Department Head’s Report
by John P. Beasley, Jr., Ph.D.
(B.S., Agronomy & Soils, 1979)
Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Rotation, the newsletter of the Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at Auburn University! It is my honor and privilege to serve as Department Head of an outstanding group of faculty, staff and students.
We are excited to provide this newsletter as a way to reconnect with our alumni, former faculty and staff and build new relationships with potential students and friends. The title of the newsletter, The Rotation, is a nod to “The Old Rotation” here at Auburn University, the historic research site established 125 years ago in 1896 by Professor J.F. Duggar, and the oldest continuous cotton rotation research experiment in the United States. The newsletter title is also a nod to the “rotation” of students through our undergraduate and graduate programs and the faculty changes that occur over time.
Speaking of rotating faculty members, in the past seven years we have seen a major turnover in our faculty due to 11 retirements, 5 faculty members leaving for other opportunities and the hiring of 15 new faculty members. We are extremely excited about the faculty and staff that we currently have and the direction of the department.
As of May 1, we have 26 faculty members with two new faculty members expected to join our ranks in late summer. The current breakdown of faculty members by rank are: 8 – professors, 4 – associate professors, 10 – assistant professors, and 4 – non tenure-track faculty. The department currently has 27 staff members.
I am especially proud of the successes of our undergraduate students during the past several years, in and out of the classroom. Since 2015, the AU Soil Judging and AU Turf Bowl teams have won national competitions. The Turf Bowl team, coached by Dr. David Han, has consistently placed in the top 5 each year over the last several years. The Soil Judging team, coached by Dr. Joey Shaw, has had one of our students place #1 overall in both the national and international soil judging competition. Dr. Shaw coached Team USA to 1st Place in that international competition. Other competitions that our students have participated in include Crops Judging, Quiz Bowl, Public Speaking and Best Overall Club within the Students of Agronomy, Soil and Environmental Sciences (SASES), the student chapter of the American Society of Agronomy. We’ve had students place in the top 10 of the Quiz Bowl and Public Speaking competitions. Our Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Club was named the #2 ranked club in the country just a few years back. Dr. David Weaver (retired) and Dr. Audrey Gamble have served as the club advisors and have done a great job preparing AU students for these competitions. Dr. Leanne Dillard, Extension Forage Agronomist, has organized a Forage Bowl team and that group has also performed very well in their competitions. We’ve had graduate and undergraduate students participate in the Weed Science competition and do very well. These are examples of the types of meetings and programs that we encourage our students to attend and participate in for professional development.
Our graduate students have done a great job in winning recognitions at professional meetings with their participation in oral and poster presentations. Our faculty are doing a terrific job in preparing our graduate students for professional careers. We currently have right at 120 graduate students in the department, with a split between our campus based students, which numbers 48, and our Distance Education (on-line) program for Masters of Agriculture (M.Ag.) and M.S. degrees, in which we have just over 70.
I hope you enjoy this first edition of The Rotation newsletter. For all of our alumni and friends, we invite you to e-mail us your success stories and updates so they can be highlighted in future editions. You former classmates will be glad to know what you’ve been up to and how you are doing.