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CALS Behind-The-Scenes: Visionary Leadership

CALS Magazine Four new department heads
CALS' four newest department heads: John Beghin of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Melanie Simpson of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry, Garey Fox of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and Pat Curtis of Poultry Science.

We write a lot about our great faculty and students here at CALS — but out of the public eye, our staff and administration work tirelessly to grow talent and opportunities on campus and across the state.

Here’s a glimpse into the strategic thinking of our four new department heads. Their academic focus varies widely, but they share two things: A deep love of CALS…and a grand vision for what’s next.

CALS Magazine John Beghin
“The economic context is favorable. … It’s a prospering industry.” — John Beghin

John Beghin
Department Head
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

“In teaching, we are pushing for experiential learning opportunities for our students. With the Poole College of Management, we are building a program on agricultural entrepreneurship — by the end of the year we will have a concentration, and eventually a minor. … We’ve also been offering a course on data analytics for the farm and agribusiness to meet the demand for analytics skills.

“In terms of research, we are pushing for more multidisciplinary work, especially on the economics of water. … And we are excited about what we are doing in the area of ag entrepreneurism across the entire spectrum, from small farms to big farms.”

“We have a dean who is active and dynamic, so there are lots of good things happening in the college right now. I think it’s a great place to be part of.”

CALS Leaders Pat Curtis
“We can become global leaders.” — Pat Curtis

Patricia Curtis
Department Head
Prestage Department of Poultry Science

I think what’s next for our department is to vision where the industry is going, and to move faster than the university has typically been known to move, so that we can meet the needs of our large, diverse poultry industry in North Carolina.

“We can offer the most totally integrated food animal system in the country at a university for not just poultry, but for all major food animals. I think that’s an exciting opportunity that we can take advantage of and really grow here.

“We’re also going to make sure our students are trained and prepared to go all over the world and enter non-traditional poultry careers as well as the production poultry career training they would get at most universities.”

CALS Leaders Garey Fox
“BAE is ranked in the top 10 in the country, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t be top 5.” — Garey Fox

Garey Fox
Department Head
Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering

“We have hired five new faculty members since August, and we have three more positions coming. That creates an opportunity to not only build a brand-new culture, but also to invest in facilities and resources.

“BAE is jointly administered by CALS and the College of Engineering. That puts us in a unique position to serve as a catalyst for multidisciplinary partnerships with many other departments on this campus — as well as with other institutions across the U.S.

“As more engineers retire each year than enter the workforce, the demand for engineering graduates is only going to grow. This puts our graduates in a good position to land outstanding jobs after graduation.”


CALS Leaders Melanie Simpson
“I’d like to see the department experiencing … a resurgence of glory.” — Melanie Simpson

Melanie Simpson
Department Head
Department of Molecular and Structural Biochemistry

“Research, nationally and internationally, is going more into team-oriented science because of the need to solve problems on a larger scale. In order to solve such complicated problems, you need a team of people who have expertise in vastly different areas.

“Building teams like that is part of the reputation I built in Nebraska and a big part of the vision I have for coming to NC State. No one individual can push something. There’s so much more power in a team.

“In 10 years, I’d like to see the department centrally positioned and facilitating quantitative science, with unique grants and training opportunities for our students and partnerships with industry that increase collaborations and lead to impact.”