Skip to main content
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Apply to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Give to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln
ARD Dean Candidate - Dr. Mindy Brashears
Dr. Mindy Brashears, Associate Vice President of Research, Texas Tech University. Public Presentation — Aug. 11, 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Nebraska East Campus Union.
Use the text input to search the transcript.
Click any line to jump to that spot in the video.
Use the icons to the right to toggle between list and paragraph view.
Toggle between list and paragraph view.
Well, good afternoon and welcome.
My name is Tiffany Heng Moss.
And I've had the honor of serving as co-chair
along with Dr. Ed Calhoun
for the search for the next dean
and director of the agricultural research division.
And Ed and I are pleased to welcome our second candidate,
Dr. Mindy Brashears.
So a little bit about Dr. Brashears.
She is the
former Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety,
where she served as the highest ranking food safety official
in the United States at the USDA from 2019 to 2021.
She is currently Associate Vice President for Research
at Texas Tech University.
Dr. Brashears is
the Paul Whitfield Horn Distinguished Professor
in Food Safety and Public Health,
and holds the Roth and Letch Family Endowed Chair
of Food Safety at Texas Tech University.
She also serves as the Director
of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence
at Texas Tech University.
Brashears is a fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,
as her work has resulted in commercialization
of various pathogen mitigation strategies
with 27 patents approved are pending.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Food Technology
from Texas Tech University
and a master's and PhD in Food Science
from Oklahoma State University.
She is well published and cited within H index of 41.
Her research focuses on mitigation strategies
in pre-harvest and post-harvest processing environments
to improve food safety and public health.
She also studies the emergence
of antimicrobial drug resistance in food and animal systems.
Her interests are primarily in meat, poultry,
and vegetable production.
She also has a passion for food security
and leads international teams around the world
to establish sustainable agricultural systems
in developing countries.
She teaches courses in food microbiology and food safety
and offers industry training
in food, safety, sanitation, and security.
She recently was named
the outstanding graduate of distinction
by Oklahoma State University's
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
She has received multiple awards including
the International Association for Food Protection Award,
the American Meat Science Association Research
and Industry Extension Award,
and was named as a future icon in the meat industry
by the National Provisioner Magazine.
She serves on multiple national boards,
including the American Meat Science Association
and International Livestock Congress board of directors.
She will be Chair of the Reciprocal Meat Conference in 2022,
which will be held in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Today's seminar is being streamed live
in addition to those that are with us,
and so for those of you that are online,
Jason will be adding an email address for me,
it will also be in the chat.
So please fill to post your questions,
and so now I will turn it over to Dr. Brashears.
(audience applauding )
Thanks so much, Tiffany,
and thanks to Tiffany and Ed and the search committee
for just all the work they have done for this position,
and for bringing me here.
I also wanna thank all of you for being here in person
and online to hear today about vision, opportunities,
and leadership for the University of Nebraska,
in the position of Dean for the Ag Research Division
and the Director of the Ag Experiment Station.
As I was thinking about this talk and reflecting,
a lot of things came to mind.
What do you talk about?
You know I'm a scientist,
you see my vitae and I didn't wanna talk about research
in great detail, but I really wanted to focus on who I am.
So you can get to know me more,
what my passions are,
the things I've learned throughout my career
and where I think that I could fit in
at the University of Nebraska IANR.
So I went all the way back to the beginning
to when I was, you know, a very young child.
My earliest memories are riding the tractor.
Now I believe in the future of agriculture,
how many in here have been involved in FFA?
If you were a freshman in high school
and were involved in FFA,
you had to memorize the FFA creed.
I'm not gonna say the entire creed,
but I also wanna qualify.
And you can go on the FFA website and find this.
When I talk about agriculture,
I'm encompassing all things related directly
or indirectly related to agriculture.
I know that there are important things,
natural resources, human science, even food science.
I've had many food scientists say,
this is an agriculture.
So I'm not trying to exclude anyone.
I'm using it as an example of who I am
and what really defined me
and put my career on a path in agriculture.
But going back, my earliest memories,
riding the tractor with my dad,
raised on a farm.
My family still raises cotton, cattle, sorghum, corn.
I always tell people it is a multifunctional farm
because, you know, when the cotton gets rained out
or held out,
you planting something else,
and, you know, you had to be resilient if you're on a farm.
And I loved it,
until I was a teenager and myself had to drive the tractor,
plant the crops, plow the fields, haul hay,
feed the animals.
Now I still loved it.
I was involved with FFA, which was very important to me.
I had my first date with my current husband, by the way,
tomorrow's my anniversary.
So I'm, you know, I'm,
that's why my schedule was free and I could be here,
(audience laughing) (Mindy laughing )
but I met my,
had my first date with my husband
at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,
and, you know, the rest is history.
I got a scholarship at Texas Tech University from Houston
and from the Houston Livestock Show.
And I was gonna be a biology major.
I mean, I was gonna be a biology major,
go to medical school.
And I tell people that's the best decision I never made
because I majored in animal science at Texas Tech.
And I was like, I'll stay here a semester or two,
and then I'll find a different major.
I'll get outta here.
Well, that was many, many years ago, about 33 years ago.
I'm still in that department.
So maybe I'm still looking,
you know, for a place I'm here, I guess,
but no, just kidding.
The foundational, the generational experience
in agriculture is very important to me.
It's important to my family and every aspect of my life.
Like I said, I went to Texas Tech University,
majored in Food Technology,
went on to Oklahoma State University,
where I got my master's and PhD in Food Science.
And then I had the opportunity to begin my first job
at the University of Nebraska.
I was here and I was extension food safety specialist
in the Department of Food Science and Technology
at a research and extension appointment.
I'll tell you more about that
as I go through my experiences.
I was here for about five years
and had the opportunity to go back home,
where I joined the faculty at Texas Tech University,
where I went through the ranks
of assistant associate full professor
now I'm a Horn Professor and all of those fun things.
I've been there for over 20 years,
but I took a little detour to Washington, DC.
And in DC,
I served as Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety
in the past administration.
And just feel free to ask me anything about this.
It's okay, nothing's off limit.
So happy to answer those questions at the end,
but people ask me, how did you get there?
And I'm like, I don't really know
other than the fact that I never said, no.
I got a text asking if they could put from a Congressman,
they said, can I put your name in the hat for this?
I'm like, oh yeah, sure, I'm never gonna be chosen.
And then I kept saying yes and kept saying yes,
until the next thing I knew we were moving to DC,
and, you know, then I'm serving in the office.
It was a very interesting experience,
which I will also tell you a little bit more later.
I wanna say that
my family foundational, everything I do.
Over here, that's my middle daughter and her husband.
She went to Baylor,
but I finally got a daughter back to Texas Tech.
She's back at Tech,
getting her degree in Food Safety, Microbiology.
So I'm very proud about that.
My husband is up there that we were at the banquet
at Oklahoma State
when I received the award a few months ago.
And he is a professor in Ag Education and Communications
at Texas Tech University.
And then over here are my three daughters.
Bailey is my oldest.
She's finishing a PhD at the University of Western Ontario
in London, Ontario, Canada, in neuroscience.
And then our baby, Presley.
I take her to college next week.
I tell people, oh, I'm sad, but I mean, I am sad,
but it is gonna be nice to, you know,
be able to have some good times as empty nesters
and travel and all of that.
My husband and I love to travel.
So, you know, I've been fortunate to have a family
that has supported me through everything.
And without them, you know,
you learn a lot through raising your kids
and moving across the country, all of those things.
So those have taught me a lot of skills to be resilient.
So I wanna go back to my leadership experience
and you'll see through here, I have little clips
from the FFA creed, I won't read 'em all,
but leadership is very important in this position.
Leadership is both inherent and it is also learned.
Now my husband would probably tell me that's not right,
that's his area of research.
And I probably just mess that up,
but I really believe that naturally I like to lead,
but also there are many things that I have learned
in my different positions as a leader.
First of all,
I wanna talk about being
director of the International Center
for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University.
I know that is a very long name.
I did not invent the name.
I just I'm the director of the center.
This center is an interdisciplinary center that spans
the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources
all the way into human sciences,
but also into engineering, arts and sciences.
We have faculty all across the university.
I spoke to the center directors this morning,
very similar concept.
We bring together people to form research teams
to be able to be competitive for grant funding.
I'll say we have,
it has a lot of diversity with it.
We were fortunate early in the,
early 2000 to have a federal earmark
that supported the center.
We all know where those went.
So then we ended up with basically no support
other than the funding that was coming in
from the faculty members, supporting the technicians,
the different staff positions
but we still stayed together.
We have both industry focused research
and it's really underpinned by the basic sciences,
and it's very interdisciplinary.
And we also have a strong international component.
So what did I learn here?
I've been in this position for over 20 years.
First and foremost was how to build collaborative teams?
How to put people together that are very,
strategically put people together that could solve a problem
that we can move from,
from one place to the next,
without just staying in a silo?
You're gonna get more done when you work together,
when you work as a team, I also,
I put on here work on minimal budgets.
When I met with the center directors,
we laughed about this,
but it could have said worked on zero budget
and still stayed together.
We all know that centers have a little bit of a challenge
with in regards to funding.
So we had to be very creative.
Also, I did have the opportunity
to work on faculty, recruitment, and retention.
We had many strategic hire processes at Texas tech
and within our center,
we have been successful twice getting, you know,
anywhere from four to six faculty each time.
And I had to lead those efforts of creating the positions,
recruiting and bringing people in.
And we have also really worked a lot on diversity
and targeting some diversity hires as well.
Managing staff and also engaging with our stakeholders,
which are the industry.
So I learned a lot through this experience
as ICFIE director.
Then as I mentioned,
transitioned to the USDA
where I was undersecretary
and Tiffany read a lot of the responsibilities.
It was a Highest Ranking Food Safety Official in the US.
You really operate as the chief officer
of the Food Safety Inspection Service
and the Office of Food Safety within the USDA
and you serve as a member of the sub-cabinet
for the president.
I worked very closely with Secretary Perdue
on a daily basis,
worked on, you know, all of these other things,
chair the National Advisory Committee
for Microbiological Criteria for Foods,
and I was chair the US CODEX Policy Committee.
So that was very much related with trade
and all of the things related to food safety
and trade across the globe.
It was a Senate confirmed position.
If you have never been through a Senate confirmation,
I don't recommend it.
It's not the hearing,
it's all the other stuff that goes with it,
but I'm honored to be able to go through that.
I could, you know, write an entire book on that process
because it was so difficult to get through that.
So what did I learn?
First and foremost,
I think that great leaders have great mentors.
I take that very personally,
both being a leader and a mentor of new leaders.
I look back through my career.
I started my first day on the job at Nebraska
with Steve Taylor there,
supporting me as a great department chair.
I moved to Texas Tech,
I had Dr. Kevin Pond, who's now Dean at West Texas A&M,
and they really taught me a lot about academia.
I stepped into this role in the government
and the responsibilities were incredible.
The decisions that were made every day impacted the country.
I took my oath very seriously.
You don't take an oath to support the president,
you take a oath to support the constitution,
which means you have a responsibility to the people.
And in doing that, you can't be selfish in your decisions.
You have to make good wise informed decisions.
And Secretary Perdue taught me so much
and the other cabinet members or sub-cabinet members
that I worked with.
You know, he had been governor for eight years,
served in many leadership roles,
and he really helped me, continues to help me.
He's now chancellor at the University of Georgia.
I talk to him often and he just really helps, you know,
helps me navigate some of the hard things that still are,
precipitated from the role in office.
I also learned about budgeting and managing people.
We had a $1.1 billion budget.
90% of that was spent on personnel,
which becomes very difficult when you have a mandated
salary increase and they don't give you any more money,
you have to be creative in that.
I had to manage essential workers.
I had more than 9,000 workers
out in the field doing inspection.
Those are essential workers,
and we had government shutdowns.
They had to keep working.
When the government shut down,
Tyson doesn't shut down, JBS doesn't shut down.
They keep working.
So I had people working,
not getting paid, which is very challenging.
Fortunately, our workers were committed
and they stayed on the,
out in the field working,
and then also working on a continuing resolution
over and over and over.
And I always remember we would have budgets
and they would be like, this is the budget,
but this is actually gonna be the budget.
So we had to work and this is really not the budget,
'cause it's never gonna be approved.
And I mean, it was just,
it was confusing,
but, you know, you kind of got the hang of it over time,
but just having to manage things at that level
were very important.
I'll talk about it a little more later,
but the responsibility without money was large.
There was accountability.
I had to meet with the deputy secretary every quarter
about how much money we had spent, where we were,
if we were spending it quick enough or not fast enough,
you know, managing our fleet of cars,
all of the things that I never dreamed I would be doing.
Other things, stakeholder interactions.
I put in their intense.
We have stakeholder interactions at the university,
at least at Texas Tech.
And we get to choose our stakeholders.
We have a board of advisors or you don't, you know,
that come in and tell you what you wanted hear, I think.
The stakeholders at the government
are not quite as friendly.
Some of them are, some of them are not,
and there's, you know,
you're always gonna make one group upset.
So dealing with that on a literally a daily basis,
waking up every day trying, you know,
looking at the news clips,
'cause that was the first email I got every day,
I got two briefings.
One was just daily updates and then one was the media,
and I'd look through all the media clips,
where's my name today?
And what are they saying about me today?
So that was difficult.
Unions, managing unions.
We renegotiated a union contract with our workers,
which again was a whole new experience.
For me, I'd never experienced that.
So got to an end point.
Lawsuits, many lawsuits.
I remember the first one that landed on my desk
and was like, do I need to get a lawyer?
And my chief of staff said,
I think you have the DOJ over here.
(Mindy laughing) (audience laughing)
That's, you know, they'll help you out.
But, you know, my name would be on it.
It wasn't really against me.
It was against the agency for whatever reason.
Reclassification of jobs and HR issues.
All of those things were massive.
Grew me as a leader.
But the main thing I learned
more holistically were that the decisions
we made were very complex.
I talk about complex decisions versus difficult decisions.
Difficult things you have to do have more of a linear path.
You know, I'm gonna do XYZ,
and you might have to make,
write a research proposal or make a budget.
It's not easy, but there's a linear path.
You have a beginning and an ends.
The decisions made in the government were very complex.
There were no linear answers that we could ever come to,
and they were never as easy as they seemed on this surface.
I've said it myself,
you may have said it or heard it.
It's like, why don't they just do this?
Why don't they just do this?
Why don't they just do this in the government?
We'll now understand why that is not the situation.
There are so many unintended consequences that could happen
if you just did this.
If you made a decision that could do this.
You have to vet out everything that you can think of,
make the best decision,
make it quickly,
and hope that you've had a good group of advisors come in
and help you,
tell you all about the history of whatever policy it is
that you're trying to pass or move forward with
because it's very difficult.
But you make the decision and you stand by it.
So that's very important.
It's important to have people around you
that you can listen to,
that you trust, that know the organization.
It's also very important to be willing to change your mind.
I could never walk in a room
and not be willing to listen to the people
on the other side of the table.
I'll tell you, as a scientist,
we know what we know,
we have the data and this is who we are.
But in big decisions like that,
I had to listen,
and I had to change my mind many times.
That was probably one of the hardest things I had to do.
And also not making decisions for personal gain.
I could have gone in there,
and you know, it's like, oh,
my research is in this area.
And we're gonna, you know, put in these policies
and make a lot of things
that could have been personally beneficial.
You can't do that in the government.
That's misuse of the government of, you know,
upholding the constitution.
You had to make decisions for the greater good
and not just for yourself.
I see that as very important
as a university administrator as well.
So thankfully I survived that,
got back to Texas Tech
and now I am serving part-time of my job.
I still have grad students
and as part of my job,
but I am the associate vice president for research.
I get to work with the VPR on a daily basis.
So I'm getting to learn university administration.
A lot of it parallels the government,
but just learning, interacting with the president
and the provost now.
Our president and provost,
it's a little bit different structure.
Our president is equivalent to your chancellor I believe,
so it's just a little bit different.
I'm engaged in many political interactions.
When we have congressmen come to campus,
talking about the upcoming Farm Bill how, you know,
things in there that we could be involved with,
but then I'm also get to see things
from a greater viewpoint,
outside of just our department and ICFIE,
but also from a university perspective,
all the different departments,
whether, you know, between scientists.
See, I just really didn't know
that we had so many conflicts
that would bubble up to the VPR office,
whether it be fighting over a lab or a piece of equipment,
yeah, it's like, oh my, you know.
So there's always,
if there's people involved,
you're gonna have conflicts
and you're gonna have to manage that.
I've also been very involved
in developing strategic initiatives,
and I'm gonna mention this briefly,
because I think some of the things that we're talking about
at Texas Tech and agriculture that are very important
are also very important here.
And I would like to see some of these things continue.
These things are one health
and one health and well-ness,
natural resource management,
specifically water and climate change.
And then also looking at social sciences and the rural,
I'm sorry, I not urban but rural.
That's what I'm saying.
I know my accent.
(Mindy laughing) (audience laughing)
It sounds strange, but that's what I'm trying to say.
So those things are very important.
And then developing data management platforms
and managing people.
Managing the government people was a little different
because they have a very structured hierarchy,
which sometimes I didn't like.
I wanted to have discussions
and I didn't just wanna dictate ideas.
So they got used to that after a while.
But when you're managing faculty that are tenured,
it's a much different environment,
which is good because faculty like to have a voice.
So that, it's been,
it's been interesting at times,
but mostly really good and very positive.
Getting to hear the faculty bring ideas to us
and then being able to bring those two fruition.
I've been able to learn quite a bit.
Our VPR is very deliberate in training the associate VPRs
and it's been fun.
He was like, "We're gonna have book club."
And I was like, "Oh, this is gonna be great."
And then I got the book on my desk,
like, oh, this is great.
But I learned a lot from that book.
You know, every week we would have a do a chapter
and, you know, talk about it.
And it was, you know, it was a good experience,
but he's always teaching us about budgets
and managing people, HR issues, historical perspective.
So I've appreciated that quite a bit.
How to work with the provost and the president,
and all these other initiatives.
Like I mentioned, engaging with political leaders,
financial responsibility, strategic planning,
and just respecting all the people
across the entire university.
Again, this is stepping out of your one area
and seeing things from a broader picture
for the greater good of the university.
So I've learned a lot through my leadership
that I really think I can bring to the table
for this position.
Now I wanna switch gears to research.
I'm not gonna spend a lot of time
talking about details of my research,
but it has prepared me for the position
because this is a research focused position.
I'm gonna go back to a story,
I've already told the search committee this story.
And some of you may have heard it
'cause I've told it many times,
but my first day on the job at the University of Nebraska,
I will never forget it,
and I'll date myself,
but it was August 13th, 1997.
That day is very significant in the State of Nebraska
and I was hired,
remember an extension to work with the industry
and a research,
that day was the day of the Hudson Foods ground beef recall,
and there was a 25 million pound recall of ground beef.
It was the first major recall after E.coli was declared
This was in the State of Nebraska in Columbus, Nebraska.
And it really, you know, shook the state.
Now I walk in the office and I'm supposed to, you know,
deal with the media, talk to the media.
Steve Taylor was my boss.
He'd forgotten to have a phone installed in my office.
So I was like, oh dear.
So I'm having these phone calls and the main office,
sitting out there and answering questions about E.coli
and Omaha World and all these people were calling.
Steve's like, yeah, I just talked to her.
And I was like, what?
And it's all over.
And I go in his office,
I was like, do I have any rules that govern me
as what I can say to the media?
And he was like, no, if you say something wrong,
you just make yourself look bad.
That's the world of academic freedom.
I was like, thanks.
But, you know, it all turned out okay.
I got up the next morning, got the paper.
It was fine.
Now not all my media experiences have been that great,
but that one was okay.
I've had much media training since then.
But the interesting thing was the State of Nebraska
allocated a large amount of money for research with E coli.
It was pre-harvest food safety research,
worked with Andy Benson on several projects,
worked with the animal science department.
We developed a lot of pre-harvest interventions,
and it really was a great time to work together as a team.
Now the other thing that happened at that time was
in 1998, January 1 was when the FSIS switched from
what they called command and control inspection
in the meat plants to asset based well,
and I'll just looked it up this week.
Nebraska is still the number one slaughter state.
There's a lot of small plants
and I was supposed to work with our animal scientists.
I worked closely with Dennis Berson
to develop passive programs,
to go out and train people and have.
So I went all over the State of Nebraska.
We received a lot of USDA funding
for programs, for research and all of those things.
But through that,
I identified a lot of needs in the industry.
There were so many research needs
and that led to some of my research.
So I learned to integrate my research
into my extension program.
So developed many pre-harvest mitigation strategies.
I guess some of these did get cut off,
sorry about that in the formatting.
But working in the plant,
we would show up at the plant with a swab and say,
can we swab your carcasses, which is a big deal.
And I wanted, like, we don't wanna see
you define the pathogens,
but we really was foundational
in many of the things I did early in my career.
Then as I moved through my career, that moved,
led me into developing sampling methodologies,
sampling techniques, microbiological techniques,
molecular based microbiological techniques
to isolate bacteria quickly that the industry could use.
So you start very simple, you know,
solving an industry problem,
and then it grows into very basic research.
Something I'm still involved with
is pre-harvest food safety.
Now back in the day when Andy and I were
doing some food safety work in the early 2000s,
pre-harvest food safety was new.
Everyone was doing it.
We're gonna look at all of these interventions
and get rid of the pathogens in the animal.
Then the agency implemented the zero tolerance for E.coli
and the processor started taking care of it,
and pre-harvest kind of went away.
But now it's back again
because of contamination of fruits and vegetables.
So I'm back to doing some monitoring on this.
One of the things that we developed
and it started here at University of Nebraska
was a probiotic.
We developed a probiotic that could be fed to cattle
that kills E.coli prior to slaughter.
It still fed to about 60% of the feed like cattle in the US.
So that was very good.
I have no financial gain from that,
but so just so we've developed a different company
with a new probiotic, (audience laughing)
It helped me build my career,
but it is, you know,
we did all the work from working with
the vet science department here with Rod Moxley,
and their group feeding cattle, inoculating cattle.
So again, it goes from the very basic prob
or very seemingly simple problem to very basic research
all the way through the process.
I really worked on diversifying my funding portfolio.
So there was a lot of resilience.
It can change.
Your federal funding can go away
all the money for extension.
We were getting that's no longer out there in the,
it wasn't even NIFA.
It was something else before NIFA.
Andy probably knows, (Mindy laughing)
but it was a different program.
But I did have had a lot of federal funding.
We had the federal earmark funding.
I also had quite a bit of commodity group funds.
I'm working a lot now on endowments.
I mentioned our
International Center for Food Industry Excellence,
our center that,
our college just got a $44 million donation
to name the college.
But 15 million of that is designated for ICFIE, our center.
So we worked really hard for about a year
to get that donation.
And we didn't even know till the day it was announced
that it was gonna be increased
from 15 million to 44 million for the entire college.
So that was great.
and then direct industry funding
to solve different problems.
So lots of different opportunities for funding.
I think that this should be paralleled
and taught to new scientists,
new researchers throughout their career.
Now I wanna mention something
and I just remembered it today.
I remember coming to Nebraska and thinking,
how am I ever gonna write a research grant?
You know, it was so overwhelming.
I never did it as a grad student.
And VPR at Nebraska at the time was having
workshops on for new faculty on grant writing.
Day one, he walked in and he was wearing a kilt.
And I wish I knew I could remember his name.
And I was like, oh my goodness,
this is, you know, very interesting,
but he made the point and he was like,
you're never gonna forget this.
And that's what you wanna do (audience laughing)
with your research grant.
I was like, okay.
Yeah, you know, he is like,
you want your grant to stand out, but he made a point.
Obviously, he made an impression 20 plus years ago on me.
So then, you know,
I was pretty successful with my funding after that.
I've mentored many graduate students.
Published, had a lot of research funding endowments for,
to prepare me as a scientist,
to be able to look back from a perspective
of being a scientist at the bench top,
managing students that have prepared me for the position.
So moving on to my international experience.
We are the International Center for Food Industry Excellence
and we've had many programs internationally.
Now since COVID, we haven't started these back,
but I have trips to Honduras, Costa Rica,
and Columbia planned for the fall.
So I'm pretty excited about that,
to get back out into the international realm.
I wanna take a little bit of time
and talk about a project in the Honduras cattle industry.
Now usually a scientist or even administrators,
it's like we needed strategic plan,
and what are your goals and what are your objectives?
This happens, nothing like that.
One of my students was from Honduras.
She wanted to take a group of faculty,
show us agriculture in the country.
We went to Zamorano, which is a ag university,
if you're not familiar with it,
it draws from all Central America.
We have an internship program with them.
It's a great university.
And so we're at the hotel and the front desk calls me
and they said, there's somebody here that wants to see you.
I was like, oh goodness, I called another faculty member.
I said, we need to go down here and talk to this guy.
And he told me, he said,
I heard there's a group of professors here from Texas
and, you know, something about cattle.
We would like for you to rebuild
the cattle industry of Honduras.
And I was sitting there like,
okay, I'll get right on top of that.
I mean, then he, you know, so he said,
I went to Florida, University of Florida,
and then I came back and we had a feed yard,
but all the cattle are gone out of Honduras
because there's no regulatory structure
to keep it from crossing the border.
It was kind of involved with the drug trade as well.
And all of these reasons that the cattle had moved,
but outta Honduras
and there was no market, you know,
all of these things happen.
Well, we went back a few more times.
We were working with the shrimp farm there
and doing some food safety work.
And I just started thinking about it.
And I'm like, all right, let's put a team together,
but let's bring in a ruminate nutritionist.
Let's bring in meat scientists and experts.
The good thing was Honduras already had equivalency,
so they could export to the US,
but none of their facilities, you know,
were up to speed for that.
So we worked at the facility,
we got them reestablished for equivalency.
We did validation studies on the food safety side.
The most challenging part was,
and these are obviously cattle eating in a feed yard,
but they were out in the field eating the grass.
I'm not a remnant nutritionist,
so I'll get this completely wrong,
but the grass was poor quality.
And so we had to have a supplemental system.
We developed a cattle diet based on Palm kernel meal,
'cause Palm kernel oil is one of their primary experts.
So we took the Palm kernel meal,
mixed it with poultry litter
and sugar cane,
developed this diet.
We did test the food safety parameters
with the poultry litter and we could get the,
they were harvesting cattle at about 700 to 750 pounds,
if you can believe it.
We finally got 'em to get 'em to a thousand pounds.
We were actually getting marbling in the, you know,
on the car 'cause we were so excited
when we finally saw some marveling
and a little bit of fat on these cattle,
they built a couple more feed yards.
The industry there is growing,
we've worked on the genetics there.
We're really anxious to get back to kind of
just check up on the program.
We still talked to 'em, you know, many times.
Now the interesting thing is the gentleman
who came in and said,
"Hey, we want you to rebuild
the cattle industry of Honduras."
Whenever I started at the USDA
and my position is undersecretary for food safety.
He started at the equivalent position in Honduras
with the government.
So we got to serve together in equivalent positions.
And you know, he, you know,
he was there without a job,
and then we all worked together for about five years.
And then we were able to
really do some fun things with our career together.
We've also done quite a bit of work in Mexico.
We did a salmonella baseline in the markets,
in grocery stores in Mexico.
The bottom line of that study is that
if you get something in the grocery store, that's inspected.
It was good.
It was clean.
If you go out into the wet markets,
not so great.
Worked also with the harvest facilities there.
I think I just don't think there's really much you can,
I can see that I haven't seen in a harvest facility.
So lots of work there,
building teams and solving international problems.
Also work quite a bit in the Caribbean
with goat and sheep farming, various feeding things,
feeding programs for the cattle and also slaughter.
And then we had a very large project in Australia
where we had interns there for about six months,
doing a lot of shelf life work
on how we can extend the shelf life of product
coming to the US.
Now these two pictures,
I just wanted to again,
show you how your paths cross many times,
this is a picture
of me with other faculty and our interns that were there,
here in the middle.
And they were there for all that time.
And then about a year later, I went back.
It was my first government trip with FSIS,
we ended up at the same place, same sign.
And I'm like, okay,
we have to retake this picture,
because, you know, paths don't always cross that way,
but it's cool when it does.
The international experiences,
I think are very important
because when we're trying to solve global problems,
we can't take agriculture as we approach it in the US,
indirectly superimpose it in another country,
you have to learn the culture.
You have to learn the government system and the limitations.
You have to understand the history.
The same thing comes in as a university administrator,
you can't come in and dictate something
that's worked one place without getting to know the people,
the culture, what's going on,
and taking the time to learn and build those relationships.
So moving on to work with IP technology
I've been fortunate.
You've heard many patents,
a member of the national academy of inventors,
and worked very closely in commercialization
of three different products.
I already mentioned Bovamine,
which is Bovamine Defend,
which is used in the industry now.
Probicon is a new probiotic that we have developed.
I am a partner in that company.
The university is really good at saying,
go start a company as a scientist.
Well, we don't have the skills to start a company.
I mean, I'm just gonna be honest.
I didn't know what a business plan was
or anything about getting a loan,
I've learned over the years,
but I think we could really develop programs
to support faculty and IP
in helping them commercialize product.
And I know the English Center here,
you have is fantastic.
So I'm excited to learn more about that
and discuss that more.
And then also MicroZap technology,
which is a microwave system that pasteurizers food.
The primary role of this is right now using it for tortillas
and bread to extend the shelf life in breads
that have no mold inhibitor.
It's used throughout Mexico,
Bimbo Technologies used it.
We just got a contract with General Mills
to purchase a number of machines,
and they're using it in their European markets.
So that's exciting.
But, you know, that took like 18 years to get to the point
where we're actually selling product,
'cause that's how long it takes a scientist to become
a business person, I guess.
But anyway, so I also serve on many boards.
I put this up there,
'cause I think it's important,
when you serve on a board,
you have to work together collaboratively
with other people to make decisions for the greater good.
I serve on both the scientific advisory boards
for many organizations, as well as the board of directors,
and that's just really gone a long way
in growing my leadership skills.
And finally, moving to diversity programs.
Diversity has been at the core of everything
that I've done from the beginning of my career.
I think that embracing diversity is extremely important.
First of all, we have developed a program,
my husband and I developed this.
It's called the SOWER Scholars program,
sewing and reaping, reaping and sewing.
So sustaining our world through education and research.
This is about bringing,
this is an international program.
So we bring students,
at first, it was primarily from Zamorano,
now from across the globe into our program,
either for an internship.
Hopefully that leads to graduate studies
and really providing a lot of diversity to our program.
It's been very good for our local students
because we have taken them to Honduras,
to Costa Rica, to all of these, to Mexico,
and some of these people had never left the state.
So it's very exciting to expose them to other cultures.
But then as far as diversity goes.
Personally, it's something that in my lab,
I always wanted a great amount of diversity.
I wanted people with different backgrounds,
different thought processes,
different, just to be very different.
that is how you learn.
You bring people in that thing different from you
and that's how you're going to learn and grow.
So I really tried to embrace that
from the beginning of my career
to maintain the lab diversity.
I've also, as I mentioned,
been involved with many targeted faculty hires,
working with student diversity programs.
Several years ago,
we started moving toward becoming
a Hispanic serving institution at Texas Tech.
Lubbock is over 50% Hispanic,
but we only had about 15% in the university.
And so we really started recruiting
and trying to bring those students in into agriculture
to at least not,
we're still not where we need to be.
Our student population is there.
We're not there on the leadership side yet
as far as faculty and people in leadership positions,
but we're really trying to move toward,
toward that goal.
We had a very strong female retention program at FSIS.
That I started,
we found that we were losing female vets
kind of early in their career.
So I put out a survey and then I created an inbox,
asked the undersecretary for our female vets
and identifying issues.
And some of them would have,
they would have a baby,
and then when they would come back,
they wouldn't have a place,
if they were breastfeeding to pump or whatever, you know,
and it's a federal law, you have to provide that.
Well, they were uncomfortable asking the facility,
but I didn't care.
I was like, yeah, you have to provide this,
and just making the environment better
for our female population.
And the bathrooms are too dirty and they're disgusting.
Well, that was bad for both men and women.
But, you know, I went in those facilities and I saw that.
So little things we could do and also some big things
that, you know, were more sensitive
that I'm not gonna talk about.
But we worked hard to retain females at FSIS.
we have the Pink Ribbon Food Safety Action Team.
It's a Facebook group of food safety professionals, women.
And it's just a safe place to go
and talk about issues related to food safety, agriculture.
It's a community to support each other.
And it it's a good community,
even if you're not in food safety,
you know, come and check us out.
So switching gears and wrapping up.
University of Nebraska
it's very special to me.
It's where I started my career.
It's where I received funding
that really put my career path on a trajectory
toward working with the industry,
toward doing food safety research.
I see it as having programs of excellence already,
but I think all of the things that I've discussed,
I can add value to,
bringing my perspective,
bringing my experiences,
to take it to the next level.
My visions are built on my passions.
They're sustained by my strengths,
and then they need to be informed
by the team here at the university.
We have to look forward in building programs.
We do this through building relationships,
building our programs and funding,
building diversity into the programs as we build a vision.
But we also have to look around,
we can't only look to the future.
We have to stop and say, what's going on today?
What are the issues here that we have to address?
Again, this goes back to relationships.
Regular meetings with our unit heads.
I put, we're gonna go around the world.
That's something I brought in from a Secretary Perdue.
Every Wednesday morning, we had sub-cabinet meeting.
And the first thing we did,
we sat down at the table and he said,
we're gonna go around the world.
And we all had to just basically say,
what's going on in our agency?
What are the big issues?
What are, you know, even sometimes personal things,
just so we knew what was going on within the department.
But walk the park.
This is a Walt Disney saying,
I'm a huge Disney fan.
(Mindy speaking foreign language)
and walk the park though.
Well, Disney always would say,
I have to go out and see what the people are doing.
What do they like?
I don't like to sit in an office all day.
I wanna go out and see the labs.
I wanna go out
and see all of the different experiment station locations.
I wanna come out and talk to you
and see people in their element
where they're most successful.
I know a lot of times people feel
that they have to come to the administrator
and that will happen, that'll be part of it.
But I want to have that connection with the faculty
where I can go out and see what's going on
because it makes it more personal.
And it helps me become an advocate for the faculty
and for your program.
And communicate expectations.
Communication is so important.
I mentioned the other day that,
or earlier that
I have to take my youngest daughter to college next week.
Well, I was on vacation this past weekend,
my husband and I,
and I got a text from my middle daughter who is married,
and she sent me a text and it said,
I'm going to move in with you,
when are you coming back?
And I was like, what?
Are you leaving your husband?
I mean, I am panicking,
texting her, calling her, you know,
I'm actually out of the country
and I can't get a phone call out.
Finally, she calls me back,
and she's laughing,
what the text should have said.
I wanna go to Fort Worth
when you take Presley, my youngest to move in.
When are you going to come back?
Communication is very important.
She wasn't leaving her husband.
She wanted to go to move in at TCU with me
when I took my daughter to college.
I was like, oh my goodness.
So communicate, communicate, communicate,
Also we have to look outside to build programs.
Nebraska does a great job on this.
Building relationships with USDA-ARS,
our industry, the stakeholders,
international partners, ag organizations,
and just across the university.
We don't have to stay within agriculture.
There are people from other programs
that can provide a lot of value.
And to wrap things up.
I wanna talk about fiscal responsibility.
I've had a lot of meetings about this today.
But there is a responsibility to manage funding
for the greater good.
I've already mentioned this many times,
but this is where we're going to find
strength in our programs.
Investing in programs of excellence,
investing wisely and knowing that we can do better,
but spend responsibly.
As I mentioned in my research program,
I had diversified funding.
I would like to see that across the university
really instill that into our new researchers,
looking at foundations, endowments, industry funding,
because that's how you have resilience.
When you don't get the USDA grant on this particular year,
you have something to fall back on and to support them
and just really build a culture
of having a diversified funding portfolio.
Short term goals and objectives will really be
to build relationships, getting to know everyone,
building diversity, studying your programs.
I've already touched on most of this.
Identifying strengths and gaps in the university,
personally visiting the lab.
So long term value added.
We can invest in our programs,
have diversity at all levels,
not just students,
in the leadership positions,
establishing the diversified portfolio,
and supporting innovations and entrepreneurism.
Now show this slide to wrap things up.
I started with, I believe in the future of agriculture.
This slide is a direct depiction of that.
This was Marco Sanchez was one of my students
at University of Nebraska.
He was my first master's student.
I met him when I was pregnant
with my middle daughter at Nebraska.
He's now a professor at Texas Tech.
This is my daughter, he is her advisor
and this is his daughter and I'm her advisor.
So the future of agriculture is strong
and it goes full circle.
So thank you so much for your attention.
And I will be happy to answer any questions.
Well, now we have an opportunity for a Q&A session
with Dr. Brashears.
So a first question, maybe from someone here in attendance,
in the Great Plains room.
Reminder to those that are online,
you can send it to my email address,
and Jason's thumbs up.
He's got that address in the chat.
Thank you, Dr. Rustin.
Thank you for your nice talk.
So my question is a future thinking one.
If we happen to have another crisis that we cannot foresee
and you have to make a tough set of decisions
in a short amount of time,
how do you do that?
What's your process?
Who's in the room?
Thank you, sorry.
You probably have a lot more experience
in this than most of us.
I can say one of my strengths is crisis management
and I assure you
and it's funny because I said, one day,
I'm gonna be interviewing for a job
and somebody's gonna ask me,
you know, are you good at managing a crisis?
And I'm gonna say during COVID, did you eat?
Yes, I hope you did.
Well, I was responsible for managing
the food supply chain during COVID.
That was not an easy decision.
It was not an easy framework,
but I had to make the best decisions I could.
Now the president gave authority to Secretary Perdue
to keep the meat and poultry plants open,
and then he turned to me and asked me to manage it.
Now, you know,
there's all this information out there that says she shut,
or she kept all these plants open, not true.
Never did I overturn any health department decision
just for full disclosure.
But what we did was we really had a collaboration
of the plant, the local government, sometimes the governor,
sometimes the local sheriff.
And I would say, what do you need?
Do you need face masks?
Do you need a CDC team to come and teach you how to,
you know, do your distancing and put in programs
and all of those things.
There's not a template for that,
but there is a template to know
you draw on your past experiences and you have confidence.
You bring together anyone with expertise that,
you know, that might know anything about it.
You gather that information
and you make the most informed decision
you can make at that time.
The reality is most of the plants closed down
for anywhere from two to four weeks,
some of them longer
in order to put up barriers, to mitigate,
and they reopened at slower line speed.
So they had less employees,
but coming up with those strategies,
that wasn't easy.
I was on, I had 18 hour days,
that was coast to coast,
and it was a crazy time.
But I know, I was thriving during that time.
You know, I didn't sleep much,
but I was on the phone.
I was trying to make decisions.
And you draw from the resources you have.
It's very difficult as a scientist,
not to have a peer reviewed published paper
to make a scientific decision with.
But then you draw on those skills that you learn
as a scientist to make those decisions
and you have a hypothesis and you will have some evidence
and data to be able to do that.
And, oh, I hope no more pandemics.
(Mindy laughing) (man laughing)
All right, we'll take a question from online.
This is from Dr. John Carroll,
who serves as director for the School of Natural Resources.
So INR is agriculture natural resources, human sciences.
How do you see those of us
who are not directly working in the ag industry
fitting in with the institute?
In my unit alone,
we have climate scientists, water scientists, geologists,
soil scientists, and fish and wildlife scientists
and so on.
Most of the faculty often view their stakeholders
much more broadly than farmers, ranchers in the ag industry.
Absolutely, as I mentioned at the beginning,
when I talk about agriculture,
I'm talking about all aspects that's directly
or indirectly related to agriculture.
That includes natural resources, human sciences.
And like I said, food sciences.
I'm a food scientist.
And a lot of food scientists don't feel that
they are in agriculture,
but they are related to that.
I mentioned that priority areas
that I think are very important globally
for agriculture are number one,
one health and well-ness,
that's extremely important from many perspectives.
water is very important,
energy and climate.
Those were the other two I mentioned.
And then, like I said,
the social scientist in rural,
So I have worked very extensively
with many natural scientists,
people in our natural resources department
at Texas Tech on water issues.
Water relates directly to food safety.
Water is important for crops.
Water is important for a carrier for pathogens.
So there are so many aspects of that.
In Lubbock, we have dirt,
we have dust,
we have dirt that,
we have dirt storms that also can carry pathogens.
There has been many studies on that.
So mitigating that risk as a carrier of pathogens,
that's related directly to me.
But obviously, even though it's not
maybe in the direct realm of agriculture,
I consider it very impactful to agriculture.
You know, that's why we have drought resistant crops.
we have all of these technologies that are related
to natural resources
that directly impact everything we do on a daily basis too.
Inform the food and fiber production that we have
in the traditional ag realms.
To me, everyone is interconnected and interrelated.
Perfect, thank you.
Don Becker in biochemistry.
So I'd just be like to hear what you think is unique
or special about Nebraska,
or what's attracting you here?
And what opportunities do you see here
that maybe you don't see at Texas Tech?
'Cause we have dust and dirt here too, so.
It's not the same, but no.
First of all,
I still come to Nebraska a couple of times a month.
I still have many of,
much of our research is done in Nebraska
with the slaughter industry, the heart, the food industry,
we're working with poultry companies, beef companies,
these cattle, this is in Wisner, Nebraska.
I took this picture about a month ago.
Well spent Wagyu cattle that we are working on
a fed cow program to see what the meat turns out to be.
So still very engaged in Nebraska.
I do tell people that Nebraska
is my second favorite state
next to Texas. (Mindy laughing)
I just, I really,
I love Texas Tech, I'll say that.
I won't say anything negative, but it's not a land grant.
It doesn't have the same opportunities,
the same structure,
the same emphasis on agriculture
as I see here at University of Nebraska.
Also, there are many universities within the State of Texas.
Texas has a what they call a puff permanent university fund,
which is oil land, and it's a lot of oil.
And it funds University of Texas and Texas A&M.
So there's the haves and the have nots.
Texas Tech ends up on the have not side,
and so the funding is very limited.
So I tell people,
I've had many opportunities since leaving the government,
but it's about where you can go
and have the greatest influence for agriculture.
I could have gone to work in industry.
I could have stayed in the government as director of NIFA
I was offered that position.
But I wanted to come back to agriculture
and or to the university
because I saw so many people come to Washington, DC,
and sit in positions where they made decisions.
And that I'm talking about staffers for congressmen,
which you think, oh, well they're just staffers.
No, they're not just staffers.
They're influencing the decisions.
Those decisions makers knew nothing about agriculture.
When I was undersecretary,
I remember sitting in Ronnie Green's office
and saying, I so appreciate having
as someone with a ag interest as president.
Our students at that age,
when they're at that age, they're willing to learn,
and they're just absorbing the information.
Once you start your career,
it's much harder to change someone's mind.
So just the influence and the university here,
the resources, the people, and all of those things,
and the programs are wonderful.
I just, I appreciate the diversity from biochemistry
to natural resources to food science.
We don't have that at Texas Tech.
It's more the traditional ag focus.
Okay, we'll take another question from online.
So when talking with stakeholders across Nebraska,
we find a tension between their short term concerns
to stay in business and what we see as long term priorities
for research on such issues as climate change,
global land grabs and equity of distribution of benefits
from the food systems.
As land grant researchers and leaders,
how do we deal with the potential disconnect
with our clientele?
That is a great question,
and that goes back to the impact of the research.
I think that any research project at the end,
you should always look at the end.
What is the impact on our clientele?
Especially if you're utilizing federal resources.
Those are taxpayer dollars,
and we need to impact the taxpayer and the stakeholder.
Now something at the very molecular level,
and developing a GMO Crops
that's gonna take a while to come to fruition,
but, you know, at the end,
that's where it's going.
So always having that in mind.
I'm approaching my research now very differently.
It's like, how can this data be used
by the agency to inform policy?
How do you structure that
so it informs policy and decision making?
So you always need to have that in mind as a scientist,
not inhibiting the discovery of new information,
but hopefully having some long term impact
in the back of your mind.
And it's just critical that,
that we train people how to communicate
what they're doing to the stakeholder.
And it may be to engage our communications programs,
some scientists are great communicators, some are not,
and it nothing against scientists,
but it's getting in the weeds of the details
and the scientific jargon that might turn people off.
I think just about everything that we do has an impact,
but it's the ability to communicate that to the stakeholder,
so that's another important part of the puzzle.
Perfect question from the audience.
All right, Kelly?
No, that's okay.
I need my steps today, so you're good.
I appreciate some of your comments
on the last question.
And I want you to expand upon it from this perspective,
whether you're in the position of dean of ag research or
the position in itself,
what role does that play in encouraging
and supporting academic freedom,
especially where it connects with policy
and making sure that that research
is communicated, supported in a way that communicates back
to consumers into an educational opportunity?
Yeah, I think in this role,
you're the facilitator of that,
and that involves working with our counterparts
with our dean of extension, our dean of education,
communicating that back down to our students
and then back down to the constituents
through extension or whatever mechanism,
but it's a responsibility to make sure that
research isn't simply something that we do
in the lab publish and use to get tenure.
It needs to be impactful,
and it's taking that out and getting it out to the end user
so that it's impactful
to whoever it's supposed to be benefiting.
And that can be on a positive and negative side,
even if the results are negative,
it could still be something that should be communicated.
Did I answer your question?
Yeah, okay, thank you.
Okay, question from one of your colleagues
at food science and technology, Bob Hudkins.
Attracting excellent graduate students
can be a challenge,
you have done very well in this space,
what's your secret?
I have a very high amount of vetting.
You know, you can't, and it's interesting,
'cause I think Bob Hudkins
actually gave me this piece of advice.
He said, you're gonna have a lot of grad students
that come across, you know, your email,
and they're gonna say I have funding,
and, you know, I can come here for free, you know,
that doesn't mean you should take them,
but, you know, you have to have a high level of vetting,
making sure that as faculty members,
I'm sure you all get,
you know, the emails I wanna be in your program,
take me as your grad student.
You can tell the copy and paste
and you can tell the genuine ones.
And just so that's really important to vet at that level.
Another thing is that we have that
a strong internship program at Texas Tech
and we have students come in,
they work either for the summer or for a semester.
And so we kind of get to have 'em on a trial basis,
and then we can take the best of the best in doing that.
Okay, we have time for one last question.
Is there someone from here in the Great Plains room
that would like to ask a question?
Really nice talk, Dr. Brashears,
so yeah, thank you very much for being here.
In role as dean,
what do you see as the opportunity for creating
the next generation of Mindy Brashears?
Yeah, well, wow.
Well, I don't know if anyone wants another one of me,
but, (Mindy chuckles)
I actually had that in there and I didn't talk about it.
It's really important to always be investing
in the next generation and to be preparing,
who's gonna step into your shoes.
We shouldn't be arrogant enough to say I'm irreplaceable.
Who's going to be next?
So you need to make sure that you not only lead
and provide resources and provide funding,
but you step back
and you take the opportunity to continue to teach.
Even as, you know, I'm pretty much a 100% research in my,
I didn't do,
I've stepped outta a classroom teaching as much,
but I still consider myself a teacher of my grad students.
I'm teaching them on a daily basis and it's mentoring them.
It's bringing the skills that I learned
in the government or as a university administrator,
and in bringing that to them.
Young professors, you know, they,
you just make mistakes and you don't know that,
you know, something might be out of line,
but it's saying, okay, well maybe you shouldn't do that,
or maybe you shouldn't say this
and it's just grooming people.
We talk a lot in the VPR office that there's no handbook
for even becoming a professor.
So we train grad students
and then you step into a faculty realm,
and I get the call all the time.
They're like, why didn't you tell me
this was what I had to do, you know,
you didn't tell, you know.
And so I've tried to be a little more aware of that.
And then training people for department head,
you know, it's just like,
oh, well they're a great scientist.
Let's make 'em a department chair.
Not knowing the management skills and the leadership skills
and you just have to keep passing that on and on
and you can read lots of leadership books
and I listen to podcasts and read the books too,
but it's on the job action.
And it's being able to put that into practice
that really grows a leader.
All right, well, please join me in thanking Dr. Brashears.
(audience applauding) Thank y'all very much.
The screen size you are trying to search captions on is too small!
You can always
jump over to MediaHub
and check it out there.
Log in to post comments
icon arrow down
iframe embed code:
Copy the following code into your page
<div style="padding-top: 56.25%; overflow: hidden; position:relative; -webkit-box-flex: 1; flex-grow: 1;"> <iframe style="bottom: 0; left: 0; position: absolute; right: 0; top: 0; border: 0; height: 100%; width: 100%;" src="https://mediahub.unl.edu/media/19740?format=iframe&autoplay=0" title="Video Player: ARD Dean Candidate - Dr. Mindy Brashears" allowfullscreen></iframe> </div>