It’s a long drive from Montana to Texas, but when Texas native Douglas Steele and family take to the road later this month, the trip will represent more than just a long road home. It will usher in a new era for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.
Texas A&M University’s Board of Regents named Dr. Steele the sole finalist in their search for a new director to head the Extension Service on Aug. 3. State law requires public notice of the appointment to be filed with the Texas Secretary of State before Regents can provide final approval.
Steele currently serves as vice president for external relations and director of Extension at Montana State University, where he has served the last eight and half years. He also chairs the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy, a group that helps steer the direction of the national Extension system.
Steele, along with his wife Lori, will settle in the Bryan-College Station area.
“This represents a homecoming for me,” Steele says. “I look forward to returning to Texas and working with a system that has a positive track record in providing assistance to agriculture across the state.”
Steele received his doctorate in educational human resource development at Texas A&M in 1992 and served as an assistant professor from 1990-93. A graduate of Panhandle State University in 1981, he earned his BS degree in animal science and agri-business. Following that, he received his master of agriculture in agronomy and horticulture at West Texas A&M University.
“I tell people a lot of the issues we face in Montana are the same in Texas, but with greater complexity. There is also greater diversity in the agriculture of Texas. I look forward to working with a system that provides relevant information to the agricultural community in a timely and traditional manner,” he said.
Steele began his career as part of the AgriLife Extension system family working as an assistant agent for agriculture and natural resources in Potter County. From 1985-88 he served as AgriLife Extension agriculture program director in Hutchinson County. While working on his doctorate degree at A&M, he became an Extension associate for community and economic development and an AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development specialist.
He says he will spend his first weeks and months becoming familiar with current programs and staff at the Extension Service.
“I will take some time to listen and learn and catch up with the priorities of the service. A number of issues present themselves as critically import, perhaps water and water quality being the largest.” he said.
Steele says he sees the role of Extension as a resource that delivers timely and relevant information to the end user and will work toward providing Texas agriculture with the information it needs to remain viable and competitive in a changing world.
“We are very excited about coming back to Texas and getting to work.The general principle that education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom continues to have a profound effect on the mission of Extension,” he added.
Texas AgriLife Extension includes a network of 250 county Extension offices, employing 830 Extension educators statewide.
MSU President Waded Cruzado said she wishes Steele well in his new position leading Texas AgriLife Extension Service, "which is a national leader in the principles of engagement.
"In his more than 30 years in higher education, Doug Steele has served at four land-grant institutions, and at MSU has personified the qualities of public service, outreach and engagement that are hallmarks of the land-grant mission," Cruzado said. "We thank Doug for his excellent service while at MSU and wish him well in his new position."