Leadership

Meet the executive leadership of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service who help Texans thrive.

Dr. Rick Avery, Director

Dr. Rick Avery

Rick Avery, Ph.D., was appointed as Director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents in January 2022.

As director, Avery leads the largest cooperative Extension service in the United States with an annual budget of $177 million and over 1,750 employees across 250 offices serving all 254 counties in Texas.

Avery has a long professional career in public service that includes serving as a policy advisor and assistant for U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and U.S. Rep. Greg Laughlin on Capitol Hill in the nation’s capital. He has also served as county relations officer for the Texas Association of Counties, and most recently, as deputy director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments.

Prior to becoming agency director for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Avery served the agency for over two decades, first as an Extension specialist, and then for ten years as Director of the V.G. Young Institute of County Government.

Dr. Avery is a native Texan, born in Hall County and raised in the small rural community of Needville in south Fort Bend County. As a youth, he was involved in both 4-H and FFA clubs in Needville and participated in numerous livestock events in the county and surrounding areas.

Avery earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Austin College in 1985. In 1988, he received a master’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University and went on to earn a doctoral degree in higher education administration from Texas A&M University while working full-time as an Extension Specialist. He is married to Marcie Avery, his wife of 32 years. They reside in Bryan, TX.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Avery, contact Dayla Hall, assistant to the Director.

Phone: (979) 314-8202

Dr. Angela Burkham, Executive Associate Director

Angela Burkham, Ed.D., serves as the executive associate director for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She provides leadership for operations, ensuring that all the systems, resources and people are in place to achieve the goals of the agency. She leads the Office of Data and Accountability and the Disaster Assessment and Recovery unit as the agency engages communities in preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

Burkham has served as a Family and Community Health, FCH, agent in Lubbock and Lamb counties, assistant professor and Extension specialist for 4-H and Youth Development, volunteerism specialist, regional program leader, and interim state program leader for FCH. She brings 30 plus years of service as an educator and leader in Extension outreach programming. She leads the daily operations of the agency and its 1,400 employees. She works collaboratively with the team of associate directors to engage more than 24 million people in annual direct teaching contacts and more than 86,000 volunteers who provide over 4.2 million hours of service each year. Burkham earned her doctorate in agricultural education from Texas A&M University and Texas Tech University, as well as a master’s and a bachelor’s in home economics education from Texas Tech University. She resides in Bryan with her husband, Bob, and their two children.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Burkham, contact Kelli Isaacks, assistant to the Executive Associate Director.

Phone: (979) 314-8204

Dr. Donald Kelm, Associate Director for County Operations

Donald Kelm, Ed.D., is the associate director for county operations with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. In his current role, Dr. Kelm assumes the critical role of providing statewide leadership for staffing, supervision, evaluation, and funding of county programs. Working closely with the Commissioners Courts of Texas, Extension’s local funding partners, he will prioritize securing the necessary financial resources to sustain and grow county-based educational initiatives.

Kelm joined AgriLife Extension in October 1987 and served in numerous leadership roles since that time, most recently as District Extension Administrator for Central District 8, based in Stephenville. He served 20 years as a County Extension Agent – Agriculture & Natural Resources in five counties in Central Texas and in 2004, he was promoted to Level IV as a County Extension Agent. He was selected as the District Extension Administrator for Rolling Plains, District 3 in 2007 where he served for five years before returning to Central District 8 and his most recent senior leadership role.

He earned a Doctorate of Education in Agriculture Education from Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University. Kelm also earned a master’s degree in animal science from Sam Houston State University and a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kelm, contact Dayla Hall.

Phone: 979-314-8208

Dr. Dan Hale, Associate Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources

Dan Hale, Ph.D., serves as associate director for Agriculture and Natural Resources for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Hale oversees programming for agriculture and natural resources, also works closely with agriculture-oriented organizations across Texas. Hale is the co-director of the Path to the Plate Program, which helps Texans better their lives through education on the important connection between agriculture and health.

Since his career with AgriLife Extension began in 1985, Hale has interpreted and extends information on diet, health, animal welfare, food safety, livestock growth and meat science to consumers, youth, health professionals, retailers, food service managers, packers, processors and livestock producers. Hale also performs industry-applied meat science research. Since 1990, Hale has served as a co-principal investigator for the National Beef Quality Audit. Also, Hale has worked with the National Consumer Retail Beef Study, the National Market Basket Survey and the Beef Tenderness Survey, which examined supplies of beef offered at the retail meat case and determined what consumers want in meat products.

He has conducted training in nutritional sciences and meat in diet science since the release of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 8 nutrient data in the 1980s. Data was collected in part through work conducted by Texas A&M University under USDA supervision. Hale has taught consumers and dietitians about the inclusion of meat in a healthy diet. He has also worked with livestock producers, retailers and food service operators to produce and offer leaner beef options to consumers. Hale served as the president of the American Meat Science Association in 2007 and became a fellow of that organization in 2013. In 2014, Hale received the Texas A&M University Association of Former Students Distinguished Service Award – Extension and Service. In 2003 he received the Vice Chancellor Distinguished Service Award and, in 2007, the Extension Superior Service Award for Extension Specialist. His most recent award was the Bluebonnet Award with the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2020. Hale received his doctorate in 1985 from Oklahoma State University in food, nutrition and institutional sciences within the Department of Animal Science.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hale, contact Lindsey Sheppard, assistant to the Associate Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Phone: 979-314-8206

Dr. Courtney Dodd, Associate Director for Health, Families and Youth Programs

Courtney Dodd, Ph.D., is the associate director for Health, Families and Youth programs for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She oversees statewide programs focused on various aspects of health and wellness, as well as programs for youth delivered through outreach efforts and the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program. Dodd maintains a long history with Extension since her days as a 4-H member in Nueces County and through employment with AgriLife Extension since 1999. After serving as a county Extension agent in Calhoun, Navarro and Bell Counties, she became a 4-H Specialist in District 11, the Coastal Bend region of Texas, prior to moving to the State 4-H Office in Bryan-College Station. As a state 4-H specialist, Dodd provided leadership to the volunteerism efforts for the agency and then youth healthy lifestyle programs. She also served as assistant state leader for the 4-H Youth Development Program for several years while maintaining her specialist role within the 4-H unit. Dodd also served as the state 4-H program leader in 2017-2019 prior to moving into her current role as associate director.

Dodd earned her doctorate in agricultural leadership, education and communications from Texas A&M University. She resides in Bryan with her husband, Fred, and children, Carson and Lainey.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Dodd, contact Debbie Sutherland, assistant to the Associate Director Families, Health and Youth Programs.

Phone: 979-314-8210

Donna Alexander, Chief Financial Officer

Donna Alexander is chief financial officer with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She oversees all financial operations of the agency related to budget, annual financial reporting and fiscal management. Alexander earned her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from Texas A&M University.

To schedule an appointment with Ms. Alexander, contact Gina South.

Phone: 979-845-7879

Chris Elam, Strategic Initiatives Lead

Chris Elam serves as the strategic initiatives lead for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service to provide forward-thinking goals and plans for the growth of the agency and its employees. He creates and executes initiatives from development to implementation for all departments and units within the agency. He develops executive and internal communications to facilitate relationships with strategic partners and industry collaborators. He reviews, designs, and executes on improvements to organizational structure throughout the agency and helps to find knowledge and skills gaps and the means to address them. In coordination with the agency director, he provides oversight to steering committees and project management to internal and external stakeholders.

Elam holds over 20 years of experience with state and local government throughout Texas, having worked with elected officials in the U.S. Congress, the Texas Legislature, and numerous state agencies. He has served as a governmental relations specialist and communications director at the Texas General Land Office. He has also worked extensively with county government officials and regional councils of government on infrastructure needs and emergency management throughout Southeast Texas. Elam earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University.

To schedule an appointment with Mr. Elam, contact him directly.

Phone: 979-314-8214

Dayla Hall, Executive Assistant to the Director and Office Coordinator

Dayla Hall is the Executive Assistant to the Director and coordinates the Administration office of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Prior to joining the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, she worked in the Office of General Counsel at the Texas A&M University System. Hall also served our community for over 10 years as a Team Leader and Trainer for the Brazos County 9-1-1 District.

Hall is a local resident of the Bryan/College Station area and holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration and Management from Tarleton State University. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s in Management from Tarleton State University, and is expected to graduate in December 2023.

To schedule an appointment with Mrs. Hall, contact her directly.

Phone: 979-314-8202