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., is the director of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. As director of the largest extension agency in the nation, Avery oversees agency programming in Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Community Health, 4-H and Youth Development, and Disaster, Assessment and Recovery.

Avery’s experience includes serving as an assistant for U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and U.S. Rep. Greg Laughlin, and his most recent role was deputy director of the Brazos Valley Council of Governments. Avery’s career in government also includes serving as county relations officer for the Texas Association of Counties, where he worked with elected and appointed county officials in all 254 Texas counties, providing technical support, continuing education and resource guidance to government operations.

At Texas A&M AgriLife, Avery previously served as AgriLife Extension’s V.G. Young Institute of County Government director and Extension specialist, to provide continuing education to approximately 1,500 county officials annually through institute schools. While at V.G. Young, Avery spearheaded curriculum development for the popular Commissioners Court Leadership Academy, a two-year program that enhances the leadership skills of participating court members through advanced training and travel to explore innovations in local, state and federal government. He also led development of the Commissioners Court Advanced Curriculum, a certification between AgriLife Extension, the County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, and the Texas Association of Counties.

A lifelong Texan, Avery was born in Hall County and raised in Fort Bend County. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Austin College and a master’s degree in political science and doctoral degree in higher education administration from Texas A&M University.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Avery, contact Rosemary Schoenfeld, assistant to the Director.

Phone: (979) 314-8202

Dr. Angela Burkham, Executive Associate Director

Dr. Angela Burkham

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. Jeff Ripley, Associate Director for County Operations

Dr. Jeff Ripley in The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

Jeff Ripley, Ph.D., is the associate director for county operations with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. In his current role, Ripley leads the 12 district Extension administrators who supervise all county Extension agents across the state. His primary responsibilities include providing direction to the recruitment, hiring and supervision of county staff, and serving as the administrative liaison for Commissioners Courts. He began in his current role on December 1, 2014; before that, he served as associate professor and Extension specialist for program development with AgriLife Extension. Ripley had previously served as the district Extension administrator in Corpus Christi, with responsibilities of coordinating Extension programs in 18 Coastal Bend Counties and supervising a staff of approximately 60 county Extension agents. Prior to that position, Ripley had served as a county Extension director and county Extension agent for 18 years, totaling over 33 years with the agency.

Ripley holds a bachelor’s in agribusiness from Tarleton State University, a master’s in agricultural education from Texas State University and a doctorate in agricultural education from Texas A&M University. He and his wife, Tina, live in Franklin and have four children.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Ripley, contact Marilyn Frenzel, assistant to the Associate Director for County Operations.

Phone: 979-314-8208

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

Dr. Dan Hale

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

Dr. Courtney Dodd in The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

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

Ms. Donna Alexander in The Gardens at Texas A&M University.

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