Veteran MTSU professors take interim aerospace, ag leadership roles

Taking on new leadership challenges in their MTSU careers, professors Wendy Beckman and Jessica Carter have accepted interim chair and director’s roles in their respective Department of Aerospace and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience.

“Wendy and Jessica will do an outstanding job,” Dr. Bud Fischer, dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, said of Beckman and Carter, who began their new roles Aug. 1.

“Both are incredibly qualified and understand the future needs of their departments.”

Both departments are part of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Dr. Robert "Bud" Fischer

Dr. Robert “Bud” Fischer

As leader of one of the nation’s top university aerospace programs, Beckman replaces Professor Emeritus Ron Ferrara, who retired July 31.

Carter, a professor in animal science entering her 14th year at MTSU, replaces Dr. Warren Gill, who chose to return to classroom teaching and conducting research after overseeing the agriculture-based programs grow to nearly 500 students.

“I hope to continue building on the success the aerospace department has experienced under Dr. Ferrara,” said Beckman, who arrived at MTSU in 2005 from Saint Louis University. She most recently served the department as coordinator in both the professional pilot concentration and graduate studies.

“The department’s faculty are very dedicated and passionate about sharing their love of aviation with our students, and I look forward to working with them to move the department forward,” Beckman added.

Dr. Jessica Carter

Dr. Jessica Carter

Carter said she is “looking forward to serving students, faculty and staff in a different role” and appreciates the growth of the agriculture program during Gill’s eight years as director.

“I hope to continue to seek the best students for our program and help them to succeed while they are here at MTSU,” Carter added. “Student recruitment, enrollment and retention are key areas that I want to focus on.”

Carter’s vision includes helping faculty secure external funds for research and continuing the development and improvement of the university’s Experiential Learning and Research Center, also known as the MTSU Farm and Dairy, in Lascassas, Tennessee.

The ag department also looks to expand its milk-processing unit to eventually provide its tasty milk in bottles for public sales, Carter added.

Carter, who grew up on a family farm in central Kentucky, holds degrees from Western Kentucky and Texas Tech universities.

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Dr. Wendy Beckman

Beckman, who has degrees from Saint Louis University, Missouri-Rolla and North Carolina State University, said she intends “to continue to offer one of the most respected undergraduate aviation degree programs in the country. This will be accomplished by continuing to focus on the student experience within the department, including both curricular and extra-curricular offerings.”

Developing and expanding on strong industry relationships that the Department of Aerospace currently enjoys is a goal, Beckman said, along with increasing research opportunities for both students and faculty.

In addition to professional pilot, MTSU’s Department of Aerospace features a new academic concentration for unmanned aircraft, commonly called drones. Other concentrations include flight dispatch, maintenance management, administration and technology.

Aerospace and the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience are two of 11 departments in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences. For more information, visit www.mtsu.edu/cbas.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)