PROFILE: An in-depth interview with CASNR's Dean William 'Bill' Brown
By: Tracee Murph
As I complete a little over a month at Texas Tech University, I wanted to share some observations and thoughts for the future. First, I would like to sincerely congratulate Drs. Mike Galyean and Steve Fraze along with CASNR administration, faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters for their high level of activity and superior accomplishments. Texas Tech CASNR has a rich history and is known across the country for developing workforce ready students that "hit the ground running" in the marketplace and develop into leaders within the industries we serve. CASNR faculty and staff spend high-quality time with students, and the state of Texas, tuition dollars, alumni and donors ensure that students have the facilities to learn, grow and mature. Texas Tech CASNR is "best in class" from this perspective and we must maintain and grow our focus on student success. Pockets of research excellence exist within CASNR, with new knowledge, discoveries and technologies produced by faculty scientists who are leaders in their fields and Fellows in their scientific societies. Increasing evidence of CASNR's engagement with the communities we serve continues to grow, with our programs serving the communities where we live and improving people's lives.
With our historical record of success we cannot rest on our past accomplishments; we can and must grow and improve. We build on the accomplishments of those that came before us and change and adapt based on the changing needs of those we serve. Our students and their needs are changing; needs of the industries we serve and technologies available to meet those needs are changing at a very rapid pace; community demographics are changing requiring new and different approaches toward engagement. By working together toward common goals and developing new ways to facilitate teaching, research and service responsibilities, we can raise CASNR to higher levels.
I still have a great deal to learn, but during my short time at Texas Tech I have been very impressed with the people I have met and their commitment and love for the university, along with the high-quality activities, programs and facilities. Even with uncertain budget realities that all institutions of higher education may face in the future, it truly is a great time to be at Texas Tech University and CASNR in particular; we have unique qualities that set us apart and we must take advantage of opportunities where these strengths allow. It is clear that faculty and staff are excited about their programs and these programs are of high scientific merit.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, but spent a great deal of time on the family farm (my mother's side of the family) near Selma, Alabama. It was a diversified farm with cotton, corn, soybeans, beef cattle and layers. Experiences on the farm were very influential during my younger years and through high school.
Q: When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: My father was a pilot during World War II and the Korean War; my mother was an airline stewardess and a registered nurse. When I was young I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot and even considered attending Embry-Riddle College, which, at the time, was a popular College for flight instruction leading to a career as an airline pilot. At some point, I diverged from that path and attended the University of Florida and majored in Animal Science; I guess it was the family farm influence that led me in that direction.
Q: How did you become interested in agriculture?
A: Experiences on the family farm were very impactful. I also enjoy reading and learning about the influence of agriculture on the history and development of locations where I have lived. I will enjoy learning about the history of agriculture in West Texas and its influence on the development of this part of the country.
Q: Where did you go to school, and why did you decide to pursue advanced degrees in
A: I attended the University of Florida for a BS in Animal Science. At the time I graduated, I was not drawn to job opportunities associated with a bachelor's degree. I considered further education and decided to attend the University of Tennessee to obtain a master's degree. There I became very interested in research and decided to continue for a PhD degree. I was very fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Terry Klopfenstein as my major professor at the University of Nebraska in ruminant nutrition (mostly beef cattle, with a little bit of work in dairy cattle). Following my experience in Nebraska, I considered either working in the feed industry or in a research/teaching position at a university. A faculty position at the University of Florida became available just as I was graduating, and I was very fortunate to work at a Research and Education Center in south-central Florida, conducting research in beef cattle nutrition and working with cattle and forage producers in the area.
Q: What have you most enjoyed about your career?
A: As a faculty member I very much enjoyed conducting research that addressed real-world problems and publishing the results in scientific journals and producer-focused publications. I enjoyed working with students and especially enjoyed working with producers and extension agents to help deliver research results to cattle and forage producers in the state. As administrators, I firmly believe that our role is to provide service to others. One of our major goals as a university is to improve people's lives, and we accomplish these goals through student success, facilitating faculty success, and engaging our communities. So, as an administrator, my enjoyment comes from seeing students engaged with their department and other activities outside of the classroom, and then going out into the world and making an impact. I enjoy seeing faculty succeed in their programs associated with the university's mission. Seeing results of our students and faculty work making an impact is very satisfying.
Q: What are some things you are most proud to have accomplished?
A: The activities that I have been most proud of have come from the development of a team that has discovered a solution to a problem that faced our clientele. I have been most proud of projects were multi-disciplinary faculty teams, representing multiple departments and disciplines, developed new information that could be used by cattle and forage producers to help their operations. We developed new pasture grasses and management systems for beef cow/calf production that had an immediate impact on increased efficiency and profitability. We helped bring groups together to develop and fund research and negotiated intellectual property terms with a new company which was formed to treat pastures against this pest.
Q: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) facing Agriculture today?
A: Among many challenges facing agriculture and "agricultural and natural resource institutions" today is the challenge to remain relevant in a society where people are one or more generations removed from the farm. We have a highly successful food system in the United States. As fewer and fewer people (including state and federal legislators) have direct knowledge of this food system, there is a risk that the "sense of urgency" surrounding agricultural production and natural resource management will decline. Additionally, as a food production system, we do not "tell our story" enough about the success of our industry. This comes at a time when those contrary to commercial agriculture hold a strong voice. Another challenge that concerns me is the stature of the United States in the global development of new technology. Other countries are investing heavily in research and innovation. The US is the global leader in discovery and innovation; however, other countries are catching up. Locally and regionally, water is a major challenge. Water use, plant breeding and agronomics, livestock production, land use planning, and many other challenges face our future, but TTU CASNR is uniquely suited to address these challenges.
Q: What was it about CASNR that motivated you to apply for Dean, and what do you find
unique and most intriguing?
A: It is very well known across the country that CASNR is a national leader in producing students that are ready for the job market. CASNR students are motivated, they are engaged in activities outside of the classroom, and they go on to be leaders in the industries we serve. What intrigues me about CASNR are the students, faculty and staff, and alumni and donors. The students are amazing, more so than I've seen before; they are so engaged and have a wonderful work ethic. Our faculty and staff have intellectual horsepower; there is very high-quality science taking place in CASNR. Alumni and donors love this college and university and they are passionate about our students and programs. Working together I know that we can take TTU CASNR to new heights and this is why I am excited about being here.
Q: Can you tell us about your family?
A: My wife, Lindsey, is an attorney focusing on children and family issues. I have a great deal of respect for what she does; many sad stories, but what she does helps. Our son, Austin, graduated from the University of Florida in 2017 and now works as a Business Analyst/Software Engineer with American Express in New York City. Our daughter, Morgan, is a sophomore at Florida State University majoring in Political Science with thoughts of Law School in her future; she is already studying for the LSAT test.
CONTACT: Jane Piercy, Director of Development and External Relations, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806)742-2802 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Agricultural & Applied Economics
- Agricultural Education & Communications
- Animal & Food Sciences
- Landscape Architecture
- Natural Resources Management
- Plant & Soil Science
- Veterinary Science
Editor: Norman Martin
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