Message from the Director

Welcome to the Fall 2023 edition of the Division of Applied Social Sciences alumni newsletter!

I am Harvey James, Interim Director of the Division. I have been a faculty member in the Division for more than 22 years. I have seen a lot of change during this time. Students have come and gone. Faculty have come and gone. Academic programs have come and gone. The name of the Division even changed. When I first arrived, ours was the Social Sciences Unit (SSU). Now we are the Division of Applied Social Sciences (DASS).

Some may ask, “What is an applied social sciences unit doing in a college of agriculture?” That is a good question. The five other Divisions within the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources (CAFNR) are science based – animal science, plant science, food science, environmental and natural resource science, and biochemistry. If you think of the sciences as silos (vertically), then as a social sciences division, DASS cuts across all of them (horizontally). Through research, teaching, and extension, we enhance the organizational, managerial, financial, regulatory capabilities of people and enterprises affiliated with or connected to the food and agricultural system. This is why an applied social sciences division works well within and is needed by CAFNR.

I am pleased to report that Abed Rabbani (personal financial planning) and Teo Skevas (agricultural and applied economics) were promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure on September 1, 2023. Also effective September 1, Amanda Alexander became the chair the hospitality management program, and Andrew Zumwalt became the chair the personal financial planning program. The Division thanks Seonghee Cho and Jung Ha-Brookshire for their service in these roles. In other news, the following faculty retired in 2023:

  • Deanna Sharpe (personal financial planning)
  • Mike Cook (agricultural and applied economics)
  • Ray Massey (agricultural and applied economics)
  • Kevin Moore (agricultural and applied economics)
  • Randy Westgren (agricultural and applied economics)
  • Eliza Tse (hospitality management)

There have been a number of important hires in the Division.

  • Juo-Han Tsay was hired as assistant extension professor. Dr. Tsay has a PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Recently, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at FAPRI.
  • Adauto Rocha Jr. was hired as assistant extension professor. Dr. Rocha has two PhDs, one in Applied Economics from the University of São Paulo and another in Agricultural Economics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • Toby Mendelson was hired as an assistant teaching professor in personal financial planning. He has a law degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and has extensive experience in retirement and estate planning and federal tax research.
  • Alex Stichnote joined the Division as a senior academic advisor. Her focus will be recruiting and advising in agricultural education and hospitality management.
  • Avery Deevers joined the agricultural education and leadership program as professional development specialist. Avery replaces Colleen Abbott, who served the Division in this role since 2016.
  • Seth Plaugher joined the agricultural education and leadership program as an adjunct instructor for the fall semester.
  • Danyelle High joined the Rural and Farm Finance Policy Analysis Center (RaFF) as a research analyst.
  • Whitney Schmidt joined the Division as research project analyst working in agricultural business and policy extension.
  • Hanin Hosni joined the Division as a postdoctoral fellow.

Additionally, within our agricultural education and leadership program, Dr. John Tummons converted from associate teaching professor to associate professor (tenure track), and Dr. Becky Mott converted from assistant teaching professor to assistant professor (tenure track).

In addition to these recent hires, the Division is actively searching to fill several key faculty vacancies. There are two faculty searches occurring in agricultural education and leadership.

  • A professional track instructor to teach agricultural communications courses.
  • A tenure-track professor to research and teach on the science of assessing public perceptions of genetic engineering and of communicating science to the public, with a particular focus on animal or livestock biotechnology.

There are four faculty searches occurring within the agribusiness and agricultural economics program area. Each of these is to fill a tenured or tenure-track position.

  • A new Director for RaFF to replace Dr. Scott Brown, who is currently the Center’s interim Director.
  • A faculty member to fill the Al and Mary Agnes McQuinn Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership, which was vacated upon the retirement of Dr. Randy Westgren.
  • A faculty member to fill the MFA Chair in Agribusiness, which supports teaching and research in DASS relating to agribusinesses, with a particular emphasis on cooperatives and producer-owned organizations. This Chaired position became vacant when Dr. Keri Jacobs assumed the Robert D. Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership, which was vacated upon the retirement of Dr. Mike Cook.
  • A permanent Director of the Division of Applied Social Sciences, since my appointment is currently as interim director.

There are 36 teaching, research, and extension faculty and almost as many staff and supporting employees within the Division. We currently have 411 undergraduate students in the four programs in the Division (agribusiness management, agricultural education, hospitality management, and personal financial planning), which is about the same number of students we had during the previous academic year. On the research side, Division faculty published nearly 5 articles per research FTE, received more than $4.7 million in research awards in FY2022, and had more than $4.8 million in grant expenditures in FY2022.

All said, the Division is moving forward well. We see a bright future.

If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to:

Harvey James
Interim Director, Division of Applied Social Sciences