Portrait: ESCOP/ACOP: 13-year-old program replenishes leaders

4/5/2005 1:15:06 AM

A biosecurity plan for the Aquaculture Research Station blossomed into a model for all LSU AgCenter research stations as a result of a national leadership program.

The plan was developed by Terry Tiersch during his year as part of the ESCOP/ACOP Leadership Development Class.

That long acronym stands for the two national sponsors of the leadership class – the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP) and the Academic Programs Committee on Organization and Policy (ACOP) of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges.

The class has been held annually for the past 13 years, and the LSU AgCenter has been with it since the beginning – first contributing two potential leaders and then three, beginning in 1993, which included someone from the LSU College of Agriculture.

Each participant must come up with a major project that benefits them as individuals and their institution, said David Boethel, vice chancellor for research and the person responsible for guiding the projects.

Tiersch, an aquaculture researcher, happened to be in the 2002-2003 class, the year after the 9/11 tragedy, when biosecurity was on his mind.

“We were concerned because fish move around the world,” Tiersch said. “I couldn’t have come up with the whole concept without ESCOP/ACOP.”

The mission of the leadership class is to improve the abilities of select personnel who can then potentially replenish the supply of leaders in agriculture.

So far, it’s worked for the LSU AgCenter. For example, Boethel and David Morrison, the associate vice chancellor, were in Class I in 1991-1992. Bob Hutchinson, an alumnus from Class II, was named director for the Northeast Region, and Pam Monroe from Class V was appointed an associate dean in the college.

Phase I of the year-long program kicks off with a one-week intensive seminar in Indianapolis. Phase II takes up most of the rest of the year at the home institution where participants work on their projects. Phase III consists of a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with the state’s congressional delegation, U.S. Department of Agriculture administrators and industry representatives.

Another AgCenter initiative that came out of the leadership class was Steve Harrison’s proposal for a regional university plant breeding and variety development program for the Lower Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions.

Harrison, a plant breeder in the Department of Agronomy and Environmental Management and a participant in Class XIII in 2003-2004, proposed the cooperative small grains breeding program to ensure viability and productivity of small grain breeding in the region.

“This proposal wouldn’t have happened if Dr. Harrison hadn’t gone to the ESCOP/ACOP class,” Boethel said. “We’re in the process of developing a joint agreement with land-grant universities in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.”

“The course helps point out your strengths and weaknesses,” said Boyd Padgett, a plant pathologist at the Macon Ridge Research Station and a member of Harrison’s class. “It’s intense and helps identify areas for personal improvement.”

Padgett said the program provides an opportunity to meet people from all over the United States and establish working relationships. Networking is a big benefit, especially as budgets get smaller and institutions have to go to multi-state and multi-disciplinary projects.

Tiersch said the class helped him learn more about the LSU AgCenter.

“I get more involved in things now. ESCOP/ACOP is an extremely useful program,” Tiersch said. “I wish everybody could do it.”

Other class members, in chronological order following Boethel and Morrison, include: Lalit Verma, Fred Enright, Charles Johnson, Teresa Summers, Steve Clarke, Steve Nickerson, Fred Sistler, Pat Bollich, Barry Moser, Pat Colyer, Dwain Bunting, Jane Luzar, Dan Satterlee, Wink Alison, Lee Southern, Paula Jacobi, John McGregor, Michael Salassi, Robert Romaire, Kenneth Gravois, Don La Bonte, Regina Bracy, Jim Griffin, Lynn Kennedy, Marcos Fernandez, Roger Leonard, Michael Moody, Steve Moore, Carol O’Neil and Jeff Gillespie.

Current Class XIV members are Mary Beth Lima, researcher and teacher with the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering; Mike McCormick, research coordinator at the Southeast Research Station; and Tim Schowalter, head of the Department of Entomology.

Boethel said the leadership program will be restructured to include extension faculty members.

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