Tech welcomes new dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology

Darron Smith is the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology.

COOKEVILLE – To say Darron Smith is excited is an understatement.

As the new dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology, he is excited to take on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for the College of Agriculture and Human Ecology.

Smith is one of three new deans who officially joined Tech’s ranks July 1.

“It’s so exciting to get the opportunity to come into a great school with a great program and help move it forward,” he said.

His passion for agriculture started outside of Philadelphia where his family had a 200-head sheep farm. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in dairy and animal science from Pennsylvania State University. Following that, he helped start a farm in Kempton, Pa., for a wealthy family that had sheep, hogs and cows, along with a variety of crops. 

He eventually bought the farm out and ran it for a while before deciding to go back to school. He went to Colorado State University for master’s work and then on to Cornell University where he was the beef cattle specialist. 

He earned his PhD in reproductive physiology from West Virginia University.

Prior to coming to Tech, he was the chair of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and Agriculture at Eastern New Mexico University for the past eight years.

“Agriculture touches every aspect of our lives,” he said. “We all need to eat, importantly. It’s amazing the number of things we get from animals, food, clothing, recreation or companionship such as taking care of dogs, cats and those service animals helping soldiers with PTSD; work, like in the Amish communities; and biomedical research.”

He came to campus a little early, which coincided with the inaugural Tennessee Ag Leadership Summit, which really left an impression on him – and gave him ideas for the future of the college.

“That was a great success,” he said. “Dr. (Dennis) Duncan did a great job. It’s been really nice to be here and have these opportunities to meet with people. That brings in so many opportunities to bring in new people.”

He has plans to help bolster the college’s recruitment and retention.

“We’re trying to move on the poultry farm and facility that has been planned,” he said. “We’re looking at some fundraisers to raise money to do farm beautification at the Shipley Farm and upgrades to the human ecology commercial kitchen for the Friday Café.”

Friday Café is a hands-on learning experience for food and nutrition students in Human Ecology. It is open on Fridays for lunch and provides a real-world learning experience for students enrolled in Quantity Food Production. Students experience every aspect of meal management including menu planning, food production, purchasing, service, food sanitation and safety and marketing.

Smith is looking forward to working with the faculty in the college and the university.

“So far, the people I get to work with, everyone has been super nice and friendly and offers to help,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time working so far with the president and provost.”

He’s also excited to bring in new faculty members, in addition to working with the existing faculty.

“(Tech’s program) has a really dedicated group of faculty here with direction, they’re some of the best faculty I’ve been around,” he said. “People are doing some great things from research to service projects and putting on events that are fascinating to watch go down.”

He’s working on a Farm to Table or Farm to Fork, challenging the school of agriculture to produce vegetables and other produce for the Friday Café menu.

“We have a great tomato project by Dr. (Michael) Best at the Oakley Farm,” he said. “He’s got one of the largest farm tomato operations I’ve ever seen.”

It’s all about making a positive impact on students.

“There are so many great opportunities to come in and make a positive direction for our students,” he said. “Because that’s who we’re here for. I’d like to recruit more students and get them here and have a larger impact on their lives as they go through their four years of college and become employable.”

He and his wife, Wendy, have eight children between them, with the four youngest still in the house: three girls ages 9, 8 and 5, and one 15-month-old little boy.

When he’s not working, he and his family enjoy hiking and walking, entertaining, playing golf and attending college sporting events. 

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