COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Gary Straquadine grew up in New Mexico and has spent the last 25 years in Utah, but he feels like his move to Columbus is a true homecoming.
Straquadine started as chair of Ohio State University's Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership (ACEL) on July 1. He spent two years at Ohio State earning his doctorate in agricultural education in the mid-1980s, but his ties to the Buckeye State go back even further. His father used the GI Bill to earn a degree in engineering at Ohio State in 1951, and his mother worked for the Ohio Cooperative Extension Service (now Ohio State University Extension) in the late 1940s before the family moved out west.
"I think we were the only kids on the block who rooted for the Buckeyes," Straquadine said. "And we always came to Columbus for family weddings and funerals -- my dad was the only one of 10 children who left Ohio."
Though he has a rich history with both the community and the department, Straquadine's vision is focused squarely on the future, hoping to lead faculty to "dive deeply into our primary purpose: to carry the message of the transformation occurring in agriculture and food systems.
"The world will have 9 billion people to feed in a few years. We are at that critical point -- agriculture has to change and society has to change. Do people understand all of the pieces necessary for decision-making? Our goal is to help people understand the bigger picture. This isn't your mother's -- or your grandfather's -- agriculture anymore."
Though he spent much of his career focused on Extension education and agricultural communication, most recently he served as the dean and executive director of Utah State University's Tooele Regional Campus, where he was involved extensively in the university's distance education programs. Utah State offers 18 degrees and programs that can be earned completely online. Coincidentally, a new online master's degree program first being offered in the upcoming fall semester -- the only such degree offered at Ohio State -- is housed in his new department.
"With the new online master's degree in agricultural and extension education, this department is poised to launch an even greater effort in distance education," Straquadine said. "We're like the camel pushing its nose under the tent."
Straquadine hopes to hear from students, alumni, colleagues and other stakeholders as he and the ACEL faculty move the department forward. "This is a department with really high energy. We don't want to be a silo -- we're open to new ideas."
Straquadine can be reached at 614-292-6909 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
ACEL is part of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.