Students and faculty describe him as a person dedicated to agricultural education. He has committed countless hours to helping students in the classroom and at national events. Steven Fraze, Ph.D. agricultural education and communications department chair at Texas Tech University has been involved in agriculture in most of his careers and focused his work on helping students in all levels of education.
Fraze grew up on a farm and ranch in Dora, N.M., and was surrounded by agriculture. As a third-grade student, he started showing animals in his 4-H chapter. He said from that point on, he was very involved with 4-H and FFA all the way through high school. During his time in FFA, he was chapter president, a district officer, Star State Farmer, on the team that won the state livestock judging contest, and won fourth high individual at the national FFA livestock judging contest.
Fraze said that being involved in FFA and judging events helped him become part of agriculture committees that put contests on for students at both the state and national level. He wants students to enjoy the events and learn at the same time.
As a first-generation college student, Fraze attended Lubbock Christian College, now Lubbock Christian University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture. During this time, he also took classes at Texas Tech and earned his teaching certificate.
Before returning to Texas Tech, he worked as a vocational agriculture teacher at Olton ISD and New Home ISD. After teaching, Fraze worked for Dow Chemical as a district engineer.
Fraze continued with school at Texas Tech and received his master’s degree in education and was talked into getting his doctoral degree in philosophy from Texas A&M University.
Fraze said his adviser, Dr. Jerry Stockton, then the department chair at Texas Tech, was the person who encouraged him to get his doctoral degree and then return to the Department of Agricultural Education and Mechinization, which is now known as the Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.
He said his 23 years at Texas Tech began as a visiting assistant professor. During his first semester back at Texas Tech, in the fall of 1988, there was no student teaching block due to the low number of students. The next semester, Fraze was in charge of the teaching block and started to build the program. He said he was in charge of it for about 20 years, and during that time, he helped certify roughly 750 students to be teachers.
“What I’ve enjoyed most over the years is working with student teachers and their supervising teachers at the high schools,” Fraze said.
Fraze has made a positive impact on most people he is around, including his students and faculty. Jeffrey Klose, an alumnus from Texas Tech and former student of Fraze, is now an agriculture teacher in Canyon, TX. Klose described Fraze as very fair, knowledgeable and driven. He said Fraze really cared about his students and tried to understand each person in order to help them as much as possible.
“When finding a school for students to do their student teaching, Fraze really looked for a school he knew the student would excel in,” Klose said.
These types of comments were not uncommon to hear when talking to students and faculty about Fraze. Rachel Bobbitt, coordinator for student programs in CASNR, has worked with Fraze and has been a student in his classroom.
She describes Fraze as caring and that he wanted his students to succeed. He also made students want to do well for themselves.
“He is still very much concerned about the students and concerned about the success of students,” Bobbitt said, “I really like to see administrators like that.”
Fraze has not only helped the student teaching block grow, but also the department as a whole. He said when he started, there were only two master’s degree students with assistantships. The Department of Agricultural Education and Communications currently has 17 masters and doctoral students with assistantships.
He said he has seen the department develop greatly over the years with more programs and degrees. He does admit to helping this growth, but said it was bound to happen with the success of the agricultural education and communications program at Texas Tech.
According to the CASNR website, one program that increased the student population was an innovative distance education program, called Doc @Distance. The website explains that the program was developed in an effort to take the university to a specific group of mid-career professionals working in agriculture. Fraze said he was a part of starting this program and now oversees it along with Dr. David Doerfert, graduate coordinator for the department.
Along with working with students, Fraze said he also has helped with developing space in the agricultural education and communications building. He said the department has three additional offices for graduate students, three new faculty offices, a sound recording room, and will soon have a new distance education conference room.
Over the last 23 years, Fraze has held six positions in CASNR from visiting assistant professor to his current position as department chair. He said he cannot teach nearly as much anymore due to his administrative schedule, but still wants to take care of students.
“What I enjoy most right now is still working with students and people, even though I don’t get to teach that much,” Fraze said.
As department chair, Fraze said his duties seem endless. He is in charge of the department budget, assignments, reports, approving course changes, department scholarships, assessments, promotions, faculty, human resources, teaching one course, and other responsibilities like being present at CASNR events.
Over the years, not only has Fraze developed a career to help educate students about agriculture, but also he has given his time outside of work to develop research and participate on committees for all of the youth studying agriculture.
Fraze has been a member of 57 agriculture-related committees dating back to 1988. He is currently the AAAE Western Region president and associate superintendent for the National FFA Livestock Career Development Event. Fraze said his participation in livestock judging in high school helped him become the associate superintendent for the National FFA Livestock CDE.
Fraze has dedicated years to the field of agriculture and education. His determination to be involved in the classroom, department and committees has helped thousands of students learn and succeed in agriculture.