Around 280 faculty and staff joined an April 23 virtual town hall to hear from Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences leaders on pressing issues such as recent administrative updates, the status of key efforts currently underway, and what lies ahead for COVID-19 and the campus community.
“Faced with challenge after challenge—from continued restrictions of COVID to a winter storm—time and time again this college’s faculty and staff have gone out of your way to make sure our work continues, and our students advance,” said Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “What’s shown through for me is this community’s ongoing innovation and commitment to our Aggie Core Values, specifically those of excellence and selfless service. For these efforts, you have my admiration.”
- Susan Ballabina, Ph.D., who currently serves as deputy vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, will now also serve as associate deputy dean for administration in the College.
- Ed Rister, Ph.D., has expanded his role to include the title of associate dean for student professional development, where he will lead a new effort focused on enriching undergraduate and graduate education and competitiveness in the marketplace through unique and targeted academic programming.
- Chris Skaggs, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate programs, will now also serve as associate vice chancellor of producer relations for Texas A&M AgriLife. This added role will be crucial for strengthening connections with producers, stakeholders, commodity groups and former students to effectively communicate AgriLife initiatives.
- Henry Fadamiro, Ph.D., has been named associate director and chief scientific officer for Texas A&M AgriLife Research, and as associate dean for the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, effective July 1. Fadamiro will take the place of David Ragsdale, Ph.D., associate director and chief scientific officer for AgriLife Research, who will retire on Aug. 31.
- Rodolfo Nayga, Ph.D., has been named department head for Ag Economics, effective August 1.
- Amit Dhingra, Ph.D., has been named department head for Horticultural Sciences, effective September 1.
Stover also mentioned updates on several department head searches.
On the heels of a 5% budget rescission for Texas A&M AgriLife, Stover mentioned a dedication to creating efficiencies while remaining true to a guiding principle of not sacrificing the ability to meet the College’s mission. He also discussed the recent centralization of professional service units, and how the process brought to light some areas of inconsistency, including how budgets are allocated within departments.
Stover discussed that College administrators will soon begin host budget meetings with each department, taking a baseline budgeting approach. This will support proposals submitted by department heads and work to recognize the unique infrastructure needs of each department.
Academic task forces
Stover also gave updates on academic task forces that were created to move forward important efforts across the College, Research and Extension. There are five task forces most relevant to the College, including:
- College Strategic Plan
- College Policies for Graduate Education
- Individualized Major in the College
- Promotion Guidance for College Academic Professional Track Faculty
- Youth Development in AgriLife
Each task force is submitting monthly reports that are posted online so you can find the most up-to-date information on progress: tx.ag/taskforces.
Looking ahead to the fall semester
- New Student Conferences are ongoing through the summer. The College’s academic advisors are preparing for in-person new student conferences while also working on virtual options for students who cannot attend in person.
- Enrollment Numbers: with time remaining before the May 1 deadline for admitted students to confirm, we currently have 1,030 new freshmen registered for their New Student Conference. Transfer student admission decisions are still being made, but the College anticipates welcoming a group similar in size to last year – more than 600 new transfer students. Expected total enrollment this fall should be similar to the fall 2020 semester.
- Stover announced that the College expects to return to some level of normalcy this fall. In line with Texas A&M University and the System, and with the expectation that vaccines will be widespread and serious cases of COVID-19 will be at low levels, he said that they expect to be operating fully in person in the fall.
Stover was joined by a panel of associate and assistant deans for an in-depth discussion with online attendants who submitted live questions. Those who watch the recorded Town Hall are encouraged to continue to submit questions to the panelists to address or submit via email firstname.lastname@example.org.