services and improved market access opportunities on productivity level, food security, nutrition status and income levels among smallholder farmers, according to research by Conrad Lyford, Texas Tech agricultural and applied economics professor.

The research took place for a year. At the end of the study, farmers showed interest in continuing to grow soybeans. In the year after, soybean production expanded in almost all targeted communities, according to Esri.

“There’s a lot of inequities in production agriculture in Africa,” Lyford said.

“Typically, most of the farmers are actually women. However, women have a lot less access to credit, quality land, informational resources, and other inputs to be successful in farming. Soybeans were considered at the time to be a ‘woman’s crop’.”

In Ghana, soybeans are put into food for an additional source of protein. Soybeans have appealing nutritional characteristics and looked like they would be profitable, Lyford said. The producers could benefit financially from the crop with the right tools, which they did not currently have access to.

Lyford said the scale of Ghana’s production agriculture differs from the United States, especially when it comes to equipment. Ghana farmers harvest everything by hand, whereas U.S. farmers utilize a wide range of machinery to farm a higher number of acreage.

However, the two countries do share some agricultural commonalities. One way production is like the United States is the mindset, he said. The Ghana farmers are doing a job to benefit the community and their families.

“The big similarity,” Lyford said, “is they’re just growing crops for a source of income and food.”

Lyford said Ghana has a more agriculturally-based economy. A big engine for growth in Ghana is production agriculture, and it is something that can be improved for the better, he said.

Throughout Lyford’s study, yields were substantially increased for most farmers who participated.

As of today, most of the farmers who participated in the study are now producing on their own.

“The ones I talked to were very happy to have done it. They were proud to be involved and pleased with the outcomes.

Dr. Lyford

“Some of the other farmers in different regions and communities are now starting to produce soybeans,” Lyford said.  

Lyford said men and women from the farming communities participated in the study.

“The focus was primarily on women,” Lyford said, “70% of the recipients were women; however, we did have men that were involved as well.”

Women farmers are key contributors to agriculture production, marketing and intrahousehold food distribution.

Available evidence shows food security and overall national growth and development of any economy could be improved if smallholders, particularly women smallholders, are supported, according to Esri.  

The study’s objectives for the research were to determine the current situation with soybean productivity level, food security and nutrition status, he said. Then, they would evaluate the effect of the improved situation and the impact on female smallholders.

In Ghana, soybeans are used for farm families who are extremely poor. Soybeans can provide protein for malnourished children.

Lyford’s project aimed to help aid farmers in Ghana with agricultural opportunities. Lyford said he and his team saw significant increases in yield, especially in Sankpala and Chiranda. In the other three areas of research, they found the yields were lower than before the implementation of the study. However, the end of the assessment showed unpredictable climate was the main cause of lower yields, Lyford said.

In regard to income, all areas showed an increase in income for the farmers. The objectives of the study were achieved by identifying new market locations, training smallholders in market dynamics, and linking farmers to agricultural commodity marketing platforms, according to Esri. 

During the research, gender inequality was also a factor. On a national level, there has been improvement with inequality for women. However, some parts of Ghana still struggle with this issue, he said. One example of the inequality women face is receiving lower quality land.

In Ghana, men usually have the power over decision making with resources, education, and training, according to Esri. This was one of the main reasons the study focused in on aiding women he said. 

For the most part, the farmers who were a part of the study were grateful for the experience.

“The ones I talked to where very happy to have done it.” Lyford said. “They were proud to be involved and pleased with the outcomes. At the end, they took over ownership of producing the soybeans. They were very motivated to get the job done. Farmers were now thinking about how to be more productive, and how to overcome constraints they faced the year before.”

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.

Expanding the Future of CASNR

Originally from Jacksonville, Florida, William F. “Bill” Brown, Ph.D., the new dean for the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources spent a large part of his childhood on his mother’s family farm near Selma, Alabama.

“My mother came from a very diversified agricultural background including corn, cotton, soybeans, beef cattle, swine and some chickens,” Brown said.

Having spent countless hours on the farm, Brown reminisces on the fun times he and his sister had and the memories they were able to make.

Educational Career 

Because of his roots, once Brown graduated high school his interest in agriculture led him to attend the University of Florida in pursuit of an animal science degree.

“After I finished my BS degree, I looked around at jobs, and the jobs that were available at the BS level didn’t really interest me, he said. “So, you know, the next best option is to keep going to school.”

Later, after spending two years in the late ‘70s at the University of Tennessee pursuing his master’s, he made the trip north to the University of Nebraska, where he then remained for four years to work on a Ph. D., with Dr. Terry Klopfenstein, Ph.D., as a major professor. While there he studied ruminant nutrition in cattle and as result developed a fond love for research.

“My major professors from my masters and Ph.D. degree really mentored me and had a big impact on my direction and future career, particularly at the PhD level,” Brown said.

Professional Career 

After graduating with his Ph.D., he made the trip back to Florida to work for the University of Florida at the Research and Education Center in south-central part of the state where he was able to conduct research on beef cattle nutrition and work with cattle producers in the area.

“This position taught me the importance of conducting research that is applicable to the clientele that we serve,” Brown said.

With all of the essentials packed and ready, Dr. Brown has traveled the country in pursuit of excellence in both his educational and professional career.

Over the course of roughly 30 years, he worked his way through the ranks as an assistant professor to full professor at the University of Florida where he then served as associate dean of research in Gainesville, Florida, leading him to the position of dean of research at the University of Tennessee, ultimately landing him into the role of dean at Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.

Making Big Moves 

On April 18, 2018 Brown took office in Goddard 108 as the new, Florida native, research driven dean for CASNR.

“This is the capstone of my career,” Brown said.

“A lot of my experience comes from the southeastern part of the country,” Brown said. “But what is really striking for me and what led me to Texas Tech was everyone all over the country knows about CASNR and the students that graduate from this college.”

Brown said as the new dean for CASNR, one of the main challenges he wants to work on is developing a balance between teaching, research and engagement in an effort to serve students, industry, science and the public.

“With the university’s new strategic plan,” Brown said, “what we need to do is develop more of a balance between outstanding student success that we have and enjoy, while also developing new knowledge that will help our clientele.”

Off to a Good Start

CASNR Associate Dean for Research, Michael Ballou, Ph.D., said when he first began teaching at Texas Tech 12 years ago, there was already a push for developing more research.

As a member of the selection committee that helped hire Brown as dean, Ballou said when they interviewed candidates, they always stressed the importance of being balanced. This meant candidates should be enthusiastic about research, engaged in outreach and focused on teaching.

“We always emphasize we’re not going to grow research at the expense of teaching,” Ballou said. “We think with Dr. Brown’s culture and experience we can be more efficient and help faculty be more engaged in research.”

Cindy Akers, Ph. D, associate dean for student success in CASNR, said she looks forward to working with Brown. She said Brown is the first dean she has worked with that has come from outside of CASNR.

“One of his initiatives I am most looking forward to is defining excellence,” Akers said. “He is asking faculty to develop what it is that we are going to be excellent in, how do we measure it, and how can we define it.”

No two days are the same, Brown said, as he transitions into the dean’s position. With several goals in a mind for the college, he said it is important for this position to work both internally within the faculty, staff, departments and students. But it is also just as important to be engaged externally in the communities and with future students.

Senior animal science major, Kaylynn Kiker, works as a college recruiter for CASNR. She said one of the first impressions she had of Brown was how friendly and charismatic he was.

“The fact that we have a dean who is so eager to meet students and talk to current students to learn their story really makes a difference,” said Kiker. “I have no doubt Dr. Brown is going to be a remarkable dean for CASNR.”

Walk a MILE in Their Shoes

CASNR MILE students travel to Austin, Texas, for one of the many trips taken during the program. Photo Courtesy: Lindsay Kennedy/ Ph.D.

Leadership is defined as one who inspires and motivates action; having a can-do personality and strong leadership skills; one who encourages change. Some synonyms include guidance, direction, authority and management. Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has as leadership program, the Matador Institute of Leadership Engagement, prepares students for the future. 

The first CASNR MILE cohort will graduate in May 2019 and the upcoming cohort will be selected fall 2019. The program includes a three-semester-long, intensive schedule that teaches students leadership skills, professional development, and experiential learning opportunities. Only 14 students throughout CASNR are selected each year and experience an intense, but rather rewarding, program.  

Anevay Sanchez, from Odessa, Texas, is a senior natural resources management major at Texas Tech. Sanchez said her confidence has increased significantly because of this program. She has learned many things, but her favorite has been learning to believe in herself. 

Along with gaining her confidence, Sanchez said everyone has a role to play when it comes to teamwork. At the beginning of the program, one of her weaknesses was collaboration and learning what her specific role was in the MILE Program. 

“Being able to be part of a team and given a role to play is one of the leadership skills that I have learned,” Sanchez said. 

As a member of the CASNR MILE Program, Sanchez has gained exposure to people in various careers and real-world experience. Sanchez said she applied to be part of this program because it encourages professional development and networking opportunities. She said as a young adult, these experiences are beneficial before starting a career. 

“Professionalism is a key part of the MILE Program, and we have had a lot of exposure to many different parts of the industry,” Sanchez said, “all the way from farming to politics, and that has helped us so much.”

Some of the activities they utilized was professional etiquette, personal leadership, and cover letter and resume critiques. Sanchez said the first two semesters of the program were busy and required so much of her. She said when it comes to the program in general, almost all of your time, energy and work should be invested in it completely. For the upcoming cohort her advice is simple.

“Don’t be intimidated,” Sanchez said, “it is good to get involved, but don’t overload yourself.” 

Upon graduation, Sanchez is applying to multiple law schools, but she is holding out for Texas Tech’s Law School. She wants to get into legislation and regulation because of the meetings she attended on the MILE’s trip to Washington D.C.; she was immediately sucked in. 

Hagen Wright, from Idalou, Texas, is a junior natural resources management majorat Texas Tech. Wright has a possible future in law ahead of him and he is ready to get involved in leadership at Texas Tech.

Wright said he really wanted to get involved at Texas Tech, but being a transfer student, he was unsure how to get started. The CASNR MILE Program was new and intriguing, and he liked the idea of developing his leadership. 

 “You have to be open to meeting new people,” Wright said, “and hearing their ideas.”

Wright said being in this program, people skills are brought to the surface of your expertise. He said you are constantly meeting people, creating interactions, and forming relationships. 

 “Keep an open mind, you will see and meet people with a lot of different leadership approaches, and a lot of different ideas about policy,” Wright said. “You also need to see where everyone is coming from, especially in the agriculture industry because it is so diverse.” 

There are many different groups of people in agriculture and those groups want to accomplish great things, Wright said. With determination in his eyes, he said we have to be understanding with one another.

“Multiple groups in agriculture have different goals,” Wright said. “We all have to work together to get something done, so just stay open minded.” 

Wright said his absolute favorite person he met, through the program, was former Texas Tech University System Chancellor, Robert Duncan, at the Texas Capitol in Austin. He said Duncan was inspirational and taught the cohort about his leadership strategies. Wright said the MILE program was involved and learned how everything worked in the state government. 

“Getting legislature passed in Austin and politics is very complicated and intermingled,” Wright said. “Out of everything we learned in Austin, I would have to say the most important is how essential relationships are, with not only people who you met in college, but people you meet in your clubs.”

All of the agricultural people in Austin have to stay really close and connected to get tasks accomplished, Wright said. During their trip to Austin, Wright and the rest of the mile cohort enjoyed participating in Texas Tech’s System Day at the Capitol. They got to learn about Texas Tech’s brand-new veterinary school, hear goals for the school, and how the government plans to accomplish those goals. 

“I would definitely say it was worth it,” Wright said. “It’s an experience and opportunity you aren’t going to get anywhere else.”

Wright went on to explain how being in the CASNR MILE program is tough yet rewarding. Wright said the last three semesters were intense, but they set him up for a successful future.

“I would not be the same person today, if not for this program.”

“This program has helped prepare me for the real-world,” Wright said. “Being in this program has narrowed my focus on what I want to do and what I want to pursue.” 

With a soft smile, Wright said the MILE program has done so much for him, but most importantly has given him a sense of direction. Wright went on to say some people know exactly what they want to do, but this program helped him focus on his future, and develop a direction for his career. With determination, he said he now knows what steps need to be taken to get him where he is going. 

“I would not be the same person today, if not for this program,” Wright said. “It has definitely bettered me.” 

Wright also mentioned how thankful he is for the CASNR MILE Program and how it shaped him. 

“The key strength I have taken away is building relationships with people, and realizing the importance of doing the right thing,” Wright said, “such as being involved with what makes you passionate.” 

Wright ended with how we, agricultural communicators, need to be pushing forward, innovating, and trying to make things better. He said to never be stagnant. 

“Things are always changing,” Wright said, “so you need to be forward-thinking.” 

Hagan Wright, a junior natural resource management major, chose to apply for the MILE Program because he liked the idea of leadership.

Numbers Queen of CASNR

Linda Whitebread stands outside the administration building, showing her signature smile.

Crucial to the Cause


veryone at the dean’s office at the College of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources will tell you how important Linda Whitebread is to the program. Whether it be her sweet demeanor or her admirable work ethic, Whitebread goes above and beyond to get her job done.

Whitebread’s Past

Linda Whitebread has been working in finance ever since she kept the books at the Portales Municipal airport in Portales, New Mexico, while she attended college at Eastern New Mexico University. Convenient for her as she grew up in nearby Demi, New Mexico, about 30 miles from the Mexican border. After school Whitebread says she took the long route to Lubbock. Over the years, Whitebread and her husband lived in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and then North Carolina before they moved to Lubbock, Texas. Other than in finance, jobs she has held include working in research at Kimberly Clark, as an events coordinator at a chamber of commerce in Indiana, as well as a volunteer work. After moving to Lubbock, Whitebread joined the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts where she currently sits on the board of directors. She credits herself as a part of the first ever First Friday Art Trail put on by LHUCA. Although she does not make art, she likes to see people enjoy and be exposed to it. Since joining many years ago Whitebread is proud to see what LHUCA has become. She encourages all students to go and attend the First Friday Art Trail.

“She’s that behind the scenes person that makes everyone look better,”

Renowned Character

Linda Whitebread is the director of administration and finance for the Texas Tech University College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. Cindy Akers, the associate dean for academic and student programs at CASNR, has worked with Whitebread for years.

“She is the best at what she does and at the same time, she conducts her business in the kindest and most humble way possible,” Akers said.

Good With Numbers

Whitebread has a knack for numbers. When asked what her dream job is, Whitebread says she is in it.

“This is what I like to do.” Whitebread said “I’ve done a lot of things in my life, different kinds of jobs, and I like what I’m doing now.”

She is confident in her ability. Whitebread says she remembers numbers pretty easily. Which seems to be important in a position such as hers.

As Director of Administration and Finance, Whitebread manages the funds for the dean’s office. She also works with each of the seven departments of CASNR managing funds and helping people to answer questions within the department. As far as her favorite part of the job, Whitebread says it’s the people she works with.

 “Working with the people is my favorite. Said Whitebread”

While balancing ledgers and working with budgets take up most of Whitebread’s time. She is in charge of keeping up with the inventory in the dean’s office, as well as helping with the hiring and appointing of people in the dean’s office and the vet science graduate program.

From Her Peers

There are many in the college who appreciate the work Whitebread does, such as Dr. Cindy Akers.

“She’s that behind the scenes person that makes everyone look better,” said Akers. In a stressful environment such as finance, there is no question as to her value to the college. It’s not just Akers who will attest to Whitebread’s character. Julann Curlee, the executive associate to the dean, also had something to say about it.

“She is somebody that will do anything for anyone, she’s always willing to take on more, and do whatever it takes to get things done. Said Curlee” “She’s a very good team player, and just has a very sweet demeanor about her.”

Red and Black Through and Through

When asked what she likes about Lubbock, Texas, Whitebread says she loves the people. “I think they are so nice” she said.

 Whitebread also has a passion for the University. She enjoys cheering on the Red Raiders in whatever in whatever sports they may be competing in. She says it is one of her favorite past times in Lubbock. As for the university, she applauds the wonderful goals it sets for the students and the university academically. Specifically the strides that Texas Tech is taking with research, especially in the last ten years, as well as it’s focus on diversity.

 Whitebread also admires the student success center at Texas Tech, and has even helped with some of it’s finances.


“Tech does a good job of connecting with students and are really willing to help them succeed and we are seeing that across the campus. she said.”

There is no question as to the role Whitebread has in CASNR. Her coworkers think the world of her, and appreciate the time and effort she puts into her job. CASNR to truly lucky to have someone such as her on staff.

TOP: Goddard hall where Whitebread works during a sunset. LEET: Inside these doors Whitebread spends her time balancing budgets and and helping with administrating for the college. RIGHT: Linda Whitebread stands in the newly renovated  courtyard of the Goddard building.

Raider Wardens

Texas Tech University, South Plains College and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cooperatively worked together to develop the Bachelor of Science in Conservation Law Enforcement, a one-of-a-kind exclusive degree program that can only be obtained from Texas Tech.

Robert Cox, Ph.D., associate professor for the Department of Natural Resources Management and primary advisor for the conservation law enforcement students, said the program is making an impact in the wildlife management industry.

“We have been seeing an increase in the success of getting students in the program to the game warden academy, which means that Texas Tech graduates will now start being farmed out across the state as game wardens, managing the interaction between people and wildlife,” Cox said.

The program requires an associate’s degree in criminal justice from a two-year institution, such as South Plains College. Once students have completed their associate’s degree and begin the conservation law enforcement program at Texas Tech, they then take a series of wildlife courses, such as wildlife management, wildlife anatomy or waterfowl management. Cox said students in those courses learn how to observe, manage and identify wildlife species.

“Think about a game warden,” Cox said, “let’s say they come across a deer carcass. They need to know how to identify what kind of animal that is, how old the animal was, how it was killed, or whether it has evidence of disease, and those are the kinds of things they are learning here.”

The program features courses taught by game wardens in the region. The game wardens instruct students in the conservation law enforcement program on how to be a game warden.

Ride-along hours are required for the program in order for students to get a real experience of the daily life of a game warden. The program prefers the ride-along hours be with a current game warden, but students can complete their hours with any law enforcement official, such as city or state police or even a justice of the peace. Cox said students soon realize law enforcement involves a lot of downtime and paperwork with brief moments of excitement.

The distinguished Texas Game Warden Training Academy is a very competitive program with only 15 to 20 cadets being accepted each year out of hundreds of applicants. There is a rigorous application procedure that includes testing, a series of interviews, background checks, and physical and psychological evaluations. He said Texas Tech generally has one or two students accepted into the academy annually, and most applicants apply for several years before they are accepted.

Preston Kleman, a 2014 Texas Tech graduate from the conservation law enforcement program, is a Texas game warden in Lamb, Bailey, and Cochran counties. Kleman said the program helped him in unique ways that cadets from other programs did not experience prior to entering the game warden academy. Kleman said he had already been introduced to a large portion of the material they went over in the academy because of the thorough curriculum in the conservation law enforcement degree program.

Conservation law enforcement students sit in on a classroom session focused on force training and tactics when dealing with non-cooperating individuals.

“Not everybody had a criminal justice or wildlife degree in the academy,” Kleman said. “Some of the others had teaching degrees and came from varying backgrounds. I had more exposure to the varying types of experiences game wardens endure than most of the other people in the academy because I was in conservation law. It really stands out to the instructors. It shows you’re interested and you want it.”

Kleman stressed the importance of criminal justice and conservation courses. He said game wardens spend most of their time doing criminal justice work, but the conservation courses come in handy when working on biology or conservation-related duties.

Ride-along hours were a major benefit to Kleman. He said getting to see game wardens in the field doing their duties was a major help while in the academy. During his time, his instructors would give him test scenarios and he would have to figure out how to handle them.

Conservation law enforcement has greatly influenced my future in the game warden profession.

Baylie Halbakken, a senior from Levelland, Texas, said majoring in conservation law can be tough and daunting at times, especially when looking at hiring rates and the probability of being accepted into the game warden academy. However, he believes the program offered by Texas Tech is a major assistance to the participating students, and he believes students who complete the program are at a higher-level than others applying for the game warden academy who do not have the specialized degree.

“Overall, it’s a lot of fun if you take a step back and really look at what you are getting involved in because we get to put our hands in a lot of different things as conservation law students,” Halbakken said. “We get to see the wildlife aspects of it, we get to see changes in animal populations, we get to do and participate in prescribed burns, and we get to participate in the law enforcement aspect of things. We are pretty much covering an entire gamete of areas of expertise that we get to participate in on a daily basis.”

Major Ron VanderRoest instructs a night class once a week for the conservation law students.

Halbakken said it is the instructors of conservation law enforcement, such as Captain-Major VanderRoest, who have been the most helpful for students in the program. Some instructors are currently in the profession and get to teach the students about what it means to become a game warden and how to be a better game warden. The instructors can also give insight into the process of getting hired, what the job entails, and the ins and outs students could potentially want to know about the career they may partake in.

“Conservation law enforcement is a highly beneficial program,” Halbakken said. “If anyone is looking into it, they should be proactive and look into it now.”

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.”


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.”

Pipeline to Success

Today in the agricultural industry there is a growing importance for qualified individuals who understand the industry and all its moving parts. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources is helping fill that void with leaders who are well educated about the industry.

In the fall of 2017, the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University selected its first cohort for the Matador Institute for Leadership Engagement, a program that has been long in the works.

The idea for a leadership program for students within the college was on the table for years, according to Steve Fraze Ph.D., who was the CASNR interim dean during the CASNR MILE development and played an instrumental role in starting the program.

CASNR wanted to give students an opportunity to develop leadership skills that would set them apart as they enter the workforce.

“This program will create a pipeline of trained young agricultural leaders,” Fraze said, “who are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and understanding of the issues and challenges facing our industry.”

Lindsay Kennedy, MILE program director and a graduate of the TALL program, along with Fraze, began talking with key individuals outside of Texas Tech. These individuals were supportive of a possible leadership program, and many of whom were also TALL graduates.

It is unique. The MILE program offers students an experience different than a lot of the other activities we have within the college.

Many aspects of the MILE program were designed with the Texas Agriculture Lifetime Leadership program in mind. The TALL program focuses on getting participants out of their comfort zones and experiencing different sectors of the agriculture industry. These are two important factors of the MILE.

“It is unique,” Kennedy said. “The MILE program offers students an experience different than a lot of the other activities we have within the college.”

Kennedy said she hopes the MILE program will be a trademark of work ethic, professionalism and the leadership ability of CASNR students. The program aims to give students a broad understanding of agriculture and its key issues while teaching students to advocate for the industry.

Developing a network is also a key goal for the MILE program. Students will have the opportunity to meet and network with people involved in every aspect of agriculture, including livestock, crops, conservation, and policy

Selecting the First Cohort

Once the program was developed, CASNR began accepting applications for the MILE program’s first cohort. Selected applicants then participated in an interview with the MILE advisory committee, which is comprised of industry leaders and CASNR personnel.

“We wanted the cream of the crop,” Kennedy said. “I was really impressed with the quality students who applied for our first cohort.”

Tanya Foerster, advertising director for Capital Farm Credit, is a member of the advisory board for the CASNR MILE program and participated in the interview process.

“Wow, what a hard job to have,” Foerster said. “They were very highly qualified individuals, and it was really hard to narrow it down and pick a group. I was very impressed, and it made me feel good to be an alumnus of Texas Tech and [CASNR].”

Fourteen students representing five of the six CASNR departments were selected to be in the first CASNR MILE cohort.

Each cohort will run for three semesters and will require participants to enroll in a MILE-specific course each semester.

During their time in the program, students will tour farms, ranches, livestock facilities, processing facilities and will ultimately travel to Washington, D.C. and Austin to meet with federal and state policymakers and agencies. MILE members are also required to complete an internship during their cohort.

“You can put slide shows up all day,” Kennedy said, “but when you go and stand in a field and talk to somebody and experience the different areas of ag, that’s when you develop an understanding for how all those segments fit into our industry.”

The MILE program is also geared to teach students professional and communication skills, including dining etiquette, understanding social etiquette, and possessing communication skills are essential when advocating for a cause.

Heath Hadley undergoes media training regarding controversial topics in agriculture. Photo courtesy of CASNR MILE.

Maggie Pipkin, a sophomore agricultural communications major from Spearman, Texas, is a member of the first MILE cohort.

Pipkin said she applied for MILE because of the variety of professional development opportunities offered through the program. Students are required to wear business professional or business casual anytime the cohort meets.

During one of the first MILE meetings, students learned the tips and tricks of table etiquette. They also received resume and cover letter critiques from professionals at the Texas Tech University Career Center.

“The etiquette dinner was extremely beneficial,” Pipkin said, “and one of my favorite things we have done so far. I learned so much.”

Kaylynn Kiker, a junior majoring in animal science with a business concentration from Allison, Texas, said the opportunities CASNR have been extraordinary so far.

“I like that the CASNR MILE is not a base-level leadership program,” Kiker said. “It’s going to take students who already have a lot of leadership skills and build on those.”

Kiker said she knows this program will have a positive effect on her life, not just from the leadership and communication skills she will obtain, but also from the numerous people she will network with in the industry.

Looking Ahead

As the MILE program continues, Foerster said she thinks it is going to be a snowball effect and the application rate will drastically increase.

“The future looks bright for agriculture,” Foerster said.

She said she feels certain the MILE program will be as beneficial to students as the TALL program was for her. Especially since students are given the opportunity to learn about and tour such a diverse range of agriculture industries.

“It is definitely something that is going to broaden their horizon,” Foerster said.

Fraze said he looks forward to seeing what students in the new MILE program will accomplish in their careers and do for the agriculture industry. The success of the program rides solely on the success of the students once in their careers.

Kiker said she looks forward to seeing how the MILE program will grow with the following cohorts.

“I think this program is going to continue to progress as more cohort members go out into the workforce and take on leadership positions in the industry,” Kiker said. “I can’t wait to see what my peers and the future cohort members following us will accomplish.”

Expanding for the Industry: CASNR Develops New Department

As the agricultural industry grows, so does the need for industry leaders. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the demand for large animal veterinarians is increasing. This is primarily due to the fact that there are fewer practitioners trained to treat large population animals. This shortage is impacting rural areas in Texas which are dependent on the health of their livestock. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University is hoping to meet this industry need with its development of the Department of Veterinary Science that will focus on population-preventative medicine.

“Most of the livestock [operations] in this area are fairly large and there are lots of animals,” Interim Department Chair of the Department of Veterinary Sciences, Michael Ballou Ph.D., said. “We will take more of a population-based approach to answering questions and solving problems.”

After a year of planning, CASNR named Ballou the interim department chair in 2017. A California native, Ballou found his way to Texas Tech in 2007 after receiving a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 2002 and a doctorate in nutritional biology with an emphasis in immunology in 2007, both from the University of California-Davis. His nationally-recognized studies helped earn him the title of CASNR associate dean for research in 2014. His background in research has helped him in the development of the new department.

Aiding the Industry

The newly formed department is a graduate program only. The program will offer master’s and doctorate degrees, both of which are research-based degrees. The department will offer a traditional on-campus program and distance programs. The primary focus of the department will be to train individuals in the population and preventive veterinary medicine. The program plans to attract people interested in pursuing a research career with a primary focus in farm animal medicine.

Ballou said the veterinary sciences department will provide a greater focus on research and outreach efforts in food, animal, equine and wildlife health and well-being, and is intended to meet the educational and research needs of the animal-agricultural industry and the regional veterinary community.

We will take more of a population-based approach to answering questions and solving problems.

“Our focus is mainly going to be looking at the population data and understanding how we can improve the health of feedlot cattle and dairy cattle,” Ballou said. “Our research programs will depend on collecting data from local operations, and they have the data we need.”

Ballou said this program will stand out from the rest as it will focus more on population and preventative medicine in the livestock industry. This is different than clinical medicine, which would suggest diagnosing one sick animal. Population preventive medicine looks at overall livestock production and focuses on the incidence of disease, how many animals are getting sick, and what factors could contribute to that.

The department is going to have a focus on population and preventative medicine in the large livestock industry.

Setting the Standards

Ballou said he and his team want to focus on integrating all aspects of the college’s current departments into the curriculum. He said there will be portions built into the curriculum that will include natural resource management, agricultural communications, agricultural education, agricultural economics, animal and food science, and even public policy. The graduate program will focus on all aspects of the veterinary science industry, not just medicine.

“We are trying to look at ourselves as more of a centralized department, but also relying on and working with other departments in the college,” Ballou said.

Ballou said the online-based program will be particularly appealing to those already who have a doctorate of veterinary medicine and are practicing veterinarians. This program will allow them to continue to work in the industry and also gain new skills that they would not have learned in vet school.

“When you go to vet school, they teach you how to be a veterinarian,” Ballou said. “They teach you how to deal with one animal that comes in that is sick. They don’t teach you how to deal with large population data. So, being an online program, a veterinarian can be in practice and still articulate through this program in two years. It’s going to teach them different skill sets to understand large populations.”

Ballou said those with international veterinary degrees will also be attracted to the online program as they would be able to continue their research while abroad. This program will additionally target people who may have a Ph.D. and are working in the industry, such as animal or livestock health nutrition management, who want to understand how to look at health data as well.

What’s Next

The department is currently in the process of getting the required approval to open its doors to students in the next years. Ballou said he and his team have been working endlessly to get curriculum developed and proper accreditation from the university.

Although the department itself has been approved, Ballou said it will still take a year or two to get everything finalized and placed where it needs to be. As of now, the curriculum for the graduate program can be found on a piece of scratch paper displayed in Ballou’s office in which he and his team have made notes and developed what they think will be the most beneficial to the future students. CASNR does not know when the department will see its first round of graduate students in this department, but Ballou and his team are working to make this program the best it can be to set it apart from other veterinary programs. This department will help shape our industry leaders in new ways.

Not Just Medicine

 It is important to note that the veterinary science department will not be associated with the College of Veterinary Medicine that is currently in the works at Texas Tech through the university systems. Although the future vet school will be a link to the main campus and present resources to CASNR, the two are unrelated. Ballou said the two will essentially be focused on different aspects of the industry.  

Cattle are just like us – They Need Their Vitamins Too!

How the global vitamin shortage is affecting the agriculture feed industry.

Growing up do you remember your mother forcing you to swallow or chew a couple chalky vitamins before heading off to school? Remember wondering, why do I have to take these nasty things?! Even though most of us as children wished that those vitamins would just disappear. Be careful what you wish for…

As children we don’t realize how important vitamins are for keeping our bodies healthy. Our skin, eyes, hair, metabolism, teeth and virtually every other part of our body benefits from the intake of vitamins. Animals benefit greatly from vitamins too, and animals used for food, even more so. Due to the current global shortage of vitamins A and E, the animal agriculture industry is about to face some tough challenges.

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for health, reproduction and growth in animals. It also plays a vital role in low-light vision; normal kidney functions; development of teeth, bones and nervous tissue. Vitamin E is essential for the optimum function and integrity of animals’ muscular, reproductive, circulatory, nervous and immune systems.

Young Hereford calves wait for the feed truck to deliver their morning rations that are enhanced with necessary vitamins. Photo by: Maclaine Shults

After the closure of a large plant in China and a fire that destroyed much of the European BASF chemical plant in Germany, which contributes over 45 percent of the global supply of citral, industry leaders fear an inevitable spike in feed prices.

With the current cattle market resting below a measly $2/lbs of beef harvested, cattle feeders are barely getting by while trying to meet the historic, all-time high demand for beef. Now throw in the added lack of vitamins A and E, which play a crucial role in animal nutrition, and the financial walls just seem like they’re about to close in!

However, industry officials came up with a couple ways for producers to plan ahead and hopefully soften the blow until plants are up and running and the vitamin volume in feed is back to normal.

Get in touch with a feed supplier

Though the event of the shortage in itself was unforeseen, many feed companies were still able to retain and provide enough unaffected feed reserves to producers.  Those who weren’t have done their best to maintain normal prices on feed, so as not to put livestock owners in a tough spot financially.

Producers were encouraged to maintain normal feed orders with their feed suppliers and stock up on as much vitamin efficient feed as possible before the shipment of deficient feed hit the market (The Agriculture Industries Confederation (AIC) sent word out in December 2017. The vitamin-short feed hit U.S. markets in the beginning of 2018.)

Young cattle need as much vitamin A & E in their diet as possible. Vitamin A is readily available when grazing in the summer, but in the winter they must get it from feed rations. Photo by: Maclaine Shults

Speak to a veterinarian or nutritionist

The AIC  put the word out to different farming associations and organizations, producers should consult with their vet or a credible animal nutritionist to find a way to restructure their feeding plans.

Right now, the animals  most at risk for vitamin deficiency issues include young livestock and lactating females. So, producers are being encouraged to prioritize these animals (if they are present on their operations) and administer feed that was stored prior to the shortage to these animals daily.  The remaining livestocks’ feed will have to be adjusted in order to compensate for the lack of specific vitamins. Thankfully, there are resources available to accomplish the task. Another positive point, those animals are not as at risk for negative effects from the shortage as those mentioned previously, so they should be just fine!

Not everyone likes to take their vitamins, but these calves and their mamas sure need them! Even if this guy thinks otherwise. Photo by: Maclaine Shults

Challenges within the agriculture industry are not uncommon.  Agriculturists and industry leaders strive to meet and conquer these challenges head-on so as to be able to continue feeding the world. Consumers also play a vital role in industry success and that hasn’t changed with this most recent issue.

Not to get on the whole “naked and hungry” train, but we are all consumers and as such, we need to make it a point to research and become aware of the issues facing the agriculture industry. In this case, the vitamin shortage and its effect on livestock health is something we can follow and keep up with because we can help others understand the challenge.

We wouldn’t want to be without vitamins essential to our diet. I’m sure we would do our best to figure out the quickest alternatives to find a solution to that issue, right? Well, the same goes for animals.  It’s our duty to make sure people realize how vital it will be to continue to support the animal and food agriculture industry through this challenge!

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.”

From Retention to Prevention

Legako followed her husband back to Tech where she was selected as the newest Academic Specialist for Student Retention.
Legako followed her husband back to Tech where she was selected as the newest Academic Specialist for Student Retention.

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University has a reputation for taking care of its students. Perhaps that is why the college holds the No. 1 spot in academic retention within the university. Stephanie Legako, the new academic specialist for student retention, plans to use her experience in psychology to help the college maintain its high standards.

“I have to keep retention up,” Legako said. “Currently, CASNR holds the No. 1 spot for retention across all 10 colleges at the university. We are No. 1 in first-year retention, and so I work with professors, I work with students, I work with other staff members in CASNR and across campus to keep students in school.”

As the academic specialist for student retention, Legako is focused on the advancement, satisfaction and overall success of current CASNR students to meet personal, professional and academic goals during their time at Texas Tech. Additionally, she is responsible for coordinating all student retention activities, including Ag Awareness Week and Winter Welcome. She has also taken on the advisory role of Ag Ambassadors.

Legako received her bachelor’s in psychology from Texas Tech and master’s degree in human development and family science from Oklahoma State University. She said she always felt led to help others but wanted to find her own niche, which is how she became a family therapist. Upon, graduation from OSU, she moved with her husband, Jerrad, to Utah, where she served as a therapist at Blomquist Hale Employee Assistance and lead therapist at Capstone Counseling, both in Logan, Utah.

This past year, Jerrad accepted an assistant professor position at Texas Tech in the Department of Food Science, and Stephanie looked forward to returning to their alma matter. At her previous employer, a spousal support program was offered, allowing spouses to interview for open positions. Upon their return to Texas Tech, Jerrad asked about a similar program to find that the academic specialist for retention position was vacant. Micheal Orth, Ph. D., Chair and Professor in the Department of Animal and Food Science, encouraged Stephanie to apply as her therapist license would greatly compliment the role in the department.

Legako received the job offer and began the position in October. Utilizing her therapist licensing and previous experiences to compliment her role, she plans to highlight and compliment what those before her have completed with a new angle. She has been able to use her experience and knowledge of the Lubbock area to benefit students and promote success in college.

Legako is able to bring a new angle to her role as she holds a degree in psychology and a license in family therapy.

Legako said she believes her ability to work with students in a “one-on-group” manner set her apart from most academic specialist for student retention.

“[Family therapists] are systemic thinkers,” Legako explained. “When you look at somebody like a psychologist or a professional counselor, they work one-on-one with people. Social workers and family therapists work one-on-groups.”

Within her role, if a professor notices abnormal performance or behavior from a student, she is notified. From this notification, Legako meets with the student to help him or her find the best way to avoid academic probation based on his or her individual circumstances.

“I don’t look at a person who’s having a problem with a class,” Legako said. “I look at a person who’s struggling in their system, and so it’s rarely about the classwork.”

She compared students’ success to an injury needing crutches. While one part may be injured, all parts can be affected and initially prevent the body from working in tandem. Similarly, all aspects of a student’s life have to work together to reach success. If one piece isn’t functioning properly, it can mess up the student’s entire success system.

With my skill set, ideally, we’re going to start meeting with people before they fall out, coming at retention from a prevention standpoint.Stephanie Legako

Legako has enjoyed her role within CASNR. She said she likes the family-oriented atmosphere within the department, which is a prime reason why she is not just a therapist anymore. With a young daughter at home, she truly values the family-like atmosphere that CASNR both houses in the office and promotes outside of the office.

“We have a very family feel,” Legako said. “It was so much easier to know that I would be supported as a mom and a wife in CASNR, than as a therapist. It’s just really nice to have the opportunity to be a mom.”

Legako said she enjoys using her skillset in her role as the academic specialist for student retention and feels this has been a good fit for her as she has transitioned into having a family.

Cindy Akers, Ed. D, Professor & Associate Dean for Academic and Student Programs within the Department of Agricultural Education and Communication, is enjoying watching Legako excel and improve the college.

“I’m really excited about the addition of Stephanie to our staff,” Akers said, “we have always been one of the highest retention colleges in the university, and I think some of the things that keep retention high is we push involvement, we have faculty advising, but there is that other piece, the helping students understand the resources, and that’s where Stephanie comes in.”

Akers said the department is excited to watch Legako grow in this position and is ready to see where she can take academic retention and her preventative measures for academic probation. Legako has plans to work with the university on lessening student’s time in college while keeping students feeling at home within CASNR.

Legako said the retention specialists before her left a sterling reputation. Following their lead, she wants to continue what they have done by adding her own personal touch to the role. She is currently working on building a peer mentorship program, similar to Ag Pals, to work toward a “trickle-down” retention effect from upper to lower classman. She hopes to see students more engaged to encourage a four-year graduation rate instead of five and six-year graduation rates.

“With my skill set, ideally, we’re going to start meeting with people before they fall out, coming at retention from a prevention standpoint.”

AgriTechsans Plan for Interviews This Month

Image courtesy of https://www.depts.ttu.edu/agriculturalsciences/Students/current/agriTech/index.php

The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Texas Tech University is preparing to interview and select the newest group of AgriTechsans in April.

CASNR’s AgriTechsans are responsible for promoting and recruiting for the college and university both on and off campus. Brandyl Brooks, the current AgriTechsan advisor, is new to the position this year.

“I am excited for the interview process in April and all the nominations of the students. I think it’s going to be great,” Brooks said. “It’s been really fun working with the AgriTechsans this year and I think it’s going to be really great getting to start with a new group too.”

The AgriTechsan program has been assisting CASNR for decades. Cindy Akers, Ph. D., a previous AgriTechsan and current professor and associate dean for Academic and Student Programs at CASNR, said she is a strong supporter of AgriTechsans and the work they do for the college.

“Back when I was an AgriTechsan until now, anytime we hear about a student who’s made the biggest impact, it’s always an AgriTechsan who came to their classroom,” Akers said.

Akers believes students are the best tools to use when recruiting.

“Students relate to students,” Akers said. “When a student selects a university, they’re more apt to ask tough questions to a current student; questions that they might not want to ask an adult or a professor or an associate dean, or even a staff member. So, really, the AgriTechsans are our best tools.”

AgriTechsans are recommended by faculty members and come from a variety of majors within CASNR. If selected, students will submit a formal application to the selection committee. Applications are reviewed and sorted, and chosen applicants are invited to interview with Student Success Center staff and a group of graduating AgriTechsans. The selection committee will then choose the group of AgriTechsans for the upcoming year. The new team of AgriTechsans is trained before the beginning of the fall semester. During their term, the AgriTechsans visit local high schools, attend campus events, and travel to major stock shows to meet with potential students.

What’s all the Buzz About?

On a crisp October day, students and faculty from Texas Tech University, along with Bayer Crop Science representatives, gathered for the groundbreaking of the pollinator planting at the Texas Tech Quaker Avenue Research Farm. Hands from different generations and people collected and planted wildflower seed, side-by-side, in an attempt to contribute to the research being done for the conservation of pollinators.

Texas Tech University was named one of the four national native pollinator planting locations in the United States, and has been a part of Bayer’s Feed a Bee campaign since 2014. Texas Tech University’s Plant and Soil Science Department is one of many different partners the Bayer Bee Health program has.

Scott Longing, Ph.D., professor of entomology in the Department of Plant and Soil Science, said, “The wheels were greased before we were even chosen, it didn’t hurt to already be a partner.”

The Bayer Bee Health program gave Longing and the plant and soil science department 100 pounds of seed to plant for the study and conservation of pollinators. Longing said one of the reasons he believes our region was chosen is related to the pollinator mismatches we have and the area is understudied.

“In the High Plains counties, there are significant pollinator mismatches where we have a lot of agriculture production but not the wild lands to support the pollinators for pollination services,” he said.

Texas Tech was the only university out of the four locations chosen as a pollinator planting site. According to Longing, Tech was awarded the site because the department already had the infrastructure that was needed, and Bayer had been sending seed to the department already.

Graduate and undergraduate students helped during the planting at the Quaker farm and are also going to be involved in the research the plant and soil science department will be conducting.

“We will establish plots, and then we are going to do some irrigation experiments and have different zones in the field we can turn on and off, so we can see what plants grow best under wet and reduced water situations,” Longing said. “We are also going to do some assessment with plant growth and pollinator sampling in the plots to look at which specific flowers attract more pollinators.”

Two plant and soil science graduate students were involved with the pollinator planting event Texas Tech hosted on behalf of the Bayer Bee Health program. They are conducting research with the wildflowers that were planted as well as other crops and the pollinators at the Quaker farm. Bianca Rendon is a graduate student in the department of plant and soil science whose research will focus on foraging behaviors.

“We have honey bees out there that I will cover up with nets, and I am going to see how foraging behaviors change with those honey bees being excluded compared to when they are there regularly,” Rendon said.

The pollinators have a huge importance.
Bianca Rendon

Samuel Discua, a doctoral student in the department, is also conducting research at the Quaker farm using the plants from the Feed a Bee program. His research will mainly focus on native plant attractiveness through pollinators.

“I am looking at pollinators such as native bees, flies, butterflies and other insects that might be visiting the plant at that time, Discua said. “I do that every hour, which is how I can quantify how attractive the plants are to pollinators based on how many insects are visiting within the time frames that I will look.”

Conservation of these pollinators is highly important for agriculture. Many of the foods we eat such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables all need pollinators such as bees to grow. According to Discua, one out of three bites of food we eat are directly attributed to insects because a lot of the crops we eat need to be pollinated. Planting these seeds at the Quaker farm is going to develop foraging areas for these bees to pollinate and thrive.

“The pollinators have a huge importance,” Rendon said. “Out of 124 main total food crops, pollinators account for the pollination and success; so a huge percentage of crops is dependent on these pollinators.”

Rendon believes the five acres they are planting the seed on will make a difference in the conservation of these pollinators.

“These planting will be on five acres which doesn’t seem like a lot but it will make a difference and give those pollinators a place to go to get their nectar and to help other crops,” she said.

The honey bee population is dwindling due to loss of habitat and many other factors. Texas Tech students are using their research to see if native bees could be another alternative.

“We know honey bees are in trouble, so why not use native bees, because they already do a lot of free work for us,” Discua said. “It is estimated that about three billion dollars every year in U.S. agriculture is attributed to the native bee pollination.”

Longing and his students also want to educate farmers on the importance of pollinators and how they can actually help increase crop yield. Many farmers are unaware pollinators contribute at all to their crop production. Educating them on conservation practices will not only help the pollinators but the farmers as well.

“The other thing people need to understand is pollinators, native bees, can actually help farmers,” Discua said. “By having native pollinators and natural strips of land around their fields, farmers can actually increase their cotton yield.”

According to Longing, the Bayer Bee Health program partnering with Texas Tech is a huge opportunity for the students and faculty of the Department of Plant and Soil Science to go deeper into their research with pollinators, and to help establish conservation efforts in the South Plains region.

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Righting The Wrongs Of Our Past

Showing Bogdun in the lab test soil samples.

On Monday, Aug 5, 2015 a crew from the Environmental Protection Agency was cleaning the Gold King Mine in southern Colorado, when all of the sudden a leak sprung. The leak slowly started to progress until it was out of control, and a river of heavy metal flowed down stream turning many miles of the Animas River to a mustard color.

Because of the leak, a substantial amount of toxic wastewater, from the mine work, began to flow out of Gold King. The river rapidly filled with 3 million gallons of waste and began changing colors. The thousands of people, who depend on the water were uneasy not knowing how or what they could do to solve this issue. The Denver Post reported the last time there was a spill this extreme it was in the early 1990’s.

Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. As a result of the leak at the Gold King Mine and the heavy metal wastewater that flowed into the Animas River, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper declared the incident a natural disaster.

The 3 million gallons of water that was contaminated
by red sludge, which is a thin, crusty layer that sits on the very top of the soil. That sludge was potentially harmful to those who were utilizing the river as a primary water source. The three states including Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, as well as the Animas and San Juan Rivers, were the locations that were contaminated the worst.

“It was quite concerning that this type of situation was going on, and there was no one to clean up the mess,” Carla Millares, a doctoral student at Texas Tech, said.

David Weindorf, PHD associate dean for research in the Department of Plant and Soil Science at Texas Tech University, was called upon to take a team to collect soil samples that were affected by the mine spill.

“About two weeks after the spill had happened, the EPA was mobilizing and assessing, while trying to figure out what the damage was going to be like” Weindorf said.
I was just sitting at my desk when my phone started buzzing, it was Washington, D.C. The State Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) from New Mexico made a call to Washington D.C, and Washington, D.C said, ‘call Dr. Weindorf at Texas Tech.’

“I was sitting at my desk when my phone started buzzing. It was Washington, DC.”

Weindorf said.

“I received the call and they said they needed me and my team right away, the very next week we were on sight, and started to scan the soil.”

Weindorf is considered to be a national authority when it comes to using the portable x-ray florescence spectrometer gun.

“On the Texas Tech campus I am the only person who has this piece of equipment,” he explained. “Every research project that has needed this equipment in the last ten years, my team was the one who conducted it.”

Weindorf, along with his research assistants Bogdan Duda from Romania and Carla Millares from La Paz, Bolivia, have since provided the NRCS with all of the data and results, and detailed reports. Which allowed them to receive a new grant from the NRCS and New Mexico State University for monitoring the farmland in the area that was most significantly affected.

For the next three years, the researchers will continue to collect data by scanning the soil a few times per year to monitor what is happening with the medal levels in that specific area. To see if there has been an increase in the medal inhibition or if the counts be staying at a constant number.

“This research project has not only allowed me to see new places and conduct new research, but it has given two schools an opportunity to work together to try to enhance information and see better results on these types of projects.”

“The same issue with the higher levels of metal is going on back in Romania, by working on this project we have also been able to compare the data that was taken from this river and compare it to the one over there,” Weindorf said.

“If more people would adopt these type of technologies and use the cutting edge tools that are available, we would have been able to figure out the issues sooner.”

Multiple researchers across the Texas Tech campus in different departments have started to utilize this technology from collecting data on chemical compounds to testing the different sounds that antique horns make using the x-ray gun.

History tends to repeat itself, and it has been roughly estimated there are almost 500,000 mines similar to the Gold King Mine that need to be cleaned up. This spill was treated like a crisis issue, but now with the research available and technology, researchers will be better prepared, not if it happens but when it happens again. This now begins the waiting game, and researchers are not sure when or how the spill will occur. However, the crisis in Colorado, more research is being done to prepare. Despite the negative effects of the Gold King spill, there were some positive outcomes, more awareness for the abandoned mines.

Weindorf, along with the help of Duda and Millares, are prime examples of the different levels of research that one is able to start and perfect at Texas Tech University. Through the hard work, long tedious days, and many hours of research on and off the river, these three individuals have excelled in the representation that they provide for Texas Tech.
One phone call saved many gallons of water, provided new data and research, and has prepared multiple researchers for the future. Though it was a national crisis these researchers will be prepared for the worst.

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